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Bison return to Fargo, celebrate with hometown fans

NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen greets fans who gathered at the Fargodome to welcome the Bison back Saturday night after winning the title game for a second year in a row. Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO - The few hundred brave souls gathered outside the Fargodome had index and pinky fingers on all hands up and puncturing the brisk Fargo air in the form of horns to honor the North Dakota State Bison.

On this Saturday, two fingers were fitting, because their Bison made it back-to-back Division I football championships six hours earlier in Frisco, Texas, with a win over Sam Houston State.

At 10:35 p.m. the national championship trophy took center stage. And five minutes later, their heroes, their team, their champions had arrived with victory to join the trophy they had earned. The crowd was ready to rejoin their flock, as their herd had migrated home.

"What a season it's been," NDSU quarterback and championship game MVP Brock Jensen said.

And the celebration was on.

The first person at front row and center at 8:15 p.m. was lifelong NDSU fan Kory Kunze, 34, with his 7-year-old Espen. Kory let out a sigh and a shiver when rumor began spreading around the crowd that the team would not come until around 10:15 p.m.

"It's worth it," Kory said. "I love it. I grew up with them."

The crowd was ready to party like it was 1986 - the last time the Bison had won back-to-back national championships. Kory, however, preferred the most recent duo of titles.

"I like it now better because I can pass it on to the next generation," Kory said, as he looked at his son, whose eyes were the only part of his body not hidden behind some sort of NDSU-labeled shield from the bitter chill in the air. "He wanted to come last year, but he couldn't. We have season tickets and we come to all the games. It's good family time for us."

Kory has the next generation set, as the nearly two-hour wait got Espen front and center to high-five his heroes. As for Kory's six-week old son Jentz, seeing as his name is a combination of Jensen and backup quarterback Carson Wentz, he really doesn't have a choice of what team to cheer for.

"Oh, he'll be a Bison fan," Kory said.

Tim Engstrom, 36, paced in the crowd two hours before the arrival of the Bison with his NDSU flag upon his shoulder like a soldier awaiting orders. He was a University of North Dakota fan until his parents - both NDSU graduates - took him to a Bison game 20 years ago.

"From then, I was hooked," Engstrom said behind a voice shattered from screaming during the game. "It's Fargo. You have to cheer for the home team and support the team."

Or you can just highly dislike another team, as 22-year-old Nic Berry does. He wasn't wearing his emotions on his sleeve, but rather on his head in the form of a bison head.

"I wasn't always a Bison fan, but, all I knew was I hated the Fighting Sioux," Berry said. "I moved here three years ago and I've just been with the team since. I didn't sit the entire game."

Amanda Christopherson, 21, had a ticket to Frisco to watch her boyfriend and NDSU defensive end Kyle Emanuel play, but she got sick and couldn't make the trip.

Sickness wasn't stopping her from surprising him at the rally with a sign that bared his name, along with a sparkling smile on her face that only a dental hygiene major like herself could sport. As for the after-party, Christopherson is going to take a pass.

"I'm going to bed after this," Christopherson said. "I'll pick him up later when he needs a ride."