Jensen excels as NDSU’s field general
FARGO — The kid just out of middle school football got in line to get his equipment his freshman year of high school. He was a running back, tight end and linebacker.
A coach asked him his last name.
“Jensen,” the kid replied.
In Waupaca, Wis., where there are a few Jensens, that didn’t exactly narrow it down.
“Which Jensen?” the coach asked.
“Brock Jensen,” the kid said.
At that point, Waupaca High head coach John Koronkiewicz pulled his head from around a corner and told the coach to issue the kid equipment for a quarterback. At least that’s the story that Steve Jensen, Brock’s father, remembers.
Whatever the details, it was the genesis of a winner. Brock later led Waupaca to an undefeated state championship his senior year. The ascent continued at North Dakota State, as the Bison prepare for a third straight NCAA Division I FCS title game.
Jensen has the FCS record for most victories by a quarterback with 47. He directed back-to-back FCS crowns in 2011 and 2012, but Jensen saved his best season for last.
It’s statistically his most consistent. He’s just under his career-best 67.2 percent completion percentage he had as a sophomore, but his 2,658 yards and 33 touchdowns passes are school records.
His previous best TD total was 17 last season.
“It comes along with experience,” Brock Jensen said. “I’ve been in this system for a long time. And we’ve been so balanced with our attack. It’s really tough to gauge whether we’re going to run or pass because we can do both.”
Jensen has clearly been more comfortable throwing the ball downfield. As the years have progressed, there has been no question who is in charge on the field.
It’s maturity, said offensive coordinator Brent Vigen, who said Jensen always had the physical skills but has developed the mental side of the position as well.
“It’s confidence. You hope most kids have their best year in their senior year, and he certainly has,” Vigen said. “And give credit to his teammates. It’s the best surrounding cast he’s had, too.”
While his confidence has grown, his demeanor has not changed. He’s never been afraid to express his faith, and he’s never displayed attitude to any reporters’ question.
Steve Jensen said he and his wife, Laurie, come from faith-based families. Steve has a couple relatives who are ministers.
“But really, the level that he has taken it to is amazing,” Steve said. “I think when something feels right to Brock, he goes all out. He’s developed a lot of that on his own. He’s just really flourished at NDSU.”
He’s given of himself to charities, speaking engagements, hospital visits and school appearances more than anybody will know. Receiver Ryan Smith, Brock’s current roommate, says he can be goofy at times off the field, but when it’s time to get serious, it’s all business.
“Brock has that edge on everybody else because he prepares himself so well,” Smith said. “He’s always up in the film room. And he’s a gamer, too. He’s going to win you football games.”
What’s the definition of a gamer? He opened the New Hampshire semifinal game throwing an interception for a touchdown. He came back to throw three TD passes and run for another in the 52-14 victory.
Earlier this week, Jensen addressed the local Fargo-area media for the last time. He’s been a staple request and has handled the lights, cameras, microphones and questions like a pro.
“This has been my life for four, five years now,” he said. “I’m definitely going to miss you guys. This is awesome.”
His parents have gone through a few oil changes and tires in driving from Waupaca to Fargo for the last five years. It’s been awesome for them, too.
Steve has been doing a little reflecting of late with Brock’s last game not far away.
“The first thing is how fast it’s gone,” he said. “If it were legal and I put $1,000 on every game Brock has played, I’d be money ahead. In some ways, it’s been a fantasy island in the way all the wins have played out. I know the way he plays, how competitive he is and how he does not like to lose. I’m surprised by the end result, but not completely surprised.”
A result that perhaps started when he was issued quarterback gear as a high school freshman.
“It’s sad, and you don’t want it to end,” Brock said. “This has been the best experience of my life. But I’m looking forward at the same time to the next chapter of my life after this game.”