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Jirik has surgery, put NFL hopes on hold

FNS Photo by David Samson North Dakota State’s Cole Jirik, right, battles Towson’s Charles Johnson during the FCS National Championship game on Jan. 4 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

FARGO — If the only goal for North Dakota State defensive end Cole Jirik was to play professional football, he would have had surgery earlier this fall. It would have virtually assured him good health in front of the pro scouts.

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Instead, gutting it out with his Bison teammates won out.

Jirik had surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Tuesday. He’s scheduled for a similar procedure to his left shoulder in about a month with both surgeries shelving his NFL hopes for a while.

“The next level is never guaranteed,” Jirik said, “and I was guaranteed at least 11 games this year so I decided to take advantage of those 11 and stick with my brothers — the 24 seniors — the rest of the way out.”

That doesn’t mean the thought of having surgery in the fall never crossed his mind. Rare was the game where Jirik wasn’t slow to get up from a tackle or taking on a blocker because one of his shoulders popped out.

If it looked painful for people watching from the stands, it was.

“Sometimes I was in so much pain I couldn’t move it,” he said. “I really couldn’t do anything.”

About the only remedy was to come off the field for a few plays and let the pain subside. Then it was back in the game.

Despite the ailments, he still signed with agent Greg Johnson of Origin Sports Management after the Bison won their third straight NCAA Division I FCS national title. He’s behind the pace of other Bison players who have signed with agents and are working out for either postseason all-star games or pro-day workouts.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Jirik said it’s possible he may be able to run at NDSU’s pro day in March, but probably not much else. He said Johnson is fine with the patient approach.

“He believes in me and believes I can get through this and get to the next level,” Jirik said.

Without a full pro day, that doesn’t mean Jirik isn’t a candidate to sign a free-agent contract and get into a rookie camp. He’ll start working out under the guidance of Origin Sports in Woodbury, Minn., as soon as he’s able.

Jirik said he would consider waiting an entire year depending on how his year goes. Ironically, the shoulder surgeries go against the grain of durability that he showed in his Bison career.

Jirik tied a team record playing in all 59 games.

Now he’s on the sidelines of sorts. He hopes to start limited workouts in a couple of weeks.

“Absolutely I would have had a better chance of making a pro team if I had done the surgery earlier,” Jirik said, “but I agree with my choice to stay and play and still play at a decent level.”

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.