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DeLuca's plan is to return to the Bison next season

FARGO--The rumor that Nick DeLuca was going to have season-ending shoulder surgery started to spread among North Dakota State football fans in Iowa City, Iowa, a couple of weekends ago. It was akin to being in a Hollywood nightclub when the news ...

North Dakota State's Nick DeLuca said he plans to play next year if he is granted a medical hardship after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery this season. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's Nick DeLuca leads the charge on special teams against Montana at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO-The rumor that Nick DeLuca was going to have season-ending shoulder surgery started to spread among North Dakota State football fans in Iowa City, Iowa, a couple of weekends ago. It was akin to being in a Hollywood nightclub when the news hit of Brad and Angelina breaking up.

The 2016 season breakup between DeLuca and football became official two days after the Bison defeated Iowa 23-21. The senior linebacker had surgery to repair a torn labrum and he'll apply for a medical hardship waiver to regain his final year of eligibility.

That remains the plan, DeLuca said Tuesday, Sept. 27.

"That's 100 percent my plan," he said. "If (the waiver) goes through and everything is taken care of like it should be, I'll be back next year."

DeLuca said he was considering trying to play as long as he could this season. There were times of discomfort in the Eastern Washington and Iowa games, he said.

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"I was kind of fighting through that and trying to hang in there," he said. "My initial plan was to try and see how far I could go but after the Iowa game, I sat back and decided this was going to be the best route."

An athlete can apply for a medical waiver if he has not played in more than 30 percent of his team's games or three games, whichever is greater. The injury must also occur in the first half of the season and has to be incapacitating. It's happened over the course of the last few years with notable Bison players like wide receiver Zach Vraa, tight end Kevin Vaadeland and safety Colten Heagle.

Another potential option was to turn his attention to the NFL, but the timeline to full health put a stop to that thought. His rehabilitation is penned at four to six months, if not later.

"So that's out the window to even consider that," he said. "That was never really a concern. I just wanted to see how much I could play, but not redshirting (his freshman year) throws coming back into the mix. Now this is an opportunity I'm going to take and see how far it goes."

Surgery was termed successful and DeLuca is attending practice this week with a sling keeping his arm close to his body. His role has changed as the Bison prepare to host Illinois State in their Missouri Valley Football Conference opener Saturday, Oct. 1, at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

It's his first significant injury in football and handling it mentally will also be a challenge, he said. He is not a patient person.

"No, not at all," he said. "It's going to teach me a lot in the process and teach me how to be patient and fight through adversity."

There is precedence, unfortunately. DeLuca was a freshman in 2013 when he saw middle linebacker Grant Olson go down with an ACL knee injury. He was inserted into the starting lineup in 2014 when outside linebacker Travis Beck was lost for the season late in the year.

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"Your role changes but you're still part of the team," DeLuca said. "You bring to the table as much as you can and help out in other ways. It shows true character how to respond to things and those guys did a great job with that and I hope to do the same."

Up next: No. 18 Illinois State at No. 1 NDSU

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome

TV: KVLY. Radio: 107.9-FM

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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