Jordheim calls it a career: Linebacker reflects on championship, time with NDSU
It all hasn't yet sunk in for Levi Jordheim.
When North Dakota State senior quarterback Easton Stick took a knee at Toyota Stadium to run out the clock, the redshirt senior linebacker raced onto the field with the rest of his team as the Bison again reigned atop college football following a 38-24 victory over Eastern Washington during the FCS National Championship Game on Saturday, Jan. 5.
As the green and yellow confetti began to sprinkle down from the sky, the players, perched on a stage set up behind one of the goal posts, rose their arms in triumph upon receiving the team's seventh NCAA trophy in eight years.
For 24 Bison seniors, it's the final time they'll be able to take part in that kind of celebration.
"I think all of us seniors kind of had a moment to reflect, but I don't think it's really truly hit us," Jordheim said. "I still have all of my stuff at the (Fargo)Dome, cleats and stuff like that is still at the Dome, but I think here in the next week, we'll really start to realize the full effect of what's happened."
North Dakota State became the first FCS school to collect seven national championships, breaking a tie with Georgia Southern. Beginning the season ranked No. 1, the 2018 Bison are the fifth FCS team to complete a run to the title with an undefeated record, going 15-0.
When asked what he'll most remember from this historic season, one in which he started in 14 games, Jordheim doesn't point to a singular moment, but rather the character of the players, who for 12 months were dead set on retaining their crown.
"I think it would be the resilience of everyone, the seniors especially. We really minimized any bad days that we had, whether it'd be practice, games, anything," Jordheim remarked. "We always talked about how you got to take things one step at a time, one day at a time, and I think this group really did that all the way from Jan. 10 last year. ... That's what really defined this team—not any one moment, but a thousand small moments all piled together."
In his 50th and final collegiate game, Jordheim collected four tackles and his first career interception, stepping in front of a pass from Eagles redshirt sophomore Eric Barriere late in the first half.
"The tight-end wheeled out and it was my guy to take. I just stayed on his hip and the quarterback under-threw the ball. I took advantage of it," Jordheim recalled from his takeaway.
Graduating in May 2018 with a bachelor's degree in finance, Jordheim completed his playing career with 120 tackles, four sacks, a forced fumble. During his junior season, he tied a school and Missouri Valley Football Conference record with three fumble recoveries in a single game during a victory over Northern Iowa.
The linebacker joined the Bison as a walk-on after graduating from Dickinson High School in 2014. Reflecting back to his first days with the college powerhouse, Jordheim couldn't be happier with how his career turned out.
"It was kind of surreal for me being from North Dakota, a small-town kid that wasn't a highly touted recruit. Just walking out on campus that first day, I remember going out to practice with that green jersey on and was like 'Holy cow, I'm practicing for the Bison; this is real,'" Jordheim reminisced. "This has been a dream and the journey has been incredible. To be able to see these older guys and look up to them when I was a freshman, and then stepping up when I had the chance to do well and fill the role, it's been pretty cool."
One of the people who has been with Jordheim along this ride has been longtime Dickinson High football coach Dave Michaelson. Jordheim credits Michaelson as a significant influence.
"(He's) been in touch all throughout this run, always texting me good luck on games. He's had a huge impact in my career and he's an incredible man," Jordheim said. "He's been at Dickinson High for—I mean, he taught my mom when she was in school. So he's obviously been a huge part of the success there, helping develop young guys to be excellent people when they grow up. He's been very impactful."
Transitioning from his days at the Biesiot Activities Center, Jordheim now is a part of one of the greatest dynasties in collegiate sports. However, he believes the team's legacy, one which consists of a strong work ethic, wasn't created by this current crop of players or the ones that started this recent run of titles.
"You've got to put your work in every day. And I think that's not just something we've set; that's something that guys during this entire run dating all the way back to 1960s when they started first winning national championships had set," Jordheim said. "It's really cool for each class of guys to adopt that mentality and standard, and then tweak it a little bit to fit who they are as a class."
Without the players before them setting those standards, the North Dakota State football team wouldn't reach the heights that it recently has. Similarly, without every person that has supported him to this day, Jordheim believes he wouldn't have reached this level of success, and he has a message for each and every one of those people.
"I would have to say thank you to everyone that has ever helped me along the way; I'm talking all the way from first-grade basketball to young baseball and soccer," Jordheim said. "No one person can do it alone, that's for sure, and it takes a wealth of individuals and accumulation of people to get anyone where they want to be. I just have to say thank you to all those people that's helped me along the way and thank you to everyone that's followed me. For all the support you get it's incredible, and that's what makes North Dakota State really special."