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NDSU's Board born to be a leader on kickoff coverage team

FARGO -- Somewhere between the time the kickoff coverage unit for North Dakota State's football team walks onto the field until Cam Pedersen kicks off, some sort of switch in the soul of Chris Board flips on. It's go time.

North Dakota State's Chris Board runs through drills with the Bison linebacker corps on Wednesday, August 17, 2016.David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's Chris Board runs through drills with the Bison linebacker corps on Wednesday, August 17, 2016. David Samson / Forum News Service

FARGO - Somewhere between the time the kickoff coverage unit for North Dakota State's football team walks onto the field until Cam Pedersen kicks off, some sort of switch in the soul of Chris Board flips on. It's go time.

For Board, there is no such thing as a gradual revving of his motor. He goes from zero to full speed in a matter of a few yards and there is no letting up.

"You have to have a kamikaze-type attitude running down there," Board said. "You have to have a couple screws loose when you're running but I definitely enjoy it."

There is not much in the line of strategy when it comes to covering kickoffs. Desire is mandatory and perhaps nobody exemplifies that more than Board, who has excelled at the craft for the last couple of years. It was also a noticeable missing component in the Bison special teams unit when he was out for a period of games this season with a back injury and a hamstring ailment.

It's usually noticeable in the FCS playoffs. NDSU hosts the University of San Diego in a 2:30 p.m. (CT), second-round game Saturday at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Board has almost the perfect physical characteristics for the job - strong at 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds and fast as a former strong safety converted to outside linebacker.

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"The dude looks like he's 6-foot-3, 230 pounds and runs like a 4.6 (second) 40-yard dash," said Bison teammate Stanley Jones, a defensive end. "It's scary watching him fly down."

It's more than Board flying down the field, of course. Freshman Jake Brinkman, for instance, has been in on a few plays of late. Kickoff coverage is a defensive coordinator's best friend, especially if a team has to start a drive inside its own 20-yard line.

It happened more often than not in November. The University of South Dakota started at an average of the 21-yard line after kickoffs and Indiana State the week before had a beginning field position of the 18-yard line after kickoff returns.

"He's fearless," Bison head coach Chris Klieman said of Board, a junior from Orlando Fla. "He has the ability to say I'm going to make a play. Chris is a big, physical guy who is hard to block in space and can rip through blocks. He has a nack to understand it."

He's also having more of an understanding of outside linebacker, a position Board was moved to last season after beginning the season as the starting strong safety. With senior Pierre Gee-Tucker still questionable this week because of a knee injury, Board is in line to play extensively if Gee-Tucker can't go.

Klieman said replacing Gee-Tucker would be a combination of Board, sophomore Levi Jordheim or freshman Dom Davis, who would play more of a defensive back role in that position.

"I've just been patiently waiting, practicing and staying prepared," Board said. "It's been an adjustment but I'm ready to go. We've been practicing so much and we harp on the next-man-up thing so much that I was ready to execute."

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North Dakota State's Chris Board runs through drills with the Bison linebacker corps on Wednesday, August 17, 2016.David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State linebacker Chris Board. David Samson / Forum News Service

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITYFOOTBALLCHRIS KLIEMAN
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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