Schnepf: North Dakota State's Brian Gordon cherishes a home away from home
FRISCO, Texas -- When the buses arrived to pick up North Dakota State's football team at the airport Wednesday morning, Brian Gordon was relieved to see it was Road Runners Charters.After hauling the Bison around the first three times they were i...
FRISCO, Texas -- When the buses arrived to pick up North Dakota State’s football team at the airport Wednesday morning, Brian Gordon was relieved to see it was Road Runners Charters.
After hauling the Bison around the first three times they were in Frisco, Road Runners lost the bid to haul them for last year’s FCS national championship week. The result was a bus company that needed directions from Gordon, NDSU’s director of football operations.
“They didn’t know the Frisco area very well,” Gordon said.
Gordon and NDSU do. This is their fifth straight trip to Frisco. It has become a home away from home for the Bison. The comfort of knowing where everything is and how long it takes to get from point A to point B will not guarantee a victory over Jacksonville State (Ala.) in Saturday’s championship game.
But it doesn’t hurt.
“This has been one of the most seamless starts to this week that we’ve had,” Gordon said late Wednesday afternoon after the Bison concluded their first practice.
The 53-foot long semi-trailer full of equipment was waiting for Gordon and his staff early Wednesday morning at Toyota Stadium. In less than 90 minutes, Gordon, his assistant Nathan Bjoralt and six student assistants emptied the trailer full of shoulder pads for the 70 players that will suit up in gold jerseys, green pants and the new green helmets that were unveiled earlier this season.
Then there was the equipment for the other 34 players who are allowed to practice. They hauled the clock, practice balls, blocking bags, nets for kickers and quarterbacks and cones to the practice field on a Bobcat 4-wheeler that was also in the semi-trailer.
“It’s like moving a small army,” Gordon said. “There is a lot of stuff.”
Gordon has this down to a science. He’s been doing this kind of stuff since 2005 - the year he decided to leave his home state of Florida and become the director of equipment at NDSU.
Gordon thought he would be in Fargo for a few years and move on to another job. But-much like Frisco has become for the NDSU football team-Fargo has become a home away from home for Gordon and his wife Marie and son Eli.
“It was just one of those things ... Fargo is a special community and NDSU is a special place,” Gordon said. “Other places just don’t measure up so you stay here longer than you probably ever thought you would.”
Gordon grew up in Miami Beach and attended the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he became an assistant equipment manager. He’s seen a lot of changes with the NDSU football program during the past 11 years.
When he first started, the equipment room was an area caged off with chain-link fence in the bowels of the Fargodome. That’s all changed since a major renovation with an equipment room that now has its own laundry, new locker rooms and of course, the swanky coaches office on the second floor.
Much like the football program has evolved, so too has Gordon’s job. At most schools, the director of football operations and director of equipment are two separate jobs. Gordon now handles both-which means coordinating travel, overseeing the practice fields, setting up meals for recruiting visits and even offering his input on projects like the new green helmets.
“We went with something conservative,” Gordon said of the helmet that has a harvest design. “It’s something that would be us and not someone else.”
In his 11 years at NDSU, Gordon has had a first-hand look at what NDSU’s football program has become. During his first five years, the Bison had a 36-19 record-including a dismal 3-8 record in 2009.
Since then, the Bison have reached six straight FCS playoffs. In the last five years, the Bison have posted an amazing 70-5 record and are aiming for an unprecedented fifth straight national championship.
“There is something magical about them,” said Rob Riddle, one of the bus drivers for Road Runner Charters.
Enough magic that Gordon’s 4-year-old son Eli is old enough to communicate with the players and understand what a touchdown is.
“It’s kind of cool to see your 4-year-old embrace it,” said Gordon, who had no idea when he left Florida that he would become a part of history. “Every year, coming down here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience ... but we’ve had five of them.”