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Tuszka brothers make successful jump from small-town football to NDSU

FARGO--The homepage of the Warner School District website shows a picture of a school landmark, with the date 1918 engraved into it. That presumably was the year it opened.

Derrek Tuszka
Jarrod Tuszka

FARGO-The homepage of the Warner School District website shows a picture of a school landmark, with the date 1918 engraved into it. That presumably was the year it opened.

That's a lot of years for a lot of athletes, but perhaps nobody was as athletic and powerful as the Tuszka brothers. When they played football, they were men among boys in that section of northern South Dakota.

"You might find guys that big, but not nearly as mobile and agile," said Tom Kulesa, the former high school coach at Warner. "You just knew they were crazy athletic, both of them."

Jarrod, the oldest, signed with North Dakota State in 2013. Derrek followed the same path two years later and redshirted last season. This fall, the two are on the field again for the first time since they put the town of just 457 people on the statewide map.

This week, with Eastern Washington coming to town for a Saturday, Sept. 10, showdown at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, both are listed as backups at defensive end-a rarity for the Bison to have two brothers listed on the two-deep depth chart during the Division I era. The last time that happened was in 2006 when Brian Dahl started at defensive end and Craig Dahl was the starting safety.

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But this is particularly a brotherly year for NDSU-the Bison have three other sets of brothers: offensive tackle Erik Olson and linebacker Peder Olson from Maple Grove, Minn., offensive lineman Tanner Volson and Cordell Volson from Balfour, N.D. and wide receivers Bennett Rindy and Devan Rindy from West Fargo.

In terms of ability, any Bison team with more than one set of brothers will have a hard time catching the standout duos from the 1970 team, which had Mike and Joe Cichy, Jon and Dick Hanson and Tim and Tom Marman.

The Tuszkas are setting the table for a promising future, anyway. Jarrod, 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, played a little bit in a reserve role last year. Derrek, 6-5 and 249 pounds, has learned the complex Bison defense after making the transition from 9-man high school football.

"It was a lot different, I really wasn't sure what I was doing exactly," he said. "But once the year got going and spring ball came around, getting reps during the spring really helped me out. That's when I really started to pick it up and it made this fall camp a lot easier."

Jarrod helped when he could, quizzing his younger brother on drives home to Warner.

"Whenever we would be hanging out, every once in awhile he'd ask me a question about something," Derrek said.

For Derrek, it's been an exercise in trying to master one position after playing virtually everything at Warner. His high school biography lists him as playing linebacker, safety, running back, wide receiver, tight end, long snapper, punter and kicker.

"You were always looking for a way to use them," Kulesa said. "At the same time, you could use them as a decoy because the whole world was looking at them. They made the whole team a lot better. They were just on another level."

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Jarrod played a few snaps in NDSU's season-opening 24-17 win over Charleston Southern. Derrek did not, although that could change against high-tempo and pass-conscious Eastern. He backs up Greg Menard on the right side and Jarrod is behind senior Brad Ambrosius on the other side.

"The game plan changes from week to week so we're constantly changing and adjusting," Derrek said. "We're on opposite sides of the line so we really haven't had to compete against each other a whole lot. But we're also constantly trying to be better than the other one."

Up next: No. 8 Eastern Washington at No. 1 North Dakota State

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10

TV: KVLY

Radio: 107.9-FM

Derrek Tuszka
Derrek Tuszka

Related Topics: FCS FOOTBALL
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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