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NDSU has built-in safeguards to keep Stick from being overwhelmed

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FARGO—It was a good year in almost every way for the Fargo Little League baseball team. It made a lot of moves that turned to gold on its way to being one game from the Little League World Series.

For instance, somebody from the team asked if a North Dakota State true freshman defensive end would come speak to the 12-year-old kids before the regional tournament and the Bison starting quarterback and All-American candidate also showed up.

Freshman Bartholomew Ogbu was living with Easton Stick and others at the time and he asked Stick if he would tag along to speak to the Little Leaguers.

"I've been fortunate to do that with a few local teams," Stick said. "It's something that is cool. You have a platform in this community so it's fun to be able to go out and talk with kids that have some of the same aspirations that I did growing up."

When it comes to getting out in the community, Stick does what he can.

He also can't do it all.

That Bison football program has some built-in safeguards to make sure the senior is not overwhelmed with requests and distractions. The coaches handle a lot of the NFL scout talk, although it's impossible for the players to ignore that the scouts are on hand watching practice.

"There's a lot of attention and a lot of people coming around in preseason to watch our seniors from a scouting standpoint," said NDSU quarterbacks coach Randy Hedberg. "And I think Easton has handled that very well. He's aware they're out there and they're out there almost every day."

It's no different from the time Carson Wentz was getting mass attention during his senior season in 2015. Wentz and Stick are close friends, so Stick said if he ever has a question on anything, advice is only a phone call away.

"Yeah, he's a great resource for me and I know will continue to be one for me," Stick said.

Generally, pro football agents talk with players during the spring or summer. But players are also not allowed to even verbally commit to an agent much less sign with one until their college career is done.

Nobody really knows how much total contact they have with NDSU players, either. But once the season starts, however, it's doubtful there's much.

"The priority is here," said Stick, pointing to the Bison locker room. "You put in a lot of time and effort to get to this point and to have an opportunity to be successful, especially going into your senior year. And it's a big senior class, so it's something we've talked about, we know what the goal is and we know we want to continue to push this program as far as it can go, so that's the focus."

Once the season starts, the football facilities serve like a bunker from the outside world. NDSU recently hired a sports nutritionist, so meals can be served in the locker room complex at the Fargodome if needed.

The sports information office handles all interview requests. Players' cell numbers are not made available to anybody outside the program.

"I think it's built that way," Stick said. "When you're in class, the priority can be class. When you're here, the priority can be football. You're protected a little bit and (athletic director) Matt Larsen has done an unbelievable job of growing the department and the resources are awesome. They take care of us."

Stick was a constant mention for all-league, All-American or watch lists for awards over the summer. Sports Illustrated, for instance, labeled him as "other players to watch" for quarterbacks in the NFL Draft.

"But everybody in our locker room knows it doesn't mean anything," Stick said. "It's something from last year is what you're being recognized for and last year doesn't help us right now so we're moving forward and we'll be ready to go."

Said Hedberg: "I don't have any issues with Easton, none of our coaches do. He's a very grounded young man that I think handles his stuff and takes it in stride. He knows that his success is going to come from team success. I think that's the important thing about Easton and one thing he deals with on a daily basis."

What: Cal Poly at NDSU

When: 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1

Where: Fargodome

TV: KVLY-NBC ND / ESPN+

Radio: 1660-AM, 107.9-FM, 92.7-FM

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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