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They call themselves hogs; it's a tradition

"Do you mind being called hogs," I asked Brian Troen. "Not at all," he said. He is one of the offensive linemen for the UND Sioux football team, and they take pride in being "the hogs." They have a long tradition of getting together for a meal on...

"Do you mind being called hogs," I asked Brian Troen.

"Not at all," he said.

He is one of the offensive linemen for the UND Sioux football team, and they take pride in being "the hogs." They have a long tradition of getting together for a meal on the day before the football games in Grand Forks. They eat quietly. They talk. They tell a few jokes. They go heavy on the chicken and the pizza.

Mitch Braegelmann says they talk about everything. They discuss practice. They reminisce about games. They just hang out. They buy their own lunches. Some linger a while around the table at the Italian Moon. It's usually a light atmosphere when the hogs do a meal together, but there always is someone who comes up with the jokes. Often, it is Kyle Bondy, a junior from Williston, N.D., who weighs 291 pounds.

He's a lightweight compared with Emmett Lynch, a freshman from Lester Prairie, Minn., who weights in at 309. But these guys aren't fat. There is no flab. It is all solid muscle from training and fitness.

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Like most of the players, Mitch Braegelmann eats most of his meals on campus. During the summer when he cooked for himself, he would grill up some sort of meat and maybe make a casserole. He likes desserts and enjoys going to the Dairy Queen. Brian Troen says his parents usually bring a pan of lasagna along when they come up from Racine, Wis., for the games.

It would seem two aspirin and a long nap would be fitting after a rough and tumble game. Not so. The players enjoy having meals with their families. Usually, when parents show up -- and they usually do -- it means a meal out after a game.

When you see the offensive line on the football field in the Alerus Center, they are formidable. When you talk to them one on one, they are calm and collected before a game. Almost gentle. Braegelmann is relaxed before a game. He watches a little television and goes to bed early. He used to be nervous when he started playing in high school in St. Cloud. He played three years there and only three years at UND because of a herniated disc.

He's working toward a chemical engineering degree and he will have more time when the season ends. Football takes three to four hours out of the middle of his days. And he knows it will be different.

A senior in accounting, Brian Troen, says the hogs will remember their comradeship for the rest of their lives. "We have so much in common on the team. The same attitudes and the same goals. It's like having 100 brothers."

The feeling is awesome for the players when they run out on the field before a game with the band playing, the Sioux fans cheering.

It's worth all the hard work and training. Troen says it takes a while after a game for his body to relax and about 50 percent of the time he has to shake off a headache. It's something, he says, "that is from being worn down, and just annoying."

Do the hogs like it when they get caught short on a play? You bet not. But Troen says it's a give-and-take situation. You just have to adjust. Usually, at the end of a game, all of the players wish the opposing team good luck in the future as they shake hands. Troen and Marcus Tibesar, a fullback from St. Paul, is one of the leaders of the group of players who lead the way in saying a prayer after the handshakes. Sometimes, players from opposing teams join them. Troen says they like to remember that football is just a game and the praise goes to God.

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That is a tradition that has been passed along, he says. Just like the hogs having lunch together.

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