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Growing up with the game, UND's Bo Belquist uses 'football junkie' status to become one of the program's best

Belquist, who starred in high school at 9-man New Rockford-Sheyenne, has been a hit with the Fighting Hawks coaching staff from Day 1.

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UND offensive lineman Kyle Hergel hoists wide receiver Bo Belquist into the air following Belquist's third quarter touchdown against North Dakota State on Saturday, March 20, 2021, at the Fargodome. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — UND wide receiver Bo Belquist was born when his dad Elliott Belquist was going into his senior year as a wide receiver with the North Dakota State football program in Fargo.

“He was 8 months old, walking the halls of the BSA (Bison Sports Arena),” said Elliott, whose brother Alex played football for the Bison a year after Elliott (2000-03). “He’s always been around football. We’d come home, he’d be running with the football, and we’d throw pads at him. He’d try to get from Point A to Point B trying to go through pillows.”

UND football coaches call Bo a ‘football junkie,’ who understands every situation and is never satisfied with his performance.

Between those traits – and a smooth athleticism – Belquist has become UND’s top pass catcher and one of the best in the FCS’ top conference – the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

“I think I get (a football-junkie label) for always wanting to watch film and learning the small details that might help in the game,” Bo said. “I’m a perfectionist in route running, and if I do one little thing wrong, I get mad and want it to be perfect.”

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With a highlight-reel touchdown against Northern Arizona last Saturday, which landed as the No. 4 play on Sunday on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10, Belquist now sits No. 5 in UND’s Division I history in career touchdown catches with 10.

On the 8-yard touchdown catch, Belquist caught a quick-hitter to the outside around the 10-yard line. Near the 5, he rolled over a defender trying to tackle him low but Bo never touched the turf with his knee or elbow so he regained balance and leapfrogged a second defender around the 3-yard line and jumped into the end zone.

“Love him,” UND quarterback Tommy Schuster said. “He’s so good. He’s so smart. He’s a guy you need to get the ball. You saw on the touchdown what he can do. It’s crazy how he got in the end zone.”

Bo said his mom let him know he was on SportsCenter.

“It gives you goosebumps,” Elliott said. “You think about your kids and the kids you coach and you want the best for them and to do great things. It just makes you smile and shake your head.”

Belquist, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound junior, ranks No. 8 in career receptions (94) and No. 10 in career receiving yards (971) in UND’s Division I record book.

The New Rockford, N.D., native is currently No. 2 in the MVFC in receptions per game at 5.7.

“He’s very valuable to us,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “The best thing about him is he keeps working to get better. He holds himself to a high standard, and that’s how he keeps improving.

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“He doesn’t need a lot of reps. He goes out and does it on the first try. He has a real good feel for things.”

Bo receives the type of praise you might expect from the son of a coach. Elliott has been the head coach of the New Rockford-Sheyenne football program since 2006.

“Living in a small town and me being in the position I’m in coaching all year, you’re around sports,” Elliott said. “If he wasn’t around the gym or the field, he was back home playing Madden.”

Bo played for Elliott by the time he was a freshman in high school. Bo, who would eventually be named the North Dakota football 9-man player of the year, also played basketball, baseball and track and field for the Rockets.

Like in his college years, Bo wasn’t physically imposing in high school football. He just has a knack for getting open, making people miss and making plays.

“There weren't too many to tackle him with the first guy,” Elliott said. “He has that instinct. He changes direction, changes gears. The yards after catch were always fantastic. He scored a lot of touchdowns just making people miss.”

Despite a smaller frame as a rookie in the spring of 2021, Belquist made his college debut in the season opener against Southern Illinois and scored his first career touchdown. He ended the season with back-to-back touchdown games against North Dakota State and Missouri State.

After his rookie year, he was named to the MVFC all-newcomer team and a Hero Sports freshman All-American.

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“I feel like I’m undersized, and I’m not the fastest,” Belquist said. “I like being under-the-radar. You can go out there and surprise them.”

Although Belquist has become a force within the UND program and around the FCS, he’s not going to tell you about it much.

“He’s not the big rah-rah guy and do a lot of screaming and bring attention to himself,” Elliott said. “He’s going to go about his business and work hard.”

The New Rockford-Sheyenne summer weight program started at 6 a.m. and ran 25 times per summer.

Elliott thinks he had to even wake up his son about three out of those 100 times.

“I’d get up and leave and expect him to be there, and he’d be there,” Elliott said. “That’s how he was. He worked hard and wasn’t going to be too vocal. He’d just show you how it’s done.”

Last season, Belquist led the Fighting Hawks in both receptions (52) and receiving yards (535), averaging a team-best 53.5 yards per game.

Belquist entered the 2022 season as a second team preseason all-MVFC pick and a third-team choice by Phil Steele.

Elliott said the pandemic-impacted season in the 2020-21 school year helped Bo in the weight room, as well as in the football classroom.

“He learned the playbook,” Elliott said. “Holy cow, that wasn’t easy stuff. I have a background with playbooks, and it was difficult.”

With his dad and uncle playing for the Bison, New Rockford has often been considered North Dakota State territory. Yet, at least for some, that’s changing.

“I can see a lot more UND stuff flying around New Rockford,” Elliott said. “There are a lot more people watching the games. New Rockford will support its kids wherever they’re at.”

Related Topics: UND FOOTBALLUND SPORTS
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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