Former Bison linebacker Board takes 'completely different' road than expected to the NFL
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Chris Board played high school football in Florida before a college career at North Dakota State.
It wasn't the path the rookie linebacker, a Florida State fan growing up, envisioned he would take to the NFL.
"The road is completely different than I expected, but I'm glad it happened the way it did," Board said. "I'm definitely glad I chose NDSU."
Board made the Baltimore Ravens' 53-man roster out of training camp and is listed as the team's backup at middle linebacker on the depth chart behind C.J. Mosley. The 6-foot-2, 229-pound Board led the Ravens in the preseason with 20 tackles. The Ravens play host to the Denver Broncos at noon Sunday, Sept. 23.
Board's special teams ability played a key role in making the roster for the Ravens.
"I knew if I was going to make the team, it was going to have to be on special teams," said Board, who is from Orlando, Florida. "I think it all just worked out because of special teams. That background helped me get my foot in the door."
Board has a combined three tackles through two games for the Ravens, playing on multiple special teams units, including kickoff coverage and punt coverage.
"He obviously was a huge impact player for us on special teams," said Bison assistant coach Nick Goeser. "It really doesn't surprise me whatsoever that he's making it on the special teams."
Board started 11 games at linebacker in his senior season at NDSU, including the Division I FCS national championship game last January in Frisco, Texas. He was a key contributor on NDSU special teams for four years.
When he was a redshirt freshman, Board made an impact on special teams play in the FCS title game against Illinois State to cap the 2014 season. He recovered a second-half kickoff, which Illinois State had mishandled, and that recovery led to a field goal in NDSU's 29-27 victory against the Redbirds.
Bison head coach Chris Klieman recently recalled a "snapshot memory" of Board making that big special teams play.
"That's a young guy doing it on a big stage," Klieman said. "He just understood the importance of special teams. That's where he excelled at. ... From a special teams standpoint, he's always been a really good special teams player. He took great pride in the special teams and ownership."
Board is on a bigger stage now, playing for the Ravens. He was an undrafted free agent. Board said he's getting comfortable in the NFL and admits he had some nerves heading into the season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 9.
"I definitely have settled in," Board said. "It was a little nerve-wracking before and leading up. At the end of the day, it's just football."
Jerry Rosburg, a former NDSU linebacker, is the special teams coordinator and associate head coach for the Ravens. Goeser said NFL scouts often ask about how good a player is on special teams during their evaluation process of a college player.
"It's probably the first question a lot of scouts ask us." Goeser said. "What does that kid play on special teams for you?"
Goeser said Board checks all the boxes for being an effective special teams player.
"No. 1, extremely athletic, a guy that size that can run the field and make plays in the open field," Goeser said. "I think the other thing is he took a ton of passion and pride in being really good on special teams. It's kind of where he got his jumpstart as a young player. ... He took a ton of pride on it and he was really smart about it."