FARGO — It’s all so cool, and so Gen Z, when a high school football recruit announces on Twitter where he plans on spending the next 4-5 years of his life. He says he’s blessed, thanks the appropriate people, and the coaching staff of said university is high-fiving each other while looking at their phones.
It’s all so public. So now here it is, probably around a year from the verbal commitment, and the recruit is heading to practice on a Monday for another week of slugging it out with the starters. This is what you don’t see on Twitter.
It’s work. It’s the digging ditches of college football. It’s like minor league baseball players bussing all night to the next town.
The Greatest Generation was all about that. Evidently, the Gen Zs who put on football pads at North Dakota State are all about that, too.
“Every day is kind of like a game day for me,” freshman cornerback Terrell Hall said. “In trying to figure everything out and trying to get on the level of understanding our defense like some of the starters.”
You hear about Trey Lance, Christian Watson, Jabril Cox, Ty Brooks or James Hendricks every day. They are starters on a 6-0 team that has won seven of the last eight FCS national titles who carry more public figure presence than city commissioners.
Who you don’t hear about are the true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or even sophomores in their third year in the program who slug it out without playing on Saturdays. It’s the stuff nobody wants to do, yet these guys seemingly want to do it.
“The more successful you are, the more you have guys buying into all these roles and understanding the importance of them,” said Bison assistant coach Dan Larson.
It’s easy to get pumped up for practice in August and September. It’s still fresh. The body feels good. School isn’t wearing anybody down.
But it’s starting to get into late October and November. For most high school players, it’s the time of the year when it’s either playoffs or look ahead to a winter sport. NDSU is only halfway through its regular season.
“Right now we’re getting into what I would consider for a scout team the dog days of fall,” said head coach Matt Entz. “They’re looking at the calendar and saying I have six more weeks of scout team? I have to go up against Cordell Volson, Dillon Radunz and Karson (Schoening) for another six weeks?”
Those are three starters in the Bison offensive line who average 6-foot-6 and 303 pounds. They’re the guys that scout team defensive line guys have to bang with every day at practice.
Yet, there is a bone that can be thrown at a scout team player. It’s called the NCAA’s four-game rule, where a true freshman can play in up to four games without losing a season of eligibility. The Bison coaches talk every Sunday about which players gave the starters the best look at practice that week and they often are the best candidates to get on the field as true freshmen.
Even for just one play. Two plays. It’s something.
Hall is a cornerback who may see the field in that capacity. He was your standard high school superstar at Winona Senior High School in southern Minnesota who has done nothing but practice this season.
“Having a long season, I like it,” Hall said. “The more football the better.”
It’s hard to say if that’s the case for the standard walkon. Larson said he hasn’t seen signs of fatigue, “which is impressive for how hard we practice on a daily basis,” he said.
On Saturday, NDSU hosts Missouri State at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. If NDSU plays well, look for some unfamiliar numbers wearing all green in the second half. It could be some freshman’s Super Bowl this season.
On Monday, it will be back to the dog days of football.