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NFL scouts becoming familiar faces in the crowd at NDSU

FARGO--There was a time when an NFL scout would visit the North Dakota State football facility and he was treated like actor Josh Duhamel making an unexpected appearance on Broadway in downtown Fargo. No longer.

North Dakota State defensive lineman Greg MenardDavid Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State defensive lineman Greg MenardDavid Samson / The Forum

FARGO-There was a time when an NFL scout would visit the North Dakota State football facility and he was treated like actor Josh Duhamel making an unexpected appearance on Broadway in downtown Fargo. No longer.

These days, those folks are just another face in the crowd around NDSU.

The height of scouting storm, certainly, was last year when quarterback Carson Wentz made the ascension from a possible middle-round draft choice to the second selection overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. Not a week went by, and at times not a day went by, where somebody with an NFL logo-adorned jacket wasn't spotted leaving the Fargodome as the Bison were set to begin practice.

"Coming from a small town and seeing those guys in the NFL hats, it was like, wow, that's really cool," said linebacker MJ Stumpf, from Harvey, N.D. "But it was a common theme last year and I think it will hold true with Nick and other guys on this team."

That would be NDSU middle linebacker Nick DeLuca, who is certain to get attention from NFL scouts this season. Like the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Wentz, DeLuca has the size for the position at 6-3 and 245.

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But the separating factors are his speed, quickness, hands and flat-out statistics. He led NDSU in tackles with 135 and is one of two Bison players, along with defensive end Greg Menard, on the "watch list" for the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year award.

"He doesn't need external motivators to go out and play," said Bison offensive lineman Jack Plankers of DeLuca. "He's a self-motivated individual and that's very infectious for the players around him, too."

Like Stumpf, Plankers is from a small school in Kindred, N.D., and seeing NFL scouts at practice was probably amusing at first. And like Stumpf, he hardly notices them now because it's so common.

"You know they're there but that's just because they're a different face out of the usual trainers, assistant coaches and weight coaches," Plankers said. "Other than that, we don't get too excited about the NFL scouts being there."

DeLuca is currently ranked the 11th-best inside linebacker prospect by cbssports.com. The top 10 are all from the FBS level. With his stock on the table, it may be a bonus for other Bison players, too, in terms of being evaluated.

Last year, offensive tackle Joe Haeg certainly benefited from the Wentz watch. He was a fifth-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts.

"Carson, Joe, all of those guys last year, they've been a great resource for anything I've had to ask them about," DeLuca said. "I'm just trying to follow their footsteps in the way they handled it and just try to represent myself as best I can."

Is all of that a distraction? NDSU defensive coordinator Matt Entz doesn't think so, pointing to the number of times the Bison have been on a national network like ESPN.

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"They'll see ESPN in our office or our local media and it's just what kind of happens here," Entz said. "So they think it's neat but they're not in awe when an NFL scout shows up."

DeLuca said he's trying not to look too far ahead, although he also said "you have to have that in the back of your mind and be ready for it when that day comes."

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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