Back when I was just entering college at North Dakota State University they were a Division II powerhouse. The football team was the Team of the Decade in D-II, with 7 appearances in the Championship game, winning 5, from 1981 to 1990. There were some really good players to come out of those teams. Jeff Bentrim broke Walter Payton’s TD record and played a little in the CFL. Chad Stark and Doug Lloyd got invited to camp with some NFL teams. Stacey Robinson was on two Superbowl winning teams with the NY Giants. Phil Hansen played in three straight Superbowls with the Buffalo Bills. Casey “Gus” Bradley is the current headcoach of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars.
NDSU finally moved up from D-II, but because of the way the NCAA splits up football the Bison play in the lower tier D-I FCS (Football Championship Subdivision). During their transition years they were arguably one of the best FCS teams out there, but were ineligible for the post season. When they finally became eligible they had an off year (3-8) before starting one of the most amazing runs in post season history of any college football team at any level. In 2010 they lost a heartbreaking overtime game at Eastern Washington, the eventual National Champion. Since then they haven’t lost a post season game, winning the last 5 FCS National Championships.
Many people around here consider the 2013 team to be the greatest FCS Football team ever constructed. They not only went undefeated throughout the season to win their 3rd consecutive championship, they did it by shocking D-I FBS Kansas State, the reigning Big 12 Champion and eventual winner of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl over Michigan.
That 2013 Bison team was loaded with talent.
Brock Jensen holds the record for most wins by an FCS QB. He’s currently on the Ottowa Redblacks roster (CFL).
Sam Ojuri is currently on the BC Lions (CFL) roster.
Ryan Smith is playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) after making a splash with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders for a couple of years.
Billy Turner is a starter for the Miami Dolphins (NFL).
Marcus Williams was among the league leaders in interceptions last year with the NY Jets (NFL).
John Crockett is currently with the Green Bay Packers (NFL).
Kyle Emanuel was drafted last year by the San Diego Chargers (NFL).
Carson Wentz was just selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 2nd overall pick. Making him the not only the highest drafted ND kid, but the highest drafted non-FBS QB in history.
Joe Haeg is expected be the 2nd Bison drafted this year. If he makes a team somewhere that would be 9 pro players off that 2013 team.
A couple of other players may have outside shots. CJ Smith had an outstanding career at NDSU and may get asked to a camp as a Defensive Back. I could see him playing in nickle and dime situations. Andrew Bonnet is someone who may get a look as well. He was an excellent blocker as a Full Back, and was a favorite target in the passing game down near the goal line. Punter Ben LeCompte is the 4th best punter in FCS history and is not only known for sticking punts near the goal line, flipping the field, but also booting the ball through the end zone on kickoffs. That could make him an attractive free agent signing to a team with issues in the kicking game.
The seniors on next year’s team were freshmen that year. Of the notable names to watch for are linebacker Nick DeLuca, and offensive linemen Jack Plankers and Austin Kuhnert.
That’s a lot of talent off of one FCS team. There are FBS programs that don’t get that much pro talent on one team.
Good luck to all the players in the upcoming season.