Bison Athletics

How He Got Here: Aaron Mercadel

Junior linebacker Aaron Mercadel has played in 16 games for the NDSU Bison. He made 24 tackles last year, including one sack.

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Photos by Joe Kerlin

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. The Bison football team is no exception with its melting pot of talent that arrives in Fargo from across America. It’s this fusion of skill and personality that makes the NDSU football locker room as attractive as any in the country for aspiring Division I football players from Florida, California and everywhere in between. Eight current members of the Bison tell their stories of how they landed in Fargo and one future Bison explains his reasoning behind picking the Herd.


Aaron Mercadel

Recruiting Coordinator: Jamar Cain

Year: Junior

Position: Linebacker

Hometown: Oakland, Calif.

High School: Saint Mary’s College High School

Interest Pool

  • Wyoming
  • Montana
  • Fresno State

Recruiting Process

As soon as Aaron Mercadel got off the phone with a Bison assistant coach who just offered him a scholarship, he went to a computer and typed “North Dakota State football” into Google. Living in California, Mercadel knew nothing about the Bison. But the online results immediately caught his attention.

The national championships led to NDSU being in Mercadel’s top three schools along with Montana and Wyoming. After Wyoming fell off, Mercadel was set to commit to Montana after he took a visit. His best friend, a year older, was already there and Montana’s recruiting coordinator was from Mercadel’s high school and knew his coaches.

Jamar Cain, who was the coach that called, told Mercadel they’d like him to visit NDSU during a playoff game. He came to Fargo and watched the Bison defeat Coastal Carolina in a nail-biting quarterfinal win. Mercadel was hooked, calling it the craziest game he’s ever watched. He committed a week later, helped by the fact Montana switched coaching staffs.

Junior linebacker Aaron Mercadel has played in 16 games for the Bison. He made 24 tackles last year, including one sack.

After he committed to the Bison, Fresno State did try to come in with a scholarship offer to lure Mercadel away from NDSU. But the linebacker didn’t bite on the FBS offer.

“I’m a man of my word,” he said. “My verbal commitment was my written commitment. I bought into what NDSU was doing. And I really respected that Coach Klieman and Cain came to my house for a home visit. And that’s a little different coming to Oakland. Especially Coach Klieman. I was like, ‘Oh he’s coming to my house? I know it’s a lot different environment here.’ Once he came up and my parents were able to meet him, it made them more comfortable.”

Deciding Factor

“I came from a good high school program because we had a strong brotherhood with good coaching. We bought into the program. I heard all those same things here. That really turned me on to NDSU and made me want to come here more because I realized I know why they were winning.”

The Visit

“I took a visit during the quarterfinal game against Coastal Carolina. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a football game that crazy in my life. And that was a close game. It was an interception to seal the game. Talking to the players and coaches, I realized NDSU had a lot of similarities to my high school with a strong brotherhood.”

What’s Surprised You About Fargo?

“The people. The whole community. Even Oakland is such a diverse place, but I can walk into a restaurant and still get those looks, like ‘What are you doing here?’ Coming into Fargo, the community just sees you as a person. When you have gear on they know you’re a football player, but even when you’re not, they’re just genuinely kind people. When it comes to volunteering at schools or the things I help volunteer with, how people interact with me when I’m outside of football, I’m just a normal person and they treat me like a person. That’s something I didn’t get back home where it was way more diverse.”

How He Got Here: Aaron Mercadel
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Published eight times a year, Bison Illustrated provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Bison community in order to help promote the university’s players, coaches, alumni, supporters, staff and fans.


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