Built To Last – Defense

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Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography

#5 – Jordan Champion



  • 2015 Year: Senior
  • Position: Cornerback
  • Hometown: Avondale, Ariz.
  • High School: Westview High School
  • 44 games played, 18 starts, 104 total tackles, four tackles for loss, 11 passes defended

What was it that you wanted to prove coming into this season?

“All offseason I was hearing about can CJ and Jordan replace Marcus and all this and I wanted to prove that I’m a good corner. CJ had an opportunity before me, but I just wanted to prove and show that I can perform well, too. I mean I felt like I got that opportunity and I feel like I did well this season.”

What’s the motivation to build off that this season?

“Marcus (Williams), ‘Dre (Andre’ Martin Jr., Shep (Bryan Shepherd), all those guys before me, if you want to talk about great DBs at NDSU, I want to be included in that conversation. That’s my motivation to keep working and to keep getting better this offseason.”

Jordan Champion1

Where does this edge you and CJ play with come from?

“We’re competitive. You know, CJ thinks he looks better than me and we always compete with everything. That’s just how competitive me and CJ are (laughs). I feel like that competitiveness is with all the DBs, like Dudzik, that’s the most competitive dude I’ve met and having to deal with that for four years, I had to be just as competitive to survive in the same room as him.”

I know you guys play different positions. But what does the loss of Christian and Colten mean for the Wolfpack?

“They’re guys like Marcus, where you can’t really replace those guys. They were really good ball players and they will be missed, but what the model has been around here the next guy is going to have to step up so. Yes, they will be missed and I’ve learned a lot from them over the past few years so I feel like what I’ve learned from them I’m going to use on the other younger players.”

Can you give us a brief scouting report of the younger guys Bison Nation hasn’t seen?

“This Spring ball is going to be interesting because a lot of the freshmen in the class that came in, Dakota Reid, Jalen Allison, Jaylaan Wimbush, Isaac Cenescar, they’re really good ball players so there is going to be a lot of good competition this spring and I’m looking forward to it. I’m still going to be competing myself but I want to see what they do when we get the pads on.”

#97 – Brad Ambrosius


  • 2015 Year: Junior
  • Position: Defensive End
  • Hometown: De Pere, Wis.
  • High School: West De Pere High School
  • 24 games played, five starts, 29 total tackles, 7 tackles for loss, three sacks
  • Played as a true freshman in 2013

Did you have any moment this year where you could point out something that you specifically got better at?

“During the Iowa State game I really thought about it and you know two years prior I was sitting on the couch doing nothing, working out for high school. I never dreamed I’d be on that big of stage. Other than that, I felt myself getting stronger, I felt myself getting better. Kyle and Mike really helped me out and Coach Kramer and the entire strength staff.”

What’s the biggest thing you’re going to takeaway from guys like Mike and Kyle?

“Run. Run hard. Work hard, run hard, do everything you do as hard as you possibly can and don’t have any regrets when you do it. Obviously, Kyle being the Buck Buchanan Award winner everything he has said has really stuck in my mind and him telling me to work hard and to never take anything for granted has really resonated in me.”


What’s your relationship like with those guys?

“(Laughs) Last year was a little rocky; I was a freshman and I really didn’t know anybody. This year they have been really good mentors for me, kind of the statues of what this program means for everybody.”

What was you “ah ha” moment when you were like, “okay, this is what Bison Pride means.”

“When we were in Frisco all the alumni and get to be on the practice field with us on that Friday before the game. When I was standing there I was looking at all the older guys and looking at the pride, and how they all still had their letterman jackets on and I was thinking, ‘Wow, these guys really still love this program and still love this school.’ And to me that’s what Bison Pride is. To be connected to this place no matter how old you get, no matter how far away you get.

“Not only am I playing for my teammates, I’m playing for everyone that has built the tradition here. I came here and the program was successful. I wasn’t here during the 3-8 years, but those guys that won the national championships in the 60s, 80s and stuff like that; they built the foundation for what we are today. And every time we put on this uniform we have to think of them.”


#61 – Brian Schaetz


  • 2015 Year: Senior
  • Position: Defensive Line
  • Hometown: Denmark, Wis.
  • High School: Denmark High School
  • 44 games played, 21 starts, 90 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks
  • 2012 College Sports Journal FCS All-Freshman Team
  • 2013 Missouri Valley Football Conference Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award

I have photos of you when you were on stage after the championship game and you just got a smirk on your face. What were you thinking about?

“I think its just sweet to stand up in front of everybody. I don’t know you get to showboat for the year. The whole year you’re working so hard and here at NDSU we don’t believe in showboating or anything like that but finally at the end of the year, win, lose, or draw, I’m going to celebrate. No matter what. It was a heck of a year no matter what. If Illinois State was the better team and they beat us, big deal, you know. But hey we came out with the win and I’m going to celebrate and do my little showboat. The Jon Cena “You Can’t See Me Kind of Thing”. I’m not a showboater that’s the thing.”

Well it must’ve been a relief to take the team back to the stage after so many questions about your defensive line before the season?

“It’s also that. And I took so many snaps this year and I’m still standing. I took the most snaps as a d-tackle almost every game and I’m still standing there. Yeah, I got a little bumps and bruises, here and there and got cut up but it’s been fun that way.”


Photo by Darren Gibbins

What progressed game by game for your young d-line?

“Nate Tanguay, he’s very well improved. With playoffs it helps sticking around the coaches and being able to do certain things and it helps a lot. I mean, heck the kid knows almost as much as I do now. It’s not like you catch him one day and asks a question and he can answer for you just like that. It’s great and that way we can build off each other that way too. I mean it’s hard for me because I don’t have anyone in my class that’s a d-tackle so I can’t just look to somebody else and ask ‘what do you think about this play? What do you think about this situation?’ Now I do. Right away, I didn’t think that was going to happen. ‘Am I going to build that camaraderie or am I not?’ It’s hard, you know. You don’t go through college football again, you know? You can’t go back and change things. Right now I feel like I don’t have to go back and change things. It’s really nice because we’ve built that camaraderie.”

Does that camaraderie help dealing with the expectations year-in, year-out?

“Yeah expectations and I don’t know. We as d-tackles, we like to have fun. I say before games, we got to prove everyone wrong and those are expectations but at the end of the day, we’re here to have fun. We’re here to win championships and the winning part of it too, but at the end of the day I want to say we had fun doing it. When Saturday comes around we’re off work, we worked the whole week. We’re ready to play and ready to go out and let loose. I think expectations are a part of it but I really think just having fun is a part of it too. That’s what I like about this class, it’s not like we’re having too much fun and we’re not going out and partying everyday and all the other stuff. We’re getting the job done and that’s the key to it. And we’re growing because of it too. The more fun you have with it, the better it’s going to let us grow and better for us to include everybody. There are some guys you might exclude but with Bison football we stick together. It’s just so nice. If somebody is having a bad day or something like that we’re trying to get them up and going because every day should be a fun day. Happiness is the key to championships I think. Think about it. There are guys that are miserable all the time and I could be that guy but at the same time as long as you got somebody there to help you through it. Expectations can mean nothing but if you got a guy that’s there to help you or to just make you laugh one day. That’s what we do. That’s why you see us going crazy before games. You’ll see us right when we get on the field we’re going crazy because you don’t always get this chance. It’s a once in a lifetime chance to even step out on the field. That’s why we’re pumping our chest having a great time, laughing about it, its just comes down to happiness is the key to winning I feel like.”

#6 – CJ Smith

CJ Smith

  • 2015 Year: Senior
  • Position: Defensive Back
  • Hometown: Savage, Minn.
  • High School: Burnsville High School
  • 45 games played, 31 starts, 101 total tackles, 37 passes defended, four interceptions
  • 2013 All-Missouri Valley Football Conference Honorable Mention

You had something to prove this year with the loss of all the seniors. What’s your motivation this next year?

“It’ probably going to be something similar to that. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of doubter again. A lot of people that think we cant do what we have done in the past. Even though it’s a tall task, but I think that’s going to be a lot of the same motivation really.”

What was different about this championship that will stick out to you compared to the other ones?

“Just the turnover that everybody was faced with. Just the program in general, with the new coaching staff, the new athletic director and losing a lot of the seniors to lose some great players like Billy (Turner), Marcus (Williams) and them. It’s just so much turnover that happened and I’ll remember how focused we were and not paying attention what was being said on the outside and just being so faces about winning one game at a time.”

CJ Smith1

Photo by Darren Gibbins


Where does this tenacity you and Jordan Champion play with come from?

“Probably just the competition within ourselves. Competing with each other too in practice. Everything we do we compete. Even when we play X-Box we compete so I think that just shows a lot when we’re in the game. It can be anything.”

He told me you always try to tell him you look better than him.

“(Laughs) Yeah, its just stuff like that. We compete with anything really.”

Like who can eat their burrito the fastest?

“(Laughs) It can get down to that. Another thing we compete in is parallel parking. He thinks he can park better than me, which I don’t think he can.”

I know you guys play different positions. But what does the loss of Christian and Colten mean for the Wolfpack?

“It’s going to be huge. Since I’ve been here, both Champ, and me, those have been our guys since day one so it’s definitely going to be huge. There just so even skill-wise, but other than that, they’re both just so smart and so it’s just having that factor behind you and knowing that they have been through everything that I’ve been throw, but twice as much. It’s going to be a huge loss so we got to get it together with out them.

“They’re very straight up guys. They know when the time comes to have fun and they know when the time comes to be serious and be locked in. That’s a big leadership factor they both showed this year. That I didn’t see a lot a couple years ago. SO that’s something I’ll take with me from them.”

Built To Last – Defense
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