(Part two of our two-part Frisco Experience)
Thousands upon thousands of Bison fans made their way to Frisco this year for the year-end celebration of another historic Bison football season. Many of the people we spoke to while in Frisco claimed this year’s trip was their fourth time, while many others were excited to experience Frisco for the first time. But not every Bison fan could make it down to Texas this year. So to be sure those fans weren’t left out, we hit all the major stops this year while in Frisco. For those of you who couldn’t make it, welcome to our Frisco experience.
Article by Joe Kerlin
Photos By J. Alan Paul Photography
Back to His Roots
“It feels good to be back,” Joe Mays said after the alumni and current players wander their way back to Toyota Stadium after the team’s open walk-through.
This year was Mays’ first time back around the Bison football team in Frisco, Texas, and he assured everyone he was going to enjoy every second of it.
Mays came to NDSU in 2003 and played an instrumental role as inside linebacker while the entire NDSU athletic program made its adjustment to division I. Although he gave credit to the countless players before him for laying the groundwork for the success the Bison are now encountering at the FCS level, his return to the Bison football team is a symbol of a program coming full-circle since its transition in 2004.
“I think we were just able to take it to another level as far as being division I,” Mays said. “And these guys right now, they’re really putting their stamp in the record books. They might be one of the best teams to play at NDSU.”
The three-time All-Great West Football Conference first-team linebacker was uncertain which championship team was the best, but he was certainly looking forward to meeting the current group of Bison players he’d seen on ESPN numerous times.
Mays said he was interested in meeting a player that had especially caught his eye – senior linebacker Carlton Littlejohn.
“The team as a whole caught my eye,” Mays said. “But he’s one of the leaders, he’s the middle backer. The way he’s gone out and done what he’s done I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I can appreciate that.”
Littlejohn said that he and Mays went back and forth about watching Mays’ old game film and how he was always knocking guys out.
“He said, ‘Yeah, we knocked them out, but we couldn’t run that fast,’” Littlejohn said after the championship game about his encounter with Mays.
Mays said the few minutes in the huddle with current players were worth coming to Frisco to see his alma mater’s football team.
“It seemed like it was really quick, but it was well worth it to get around these guys and getting to listen to the message that they have to say and everything came into tune,” Mays said. “They speak the same language we spoke when we played. I was able to follow it and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Mays is in the last year of his contract with the Kansas City Chiefs and is now a seven-year NFL veteran. Since getting drafted by Philadelphia in the sixth round in 2008, numerous other Bison football players have entered the league.
This fact doesn’t surprise Mays.
“It’s proven that year in and year out, we’re going to come out and we’re going to work and if you work hard enough they’re going to find you,” Mays said. “I think everyone in the country knows that NDSU produced players and not only that, just blue-collar guys that are going to go out and get the job done and do whatever it takes to win.”