NDSU Bison baseball player Paul Funk

Paul Funk: Overcoming the “small school” label

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Senior Paul Funk hit .500 during his sophomore season of high school. That same year, he was the first-ever high school player to record a hit at Target Field during the state championship game. On paper, he was a top candidate to receive a Division I scholarship after high school. But there was a problem: he was from a small school. Funk was overlooked, but that didn’t discourage his confidence when he walked on at NDSU. Now, the senior is receiving a partial scholarship and has been a rock at shortstop for the Bison.

The Interview


Bison Illustrated: What were some of the challenges you encountered in the recruiting process?

Paul Funk: “I’m from a really tiny town in Minnesota (Sebeka) so it was pretty hard to get exposure to college coaches. I had to go to different showcases to get my name out there. I had opportunities for scholarships at smaller schools, but I always wanted to go to a Division I place.”

BI: What were these showcases you went to?

PF: “Coaches from all kinds of colleges come in and test your speed, arm strength and all that kind of stuff. They grade you out and if they’re interested, they have your contact information and it’s recruiting that way.”

BI: Why would a coach favor someone from a larger high school than a small one?

PF:“I mean they’re playing against overall better competition on a daily basis so it’s easier for the college recruiters to think their skills are more transferable to the college game. If you’re from a smaller school, you really have to be more active in getting yourself recruited because the coaches aren’t showing up at your games.”

BI: When did you first hear from NDSU?

PF: “I think it was after my junior year I was getting contacted and they invited me to a camp up here. It was just another way they were able to see me perform and analyze if I would be a good fit for the program.”

BI: So it was a showcase or more of an instructional thing?

PF: “It’s supposed to be an instructional camp for hitters and defense. But a large part of it is allowing the coaches to be able to see what the players in the camp can do.”

NDSU Bison baseball player Paul Funk
(Photo Courtesy of NDSU Athletics) Paul Funk catches a fly ball and is known for being able to play anywhere on the diamond defensively.

BI: What was your reaction of the campus when you were up here for the camp?

PF: “Actually, it was during the winter so we were inside the old BSA (Bison Sports Arena). Being from a small school, all the facilities seemed extremely nice and I thought I definitely could see myself attending NDSU and playing here for four years.”

BI: So after the camp, what was the recruiting process like for you that ended with you walking on?

PF: “After the camp, we were dismissed and a couple of the coaches came over and talked to me and they liked the way I played. They wanted to stay in touch. There was a lot of communication over email and making sure everything would work academically and deciding whether or not this is what I wanted to do to continue my education and play baseball.”

BI: Why decline a scholarship somewhere else and walk-on here?

PF: “It wasn’t too difficult for me because I was pretty set on going to a Division I place. I knew I could play at this level.”

BI: What were some challenges you faced being a walk-on here that first fall?

PF: “I don’t think there was really anything. We all had the same chance to play. Nobody was treated differently if they were on scholarship or not. It just came down to out-competing the other guys and just trying to help the team win.”

BI: Did you ever get put on scholarship?

PF: “Yeah. I earned one for my senior year now. It helps to reinforce that if you work toward something hard enough, you’ll eventually get it.”

BI: Tod Brown plays a lot of middle infielders on this team. What makes you stand out?

PF: “I don’t know if I stand apart from them. Like you said, there are so many guys that are capable of playing and I feel I deserve to play. I feel like I have a little more experience than a lot of the other guys and that really helps at the college level because it’s a taxing season mentally. Being able to handle those ups and downs makes it a little easier.”

BI: What’s it going to take to get the Bison back into the NCAA Tournament?

PF: “We just have to keep working hard and sticking together as a team and have everyone doing their roles. I feel like we have pretty good team chemistry this year that will eventually help us down the road and hopefully we can have a pretty good season, which I’m anticipating.”

Paul Funk: Overcoming the “small school” label
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