Steve Walker North Dakota State Bison football quarterback and Bison Illustrated contributor

Walker’s Word – Passing the Quarterback Torch

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The FCS Playoff run that our Bison football team has been on has been nothing short of legendary. Bison Nation has witnessed more success than most any other fan base could expect to see in a lifetime–and we saw it in less than a decade. And the news gets even better with the home team in the Fargodome returning a lot of experience and talent for the 2017 version of the NDSU Bison. So strap yourselves in (again), Bison Nation, because the fun may have just begun.

When I look back at the last seven years, it is incredible to see the following:

  • Seven FCS Quarterfinal Appearances
  • Six FCS Semifinal Appearances
  • Five FCS National Championships

The Thundering Herd has had so much individual talent come through the program during this run, but to a man, they would tell you that the TEAM was the reason for the success. It wasn’t the fact that we had a No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft. It wasn’t the fact that the quarterback that started this run has more wins in college football than any other at the position. And it wasn’t the fact that we had a linebacker record 29 tackles in a single playoff game against Wofford.

For this story, however, I am going to focus on the consistent year after year success of the quarterback play. (It seems the people at Spotlight Media think I know what I am talking about when it comes to quarterback play, so here we go.)

Brock Jensen North Dakota State Bison quarterback
(Photo by Dennis Hoff) Brock Jensen takes a snap during a scrimmage in 2010 fall camp. He would go 47-5 as a starter and have a total of 48 career wins.

In 2010, which seems like a lifetime ago, a freshman quarterback from Waupaca, Wisconsin, led the Bison to a 7-4 regular season and their first-ever berth into the FCS Playoffs. Not only did the Bison get to the playoffs, but Brock Jensen led the Thundering Herd to two playoff wins and an appearance in the FCS quarterfinals. Follow that up with back-to-back-to-back national championships in 2011, 2012, and 2013 and the Legend of Brock Jensen was cemented.

There are many great memories of Jensen that won’t be forgotten. His guts, more than anything, stand out like when he played sick as a dog during a playoff game versus Georgia Southern and who can forget “The Drive” against Kansas State.

Carson Wentz Brock Jensen North Dakota State quarterbacks
(Photo by Dennis Hoff) Carson Wentz (left) waited three years behind Brock Jensen before he took over as the starting quarterback. Wentz would win two more national championships and was eventually drafted No 2 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.

How could NDSU replace the winningest starting quarterback in college football history? Turns out we had a more than capable backup the entire time behind Jensen who turned out to be pretty good himself.

Enter Carson Wentz. The Bismarck, North Dakota, native was truly a special talent who could have played at any level in college. What made Wentz so special was his attitude for being a student of the game. Coming in as the new starting quarterback after three-straight national championships, he was met with extreme pressure, and all Wentz did was continue to carry the championship-winning torch.

Similar to Jensen, Wentz made his own list of memories. However, the fact that he could break his wrist in the middle of a season and then come back for one more game as a Bison, to finish his legendary career, with yet another championship, obviously spoke volumes with his success through the draft process. There are reasons outside of arm talent as to why he was the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Carson Wentz, Cole Davis, Easton Stick Derek McGinnis
(Photo by Darren Gibbins) Carson Wentz (11) talks to his backup quarterbacks during the FCS Championship game against Illinois State. Easton Stick (12) is pictured here during his redshirt season and would takeover the starting position after Wentz broke his wrist the following season.

The story of Easton Stick is still in the early stages of being written, but all signs are looking favorable. Stick was able to come in and continue the success during the 2015 season when Wentz broke his wrist and led the Bison to Frisco, Texas. Your average quarterback would have put his heels in the ground and wanted to finish the season as the starter in the national championship game, but Stick isn’t your average QB. He did everything he could during the regular season and eventually, gave Wentz one more chance to put on the Bison jersey.

Before the 2016 season, Stick was voted as a captain by his teammates as a sophomore. This is a great honor and shows that Stick has the respect from his teammates necessary to continue this historic run. With two years left to play, Stick has already made an impact and has notched five playoff wins. Rest assured, Bison Nation, the Thundering Herd is in great hands with No. 12.

How can the success of these quarterbacks be tied together? They each have their own style of play, and the supporting talent around them changes each year. The common denominator comes down to the fact that Jensen, Wentz and Stick have the heart of a lion and the leadership of a great war general. Ask any player in that locker room “Who would you want in your foxhole if you were in battle?” No. 16, 11, and 12 are sure to be on top of the list.

Keep writing history, NDSU. Me, along with Bison Nation is behind you 100 percent.

Once a Bison, Always a Bison!

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