Let’s dig deeper into NDSU Football’s success
Those of us who follow NDSU Football closely, whether you were a former player such as myself or a loyal fan, watched in awe as the Bison stormed the field following Cam Pedersen’s field goal as time expired to give NDSU the victory 23–21 over the Big Ten’s Iowa Hawkeyes — but not really. What I mean is, those of use who have been a part of this epic NDSU Football journey, especially the former players, were elated but not shocked by the program’s 6th consecutive victory over an FBS opponent. At this moment in time, I believe this to be the greatest win in the history of the program with all things considered..
An 11 a.m. start- my thought was that the team may come out flat or become fatigued over the duration of the game. Although, I never played in overtime during my career at NDSU, I know the hang-over effect that emotional victories can have on the way a team prepares the following week and an early start usually means less sleep. That didn’t seem to be an issue for the Bison, and in-fact, they seemed to get stronger as the game went on, as seen, in the 4th quarter when the offense continued to pound the ball through the rushing attack and wore down the Iowa defense.
Secondly, Iowa looked pretty damned good on film the previous two weeks. Although, they played mediocre FBS competition in Miami (OH) and Iowa State, both the offense and defense looked extremely fast and exceptionally explosive- a speed and power on both sides of the ball this program had not yet faced. Surely, that combination would wear down a Bison team who had to scrape and claw to win their previous two games against FCS foes. They would not be able to match up with the blue-chip recruits on the Iowa Hawkeye depth chart. Wrong again.
I could go on-and-on about where NDSU should have struggled or where they should have been exploited, but instead I want to take a closer look at WHY this program continues to have success against FBS opponents they should not be able to compete with- at least on paper.
Culture and Belief. “As a man thinketh, so he is.” — Proverbs 23:7
This was a mantra instilled in us from Head Coach Craig Bohl during my early collegiate years. I remember it being recited often during my redshirt-freshman season in 2011. What Coach Bohl was trying to tell us was that we could be national champions, but we needed to believe it first, and then, we needed to approach each day accordingly. In every aspect of preparation from off-season lifting and running to learning the playbook and transitioning it to the practice field, we did it with the underlying belief that everything we did was done like a champion. It wasn’t a hard sell. We worked our asses off and were pushed to our limits physically and mentally. At no point were we allowed to be comfortable with the successes of yesterday. There was always something to improve on and we were chasing perfection knowing we would never reach it. That didn’t matter, though. The approach and belief in the process did.
These days, the NDSU Football program has no problem persuading their players to buy-in. They have seen the results of previous seasons and the continuity of the coaching staff. Tangibly, everything each individual player and the team as a whole needs to be successful is available to them: top-notch training and practice facilities, nutritional guidance, academic assistance, a proven coaching staff, etc.
What makes NDSU Football different and elevates this program is what is intangible. Sure, one can see the improvement in lean muscle gain, faster running times, higher verticals, and increased squat maxes, but what is not so evident or easy to access is the improvement of the mind, the common belief and trust from the administration down to each individual player, and the mental toughness that comes with collectively pushing each man to his limit, broadening it, and then pushing again. When a player is placed in that type of environment, an environment developed by the genius and extraordinarily committed head strength and conditioning coach, Jim Kramer, he starts to see himself and his teammates in a different light. The commitment that is exemplified by the strength and football staff is seen and adopted by the players, and a mutual respect is built.
Often, I find myself at a loss for words when asked how NDSU Football has become so successful, how they have won 5 consecutive national championships, and how they continue to dethrone FBS opponents. Although I attempt to provide insight now, my words are not enough. I believe what is done behind-the-scenes has to be experienced to truly understand the answer to those questions. I feel privileged to be able to visit with players and coaches and continue to be near to the program through co-hosting the pregame and post-game radio shows: Bison Gameday and Bison Hotline. Many times, I find myself dissatisfied in the outside world with the way challenge is approached by some of my peers and it is refreshing to be reminded of my roots, the tough lessons I learned, and the mentality that was developed in me that is necessary to achieve extraordinary feats.
I was provided many life-changing lessons during my experience as a player and have attempted to share and use those to create a similar culture with the athletes I now coach at Dynasty Performance Training. But the thing I learned and have found most valuable is this: when a group of gifted people come together, sacrifice and work tirelessly for a common goal, and truly commit to the process of reaching that goal, they can achieve more than they ever imagined over time. The odds may be stacked against you, and, at times, it may be only you and your brothers next to you who still believe, but as we saw on Saturday, September 17th, 2016 in Iowa City, Iowa, a culture of belief and determination woven into the fabric of a football program can reap astonishing triumphs in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity time-and-time-and-time-and-time…