Book scores going inside the NDSU dynasty
(STATS) - As North Dakota State gets ready to kick off the college football season next weekend, sportswriter-turned-author Jeff Kolpack has been questioning himself about one aspect of his new book on the Bison.
He wonders if it is too soon for "Horns Up: Inside the College Football Dynasty"?
"They're still in the midst of it, you can say, because it really hasn't ended yet until somebody beats 'em," Kolpack said. "Then it's over."
The writer's remorse might be overthinking it because North Dakota State's five straight FCS national championships from 2011-15 are cemented as the NCAA overall record. The Bison, or "Bizon", as they pronounce the school nickname in Fargo and throughout North Dakota, can only build on this unprecedented run. They have a 71-5 record since the start of the 2011 season, and the 2015 senior class graduated with as many national titles as losses in their career.
"Horns Up," available through Amazon and Kindle, details NDSU's rise to a level of national prominence that nobody saw coming. The book touches on the Bison's past success - they had won eight national titles on the college division and Division II levels by the time they moved to Division I in 2004 - but it concentrates on NDSU's decision to move up to the FCS level and gives a behind-the-scenes look into how the first 12 seasons have unfolded on and off the field under the leadership of school administrators and coaching staffs led by Craig Bohl and Chris Klieman.
Surely no writer was more ready to tell the NDSU story than Kolpack. His late father Ed covered Bison teams for more than 30 years, even wrote a book in 1992 on the success over the prior three decades. Jeff followed him into the family business (his brother Dave also is a sportswriter) and has been a Bison beat writer for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead since 1995.
As a first-time author, Kolpack weaves in the first person to depict the NDSU story with both candor and humor. He tells how NDSU's dynasty has played out on ESPN and brought national attention to its many All-Americans and award winners, such as quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Brock Jensen and defensive stalwarts Kyle Emanuel and Marcus Williams.
But what stands out the most to Kolpack is the lifeblood within the Missouri Valley Conference program.
"I think the story behind the story is how tough they were," Kolpack said.
"And when I went back and talked to former players there, they were just much more open to really what happened, and how they did it, how things went as far as quote-unquote behind-the-scenes stuff. I just came across how tough these guys were. When you have a player (former linebacker Travis Beck) whose shoulder pops out and in the huddle he's telling another player to pop it back in because he knows if he comes out of the game, the trainer's going to say you're done for the day …
"Those are the things that you never hear about during the season when you cover a team. When (former defensive end) Cole Jurik is brushing his teeth and his shoulder pops out and he's in the starting lineup two days later. These guys, they're in a different stratosphere as far handling the pain threshold.
"That just stands out to me as the one theme that, boy, they just found a lot of guys who not only were talented, but they had all those other intangibles coaches love. It just all came together in one five-year stretch."
Kolpack began to write "Horns Up" after NDSU captured its fourth straight FCS championship following the 2014 season. The book wasn't completed, though, by the time last season got underway.
Eventually that turned into good fortune for Kolpack. The Bison, despite losing a quarterback (Wentz) who later became the No. 2 pick in this year's NFL Draft for eight games because of injury, went on to win their fifth straight title.
So, yes, they can be considered college football's greatest dynasty … even if their run isn't over.
"It's like when people win a title and somebody asks you how do you feel," Kolpack said. "It's like, 'Oh, I don't know, it hasn't hit me yet.' I don't know if it's hit this area yet, how amazing these five runs and titles in a row were. I think maybe after a couple 7-4 seasons, they'll look back and go, 'Oh, boy, geez. Things were really good back then, weren't they, with that run?'"