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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 03 2008

Hagen gets his due in spotlight

Fullback Jack Hagen is 61 years old now. And he’s still the lead blocker for his North Dakota State football teammates.

The captain of the 1968 national championship team will step on a Holiday Inn stage today to accept the induction of the entire team in the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame. When it comes to Bison football and the ’60s, names like Mjos, Hatchett, Grasamke, Cichy and Roller roll off the tongue.

You don’t hear much about Hagen because he carried the ball only a handful of times a game. His major memory from his career is he lost yardage on only one career carry.

He was a straight-on runner who got the small, but tough yards. Third-and-1? Give it to Hagen.

He played other positions throughout his career on occasion. But that’s the recipe for a national champion: You need your stars, and you need your support staff.

“I have no problem with that,” Hagen said. “I played with awfully great people who were awfully great players. In my position, I did a lot of blocking for them, and I think it’s wonderful we had some All-Americans and all-conference players.”

There are already 13 players, two coaches and one trainer from the ’68 team already in the Hall on an individual basis. So that’s just another reason why today will be an ESPY moment for Hagen.

“It will be an awfully proud moment,” he said earlier this week from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. “I’m just so excited to get back there. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing and I’m just so happy somebody took the time to put this together. I’m very thankful for it.”

There will be a lot of thankful people. Others being inducted are basketball players David Ryles, Jody Buck Stefonowicz and Nadine Schmidt, football players Paul Lenz and Ted Hall, javelin thrower Todd Johnson and former head women’s basketball coach Amy Ruley.

Hagen’s message today will be simple: The ’68 Bison were a really good team. They went 10-0 and defeated Arkansas State 23-14 in the Pecan Bowl.

“There weren’t a lot of standout-ish people but people who really looked for everyone to carry their own weight,” Hagen said.

It was a team that had several players who had offers to play at Division I schools, Hagen said.

A graduate of Edina High School, Hagen was recruited by Minnesota, Nebraska and Western Michigan.

“I was born in Fargo and I always wanted to go back to school there,” he said.

His father graduated from NDSU pharmacy school. His sister was a Bison homecoming queen.

The 1968 team had two captains, with Jim Ferge being the other. He was a two-time first team All-American.

“He was the defensive captain and I was the offensive captain,” Hagen said. “He was a football player and I was the speaker. That’s how that ends up. It will be quite an honor.”

Readers can reach Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546 or jkolpack@forumcomm.com.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com