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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 26 2009

Former NDSU tight end Wieser, 27, passes away

North Dakota State’s Rod Malone had just thrown the ball, which was in the air seemingly forever. It was a fake field goal against the University of Montana, and the receiver had to put himself horizontal with the Field Turf to catch it.

Senior tight end Mike Wieser did grab it and the Bison stunned the Grizzlies in a 2003 game that will go down in NDSU football history.

“It was the flagship win of our Division I experience,” said former Bison teammate Justin Buckwalter. “It was the beginning of what it is now.”

On Wednesday night, friends, family and teammates were stunned. The 27-year-old Wieser died at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., while being hospitalized for a liver transplant. Matt Wieser, his older brother, said Mike developed complications from Wilson’s Disease.

“It hits home with us,” said former teammate Mark Sanders, who played center. “He’s not supposed to go that early.”

As a Bison freshman, Wieser was diagnosed with Wilson’s Disease, which is a genetic disorder that causes excessive copper accumulation in the liver and brain. But he recovered to become one of the team’s most valuable receivers his last two years.

He was working in Las Vegas when the infliction hit again. With his family franticly looking for a donor program, he was flown to Rochester on Tuesday night and was accepted at Mayo. But by Wednesday afternoon, he was taken off the transplant list.

“He was an excellent leader,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. “He really chose his words wisely and was so valuable from a leadership standpoint.”

Sanders, who lived with Wieser for three years in college, said he remembers him as a player who pushed others to work harder. He also remembers Wieser’s intelligence, saying Wieser took it as a challenge to ace a test without studying.

“He was just a great guy,” Buckwalter said. “I constantly go back to him being such a nice guy.”

And Bison fans will constantly go back to his touchdown catch, which beat the Grizzlies 25-24.

“It was one of the more memorable catches since I was head coach,” Bohl said. “It was a great individual effort. But beyond that, he added so much to our football team.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com