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By Jason Miller, Published June 02 2009

Miller: Bohl cares for his players

Imagine having 105 kids. Sounds daunting, right? That sort of explains what life can sometimes be like for North Dakota State head football coach Craig Bohl.

His relationship with his players isn’t exactly like a father and son, but it can be awful close.

He’s proud of many of the athletes that have played football for him at NDSU.

He’s been disappointed in others.

The coach sounds like a father figure to me.

Talking to Bohl during an offseason he describes as “trying,” it’s clear that he cares deeply about the many young men he coaches.

He points to former linebacker Joe Mays, who started out his college career immature but “built like a Greek God.”

Now, Mays is a college graduate and member of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

After Mays finished his career with the Bison, he thanked Bohl for helping him become a man.

“That’s why I chose to coach college football,” Bohl said, referring to the personal growth Mays made at NDSU more than any physical change. “With that, you’re going to have gut-wrenching disappointments.”

Like recent team and off-the-field matters that led to the dismissal of two players. Three other players were also charged for driving under the influence over the past few months and are suspended indefinitely.

Some may look at those incidents and question if the coach has lost control of his players. But how does a college football coach keep 105 young men from making any mistakes? He knows that you can’t stop every player from making poor decisions.

“You navigate through the tough times because they’re going to be there,” he said.

Bohl stresses education, character and development of athleticism to his players, in that order, he said.

“When you look at the body of work over the last six years, I feel our program has done a good job as far as modeling good behavior,” Bohl said.

The job can still often be stressful.

Bohl tells of having to inform one of his young players that the kid’s father had died.

“Those are things that people on the outside, they don’t see,” he said.

The job is about way more than Xs and Os and winning on Saturdays in the fall.

You could probably throw the birds and the bees into the mix as well.

Bohl cares most about his players growing as people and earning a meaningful degree while at NDSU – like any father would.

“Players don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,” said Bohl, quoting Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. “That’s truth.”

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Jason Miller at (701) 241-5538 or jmiller@forumcomm.com