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Eric Peterson, Published September 29 2010

Block party: Pair of NDSCS offensive linemen drawing attention from major D-I schools

Wahpeton, N.D. - Chuck Parsons sorts through a large stack of mail on his desk, with most of the letters addressed to two of his football players at the North Dakota State College of Science.

“Florida State, Arizona, Nebraska, Auburn, USC, Kansas State, Arkansas, Illinois …” said Parsons, rattling off the school names that appear on the front of the letters.

This has become a weekly routine for Parsons this fall with offensive guard Jacob Fahrenkrug and offensive tackle Matt Williams – both sophomores – generating big-time NCAA Division I interest.

One recruiting website has the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Fahrenkrug ranked as the No. 6 prospect in junior college at any position.

The 6-foot-7, 295-pound Williams ranks No. 47 on that same list. Fahrenkrug has received offers from more than 10 schools in BCS conferences. Williams has seven.

“I don’t think it has set in for both of us,” Fahrenkrug said. “Having school paid for, for the next three years … is pretty insane.”

Williams, who is from Liverpool, England, came to the United States when he was 16 years old in hopes of landing a D-I basketball scholarship.

Williams went to Proctor Academy, a prep school in Andover, N.H., initially playing basketball and soccer.

Growing up in England, Williams dreamed of one day playing for Manchester United and idolized Roy Keane. Williams’ first exposure to American football came from playing the video game “Madden Football” in his early teens.

“We didn’t know the rules and were wondering why all these yellow flags were flying all over the place and stuff like that,” Williams said with an English accent. “I would get mad when I turned the ball over on fourth down, I was like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ I didn’t really have a clue.”

Williams was 6-6, 195 pounds when he arrived at Proctor Academy. After his soccer matches, Williams said he would head over to watch the football games.

“I just started getting more and more into it,” he said.

Williams started his football career playing cornerback and receiver. He also kicked because of his soccer background.

Williams was moved to defensive end and tight end as his frame filled out. He didn’t become an offensive lineman until he came to NDSCS.

“We’re looking for big athletic kids,” Parsons said. “Both of these guys fit those criteria.”

Fahrenkrug played in the Minneapolis suburban high school of Robbinsdale Cooper for three years. He once weighed 400 pounds and used athletics as a way to improve his health.

“I was a couch potato,” Fahrenkrug said. “I really started getting in shape with wrestling and wrestling led me into being a better football player.”

NDSCS was the only school to show interest in Fahrenkrug coming out of high school. Part of that lack of interest was due to academics, Fahrenkrug said.

Wildcats assistant head coach Mike Shafer said when he watched film on Fahrenkrug, he saw a big kid who could move. One play Shafer saw on film stuck out. Fahrenkrug sped downfield and engaged with a linebacker.

“He just got his hands on the kid and put him to the ground,” Shafer said. “If a kid does it once, there is no reason why he can’t do it all the time.”

Williams was playing tight end when Shafer saw him on tape. Shafer was impressed that a 6-7, 240-pound kid had the ability to run past defenders in the secondary.

“Having two kids like that is pretty special,” Shafer said.

Parsons said Fahrenkrug and Williams have become desirable recruits because they have developed both on and off the field.

“Part of succeeding at junior college is making sure you find the balance between academics, athletics and personal maturity,” Parsons said. “Those guys have. Both those guys have succeeded in all three of those areas.”

Fahrenkrug is scheduled to visit Florida State and Arizona. Williams is set to visit Florida State and Illinois.

NDSCS has two former players who now start for Top 25 teams. Ricky Henry is a starting guard for No. 6 Nebraska, while Derek Earls is a starting linebacker for No. 14 Arizona.

“That’s really how you get the interest of people,” Parsons said. “If you are putting kids out, you will get the interest of the good athletes.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com