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Published December 10 2010

South’s Okland becoming a target for local D-I schools

Fargo South’s Andrew Okland couldn’t even make the Bruins’ top junior varsity football team as a freshman.

He was just another face in the crowd.

So, with the prodding of several friends, Okland quit football to become a cross country runner.

He might have still been chasing down a finish line at golf courses across North Dakota this year if not for Troy Mattern and the spread offense.

It was a long-and-winding road, but Okland made his way back to football. Now he’s hoping to go the distance with a college football scholarship from a NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision school.

“I thought maybe if I got lucky I could go play somewhere small,” said Okland, a 6-foot-4, 202 pound receiver who runs a 4.7 40-yard dash and has a 31-inch vertical leap. “I never thought about playing at a Division I school.”

But that is now the remarkable reality thanks to a standout senior season for the North Dakota Class 3A champion Bruins.

Okland, with only one year of varsity football under his belt, said he has narrowed his choices to North Dakota State, North Dakota and South Dakota State. UND was Okland’s early favorite, but increased interest from NDSU and SDSU now has all three finalists running neck-and-neck.

Okland is scheduled to visit Brookings, S.D., this weekend. Official recruiting visits have yet to be lined up with UND and NDSU.

Mattern said he knew immediately that Okland would be a star on the football field.

The size, speed and hands he showed as a junior basketball player made Okland a primary target for Mattern in the offseason.

It was a full-court press.

Mattern, assistant coaches and several South players took turns trying to talk Okland into coming back to football.

In the end, it was the chance to be part of a possible state championship team and the spread offense that sealed the deal.

“That really piqued my interest,” said Okland, a running back on the junior varsity “B” team as a freshman. “I knew they would be passing a lot. In previous years they ran the Wing-T, and they only ran the ball.”

Okland finished the year with 31 receptions for 728 yards and 10 touchdowns in seven games. He missed five games late in the year with an injury.

Okland made it back in time to be a dominant force in the postseason.

He had 10 receptions for 195 yards and two touchdowns to help South to a

22-21 win against Bismarck Century in the state semifinals.

Okland’s 25-yard catch with 10 seconds remaining set up the Bruins’ winning score against the Patriots.

And he did it all after being cleared to play just three days before the game.

“We wouldn’t have even been in the state title game without Andrew,” Mattern said. “He almost single-handedly won that Bismarck Century game. … Other teams had to change their defensive schemes to cover Andrew.”

Okland said he hopes to make his college choice within a month.

“I think whatever school gets him is going to get a steal,” Mattern said. “He’s got raw talent, and he’s really starting to progress into a wide receiver-type body. There is no doubt in my mind he will be a successful college football player.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found

at www.areavoices.com