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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 08 2011

Kolpack: Perez's efforts are worthy of attention

It hasn’t been easy for senior Dante Perez, a one-time highly recruited junior college quarterback who is third string on the depth chart for North Dakota State’s football team. He said he had to redirect his mindset, that being that this team is not about him.

He’s thrown three career passes in two years – a far cry from the 5,938 yards and 60 touchdowns he threw in two years at Foothill Community College (Calif.).

He also had to sit out the 2008 season at NDSU because of injuries. In all probability, the only throws he’ll make Saturday in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal game against Lehigh University (Pa.) will be in warm-ups.

But know this about Dante: The most important passing attempts of his career are over a two-day span in the summer, not in the Fargodome.

He’s a volunteer for Camp For The Stars, a two-day football love fest for kids and adults with Down Syndrome. The last event of the camp is a game, and Perez gets to play quarterback.

“I think I get more out of it than they do,” he said. “I just enjoy their laughs and their smiles. They have a place in my heart.”

And if that ends up being his legacy on the football field, he’ll take it.

“Just get in where I fit in,” he said.

The camp is held at Perez’s Valley Christian High School in San Jose, Calif. He’s been involved all six years, and it’s something the San Francisco 49ers have taken to task. Players and coaches, either former or current, are regular contributors. Steve Mariucci and Dana Stubblefield are among those that have helped out.

This year, Perez brought Bison student assistant coach and former wide receiver Titus Mack with him.

The coaches put the participants through drills. They teach them football fundamentals. They block. They tackle. They do their touchdown end zone dances.

“It’s hilarious to see how many games on TV they watch,” Perez said.

Before the final game, each player is introduced through the stadium tunnel and runs through a line of cheerleaders. No detail is left out.

Next semester, Perez will change his schooling details. He just got accepted to Zion Bible College in Haverhill, Mass., located just outside of Boston.

It will only make the flight back to San Jose every summer that much longer. He’d probably fly back from South Pole if he had to.

“As long as there’s a breath in me, I would like to continue to be a part of it,” Perez said.


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia