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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 26 2012

Bison strength coach Kramer has players check national title memories at the door

FARGO – It’s an army of sorts every summer with the North Dakota State football team. And the general – head strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer – put out an order that not many dared to compromise.

No soldier shall wear anything that says “national championship” on it. Or anything associated with the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title for that matter.

It got tested one early June day, in an encounter defensive end Kyle Emanuel will not soon forget. At least a couple of players walked into workouts with title

T-shirts on. The alarm in Kramer sounded like a submarine under attack.

“He made them turn them inside out,” Emanuel said. “It’s stressing each day that was last season. All of our coaches have been doing it, but especially him because we’re with him the most.”

The edict included any items like signed footballs or related matter. All banned.

Kramer orchestrates the team’s offseason conditioning starting with winter workouts in January and carrying over to summer conditioning. He said this week he did not see any signs of complacency, something that was watched with a careful eye.

In fact, he saw the opposite. He saw players putting in extra effort.

He saw wide receiver Ryan Smith leading other receivers in extra drills at night. There were enough players staying late that Kramer said he left the water hose running until they were done so they could stay hydrated.

“That’s not something we asked them to do,” he said.

The Bison open their season Saturday night against Robert Morris (Pa.). It will be the first true test of putting last year behind.

Kramer said he talked with the head strength and conditioning coach at LSU about life after a title. The lesson: Complacency is a daily fight.

“It was an awesome memory, but we have to move on,” said offensive tackle Jason Pomerenke. “That was a whole different team. Now we have different guys, different players.”

Said offensive tackle Joe Haeg: “Last year was a different team and this is our team. We have to work toward our own goal. We need to put a place in our own history.”

Head coach Craig Bohl said he’s using his experience at the University of Nebraska to address any post-title issues. The Cornhuskers won back-to-back national championships in 1994 and 1995 with Bohl as an assistant.

The recipe, Bohl said, centers on consistency. And mention the tough road of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, Bohl said, and that should be enough to get their attention.

“I think we have a mature football team, and I think everyone is one the right track,” Emanuel said.

Kramer said every player remained in Fargo this summer, something that is not even an issue any more. It’s just an unwritten rule that players stay.

Plus, more incoming freshmen recruits than ever are arriving on campus during the summer. If they thought about wearing a championship T-shirt, it probably didn’t last long.

The general had already put his foot down.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

Kolpack is the host of the WDAY Golf Show Saturdays from 8-9 a.m. on 970-AM.