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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 02 2012

NDSU center Lund at the head of the 2008 class

Fargo - The career started on Feb. 6, 2008, when 22 players pledged their allegiance to the North Dakota State football program. Saturday afternoon, only Joe Lund will be in the starting lineup when the No. 2-ranked Bison play at Missouri State.

It will go down as one of the all-time swing-and-misses of a recruiting class that the Bison have had in the modern era. The hits, however, have been valuable.

Linebacker Preston Evans played as a true freshman and graduated last year, after leading NDSU to a Division I Football Championship Subdivision national title. Defensive end Ricky Hagen is saving his best season for last and has two quarterback sacks, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble so far in NDSU’s 7-1 season.

Then there is Lund, who has been a rock in a senior class that crumbled.

“Ricky and I showed that we were here for the long haul, but that’s two guys” he said. “Sometimes it’s discouraging, seeing guys you got to know move on. Some guys have family issues, some guys have academic issues and some guys just don’t have the drive.”

Lund is 3-for-3 on those issues. He and his wife, Whitney, were married in 2011. He’s prepped himself for a career in law enforcement and has plans for an internship at either a highway patrol or a detention center.

As for the drive? Ask defensive linemen who have had to endure his blocks the last four years while Bison running backs have piled up thousands of yards.

Ask his Bison teammates, who have benefited from Lund’s directive that freshmen be treated the same as juniors or seniors.

“He’s someone to look up to and learn from,” said junior offensive guard Tyler Gimmestad. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman, he’ll tell you to treat everyone the same and that’s throughout the locker room.”

Lund said that wasn’t the case when he first arrived at NDSU. Whether that contributed to the 3-8 season of 2009 is debatable, but it’s also hard to argue it wasn’t a factor. Lund said head coach Craig Bohl made it a point to address the problem.

“There was a lot more divide between the upperclassmen and lowerclassmen when I got here,” Lund said. “Coach Bohl said we’re a team so let’s bond the seniors with the freshmen and we’ll be a better team for it.”

The Bison have gone 30-7 since the ’09 season.

Lund says it’s his job, and that of the older players, to get the younger players through the tribulations of adjusting to college football. It’s not easy for anyone, he said.

“I can guarantee you every person in that locker room has wanted to quit at one point,” he said. “I mean, just the winter workouts, the schedules, the fall camp when you go from 6:30 in the morning until 9 at night. Not everybody does it. But having brothers around can help you emotionally, physically and mentally.”

As one of two married players on the team along with cornerback Andre Martin, the usual “old” nicknames have applied. Lund said he’s gotten used to it. Whitney, a hair stylist, is popular for giving teammates haircuts at a discounted rate.

They met in high school, where Lund was a first-team all-state selection at Bloomington Kennedy in the Twin Cities. He did all the scout team grunt work as a freshman.

He was a backup as a redshirt freshman, but worked his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore and has been at either guard or center since. His lone obstacle was a broken leg late in the season in 2010, which caused him to miss the Bison playoff run.

That turned out to be nothing, compared to most of his recruiting class.

“Two guys left. That is really weird,” Lund said. “Coach Bohl said if you stay here, you’re going to win a championship. Whether he meant it to be conference or national, we did it. We stayed around.”

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