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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 12 2012

Hagen proves to be a small-town find for Bison football team

FARGO – North Dakota State senior Ricky Hagen doesn’t describe his home turf of Colfax, Wis., as a small town. It’s even a notch less than that.

“A really small town,” he said.

It’s a community of 1,158 people with Hagen’s graduating class numbering 55 students. Yet, it’s another example of NDSU’s penchant for finding players from places of all shapes and sizes.

And in Hagen, they found a player who had staying power – something that became unique with his 2008 signing day recruiting class. Of the 20 high school players, only two will be playing their last game ever Friday night at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome when NDSU hosts Georgia Southern in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.

Linebacker Preston Evans played as a true freshman and graduated last year and offensive lineman Ty Beckius was sidelined this season with an injury. That leaves Hagen and center Joe Lund to carry the class banner.

Hagen and Lund were roommates as freshmen and Hagen also lived with Beckius.

“On the door it says, ‘Those who stay will be champions,’ and I feel like we’re the poster boys for that saying,” Hagen said.

It was strange over the years, Hagen admitted, watching players he came in with defect for various reasons.

“There were definitely times I questioned what the heck was going on,” he said. “But I knew in the end it would pay off if I stayed.”

Hagen has started three games this season and played in 12 of the 13 this season, registering 14 tackles, two quarterback sacks and a career-high five quarterback hurries, which is tied for second on the team.

“Maybe I haven’t started much or done anything special, but I feel like I contributed in some way,” Hagen said. “And that’s OK with me. Coming from a small town, college football was my dream. I’ve never had too many larger-than-life ambitions, but to be part of this is fine with me.”

He wasn’t highly decorated for Division I standards coming out of high school, with his highest honor a second team all-state selection. But he’s been steady his last three seasons with nearly identical statistics of 13, 16 and 14 tackles.

This year, he’s been a part of a defensive line depth that is partly responsible for NDSU being the No. 1 scoring and rushing defense in the FCS heading into Friday night.

“I kind of expected to make the playoffs coming into this year, but now this will be my last home game no matter what,” Hagen said. “It will be really emotional after the game win or lose. This place has treated me well, so I’m going to miss it.”

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