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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 24 2013

Kolpack: Harsh Fargo winters may provide Bison football team with an edge

Fargo - It’s below zero and the wind was blowing the snow horizontally through the streets of Fargo. It’s commonly called a blizzard in this neck of the world.

It was a Monday and students from elementary school to college were celebrating school being called off. Meanwhile, at the Bison Sports Arena weight room, there would be no such thing. You can talk about all the advantages the North Dakota State football team has with budget, facilities and tradition. Allow me to add one more: winter weather.

I’m serious.

Before teamwork becomes the catch phrase during fall camp in August and the week-to-week flow of the season, it’s something that is common in January and February.

You never hear about the players getting up at 5:30 a.m. in January and hustling over to the BSA for winter workouts by 6. In most parts of the country, it’s not a big deal because weather is commonly not a hindrance in basic transportation from dorm or apartment to the gym.

Not here.

The rule head strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer has is a player can’t come into the weight room by himself.

“It makes them accountable with each other,” he said.

That means calling each other in the morning. It means making sure everybody has a ride to the BSA.

“It gets to be kind of a team thing, you help each other out,” said safety Colten Heagle. “These last couple weeks, there has been so much snow and cold that we make sure everybody is there. Some guys don’t have cars, so we make sure they have a lift.”

It especially got challenging two Mondays ago in the blizzard. Kramer emphasizes safety, saying if it looks too hazardous to get to the BSA, make up the workout another day.

“We make sure we don’t hurt ourselves getting there,” Heagle said.

There were some delays, but players rounded up enough four-wheel drive vehicles to get most players there.

“We don’t have a lot of time until spring ball,” Heagle said. “Especially with the young guys time is of the essence. This is where things get cranked up for them, building strength and speed for the college game. There’s not a lot of time and every day is critical.”

How does this help on Saturdays in the fall? As much as talent has gotten the program two straight Football Championship Subdivision national titles, so has team unity. There wasn’t much drama in the locker room and any head coach will tell you he’d rather have the right players more than the best players.

Heagle is five months removed from an ACL injury that ended his season in the second game of the year at Colorado State. He’s expected to gain a medical hardship to get his junior season over again. Meanwhile, he’s been lifting and running, but only straight ahead. He expects to start cutting in a couple of weeks.

Spring football for the all-Missouri Valley Football Conference safety is expected to be limited to individual drills. Meanwhile, he’s already done more this morning than most people do all day.

“Some of us enjoy getting up and doing a workout,” Heagle said. “It gets you up and then you can do stuff the rest of the day.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia