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Glenn Pursley, Published August 10 2013

Veteran gets his opportunity with F-M Lumberjacks


As coach and owner of the newly formed Fargo-Moorhead Lumberjacks semi-pro football team, James Kern provides an opportunity for former athletes who weren’t able to further pursue their careers.

That opportunity was enough of a reason for Joshua Derby to dust off his cleats and take to the field once again.

Derby’s post-high school football career was halted due to military deployment, but Saturday the 6-foot-1 safety was back on the turf to kick off the Lumberjacks home opener at Sid Cichy Stadium.

“I wanted to play football after high school, but I joined the military and duty called,” said Derby, who grew up in Hope, N.D. “When I came back, I was 24 years old, and at that time college football was behind me.”

It didn’t take Derby long to find a place to play the game. Derby found a home on a semi-pro team based out of Detroit Lakes, Minn., but the team would split up after just three years.

“The team in DL folded after three years, so I’ve been off for a couple years, and I heard about the (F-M Lumberjacks) about the middle of winter,” Derby said. “It’s nice that there are people out there that still want to get something going for people who still want to play. J.J. (James) has done a really good job with that. I’m glad he wants to get teams together for people who still want to play.”

Kern added: “For a lot of players who didn’t even go to college or who finished college and didn’t go to another place, this is an opportunity for them.”

The F-M Lumberjacks are an extension of Kern’s other team, the Brainerd Lumberjacks, who went

12-4 in last year’s Midwest Premier Football League and hold a 33-16 lifetime record.

And judging by the F-M team’s performance, it’s taking a step in the right direction. In its first two games the Lumberjacks have outscored their opponents 92-0.

Derby had a number of tackles Saturday to help the Lumberjacks shut out the Minnesota Silverbacks 38-0 in front of nearly 300 fans.

“It’s coming along pretty good,” Kern said. “We are rebuilding little by little. Now that everyone is going to see that we have a productive team, I think we are going to have a lot of people to play for us and it’ll be for the community.”

Playing the sport Derby lost nearly 11 years ago is rewarding enough, but this time he gets to share the feeling with his family.

“It’s something he always wanted to do, and he did a couple of tours in Iraq, so he never really got to play football after high school,” said Joshua’s wife, Elise, who was in the stands Saturday. “It’s good family time being able to cheer on daddy.”

Haley Derby, Joshua Derby’s 8-year-old daughter added: “I like it when he wins.”

Forum reporter Glenn Pursley can be reached at (701) 241-5549