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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 14 2013

For Crockett, playing for Bison was worth the wait

FARGO – It was about this time last year when North Dakota State running back John Crockett was more of a curiosity than anything. He was considered a Big Ten-type of recruit in the fall of 2009, but spent the next two years away from the field.

The question – “Who is this guy?” – was more than answered last season. Now, he said, it’s time to take another step in the evolution of his career. No longer is he considered as just a guy with potential.

“Being off for two years, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Crockett said. “You don’t know if you’re still going to be rusty or if you’re going to be able to come back like you left it.”

It took two years for Crockett to get academic matters straightened out. With that mission accomplished, increasing his football IQ has been a point of emphasis since he helped NDSU to a second straight FCS national title.

The story is well known. Crockett spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons working on his eligibility, which needed work after coming out of high school. The payoff was a title ring in Frisco, Texas last January.

Continued progress this year, he said, will be measured in what he’s learned in the football classroom. He’s working on further understanding NDSU’s West Coast offense.

“Learning the plays, learning why things happen the way they do,” Crockett said. “God blessed me with some great ability, and I need to take advantage of that.”

Crockett ran for 1,038 yards last season as part of a powerful combination with starting running back Sam Ojuri, who finished nine yards ahead of Crockett. Both are back this year – a year stronger and faster and a year closer off the field.

They hang out together. They compete in practice together.

“He knows I’m going to push him harder than anybody else can,” Crockett said. “We bounce knowledge off of each other. Just having two backs who can work together like that, you can’t ask for more.”

Well, you can, Crockett said.

The goal is three straight FCS titles.

“I’m always hungry, I’m always wanting more,” he said. “It’s what the team wants, too. We won two national championships, and we’re hungry for a third.”

Crockett said his speed has gotten better, and he’s increased his weight to 208 pounds. He missed spring football with a couple of nagging injuries but that is behind him, he said. That includes a hip pointer that bothered him for most of the last half of the season.

Appreciation of a second straight fall camp is not something he takes for granted.

“Sitting out two years and watching things you love to do the most go right on by makes you guarded a little bit,” he said.

Head coach Craig Bohl expects Ojuri and Crockett to shoulder the ball-carrying load. Senior Derrick Lang is third on the depth chart, although he’s been valuable in short-yardage situations. Sophomore Darius Anderson may figure in the mix in certain situations, Bohl said.

Bohl said it’s “iffy” if running back Chase Morlock from Moorhead will play in the backfield as a true freshman. Asked about special teams possibilities for Morlock, Bohl said, “We’re taking a hard look at him.”

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