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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 10 2013

Start was a thrill for NDSU offensive lineman Plankers

FARGO – As part of trying to get ready for the game, North Dakota State starting right tackle Joe Haeg was peddling on a stationary bicycle on the Bison sideline last Saturday. He never did play because of a strained knee ligament suffered in the season opener at Kansas State.

That made a starter of redshirt freshman Jack Plankers, who played in his first game since his senior year of high school at Kindred, N.D. It was just like riding a bike.

“It felt like getting back up on the bike,” he said.

It was a smooth ride, and it started the moment the lights went out for the NDSU pregame field entrance. The run through the inflatable helmet tunnel was his first experience with it.

“It was indescribable,” Plankers said. “I just can’t put it into words, unbelievable. … The noise running out of there was deafening. The greatest fans in the country go to NDSU. It is absolutely intense.”

The 6-foot-7, 318-pound Plankers got good reviews from the coaches with his play in the 56-10 win over Ferris State (Mich.), said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. Haeg could have played if necessary, but was rested to preserve his health, especially with this week being an open date.

NDSU hosts Delaware State on Sept. 21, and Haeg is expected to be ready. At the least, the Bison appear to have found a capable backup in Plankers.

He said he was tense in the first couple of plays, but settled into the game after that.

“The position coaches had a huge hand in getting me prepped for this week,” Plankers said. “They do a great job of getting us ready for the speed of Division I football.”

That includes getting him mentally ready for FCS football. At Kindred, Plankers – always polite off the field – was said to be more of a gentle giant on the field.

“Yeah, I have to say I’ve had a little bit of a demeanor change,” he said. “It came along with last fall camp and this fall camp. The rest of the guys had some input, and they’ve helped me out there. Coming in, I wouldn’t say I was not aggressive, but a little more gentle than I should have been. They took me aside and talked to me about it. You have to have the right mindset.”

In all, it was a good day for the Bison players from area high schools. Senior fullback Andrew Grothmann from Hillsboro, N.D., and freshman running back Chase Morlock from Moorhead scored their first career touchdowns. Senior receiver Ryan Smith from Wahpeton, N.D. led the team in receptions with six. Linebackers Travis Beck from Munich, N.D., and Esley Thorton from Bismarck and defensive tackle Danny Luecke from Fargo all had at least four tackles.

“A bunch of North Dakota guys playing on the same team at the Division I level is really fulfilling,” Plankers said.

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