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They may be football players, but they’re still freshmen
The Lee family from Wichita, Kan., had a group discussion a few days ago. The subject: Derek, the oldest son, is going off to college at North Dakota State.
“I’m pretty sure everyone cried,” Derek said. “I know my mom was dreading this for a long time.”
That time came about noon on Wednesday when Dave and Donna and their youngest son Alex helped move Derek into Sevrinson Hall, located across the street from Newman Outdoor Field. A small dorm room on the second floor is now home.
Perhaps most, if not all of the Bison freshmen football players went through similar feelings. The Lees made the 11-plus hour drive on Tuesday, complicated by construction and a partly flooded Interstate 29 caused by the Missouri River.
It was plenty of time, anyway, to provide a mental buffer between Wichita and Fargo.
“Leaving my parents and brother behind was definitely on my mind but at the same time I’m ready for it,” Derek said.
He looks ready for it. Lee was in Fargo earlier this summer for workouts and at 6-foot-4 and 243 pounds, he already looks like a full-grown Division I Football Championship Subdivision tight end.
Lee was a first team all-state selection at Maize High School. He caught 31 passes for 350 yards and five touchdowns and had scholarship offers from Northern Iowa, Western Illinois and Illinois State. He said he wouldn’t mind playing right away, but also sees the benefit of redshirting, too.
Alex, 14 years old, will be getting a regular briefing through text messages.
Derek may be the oldest child, but the drop-the-athlete-off routine in August is nothing new to the family. Donna was an all-Big 8 Conference volleyball player at Iowa State and Dave played basketball at Bethany College (Kan.).
“Yeah, but it’s still your baby, your first child,” Donna said. “But we feel really good coming up here.”
Said Dave, on his mixed feelings from Wednesday: “It’s 50-50. He has a great opportunity here but at the same time, I’m not going to see him for quite awhile now.”
The Lees had a meeting with the NDSU football staff and then headed back to Wichita. Several other parents had the same routine.
“I think it’s harder for the parents,” said NDSU assistant coach Tim Polasek, who is also the recruiting coordinator. “The last couple of days, we’ve taken a few phone calls on what to expect.”
There won’t be much down time. The first player meeting is at 7 this morning and the first practice is at 3:30 p.m. In a change from previous years, NDSU will be allowed 95 players in fall camp instead of 90 thanks to NCAA legislation.
What it means is five more walkon players will get the benefit of three weeks of experience. A player like 6-foot-6 defensive end Leighton Talmadge, who in previous years would have been a borderline candidate for coming in early, was also moving into Sevrinson on Wednesday.
“I knew I was a lighter player and just wasn’t big enough yet,” Talmadge said. “But I knew I wanted to play Division I and it was better to stay in your home state than anywhere else.”
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.