Osakis' Nack overcomes odds at NDSU
Not even Andrew Nack himself could have imagined being a part of a two-time national champion football team at the Division I level coming out of Osakis a few years ago.
It's not that Nack didn't have a lot of talent on the field. He was a two-time All-Prairie Conference player at right guard for a Silverstreaks team that prides itself on running the football. But that was against a predominantly Class A schedule. Not exactly the same type of athletes that line up in the trenches on Saturday afternoons.
"I was a 6'3" 245-pound offensive lineman," Nack said. "[In college], all the other linemen, at least the ones who played were over 300 pounds and giants compared to me."
Nack had already made up his mind that he would attend North Dakota State University for academic reasons when the Bison coaching staff agreed to let him walk on to the football team.
For Nack, it was an opportunity to be a part of an NDSU program that had established itself as one of the best Division I teams at the FCS level. Being a walk-on meant he would have to prove every day that he belonged there.
Nack questioned that himself after redshirting his freshman year in 2009. When he looked around the weight room during off-season workouts that winter, all he saw were guys who outweighed him by almost 50 pounds at his position.
"It wasn't so much during the season, but during the off-season workouts and after spring ball, I really questioned myself," he said. "Why am I here? I'm just this little guy, but through family and friends and talking to them, I stuck with it. After the next season, I was given more responsibility with the scout team and that completely changed my mindset. From then on, I've never questioned my decision once."
His former coaches say that determination is something he has always had. Pat Kalpin, Nack's head coach at Osakis during his senior year, recalls the coaching staff seeing unlimited potential in him as early as his freshman season. Proper technique and his willingness to improve have always been there.
"He was one of those players that was determined to succeed," Kalpin said. "He had a goal to play college football and no one was going to tell him otherwise. It certainly doesn't surprise me to see where he's at today and what he's accomplished. I can tell you that here at Osakis, the staff is very proud of him."
Nack had to exemplify that work ethic more than ever just to put himself on a level playing field with his college teammates. Through eating right and an intense college workout routine, he started to put on the necessary weight. Nack is now up to 305 pounds and has moved up the depth chart where he was the backup to Marshall's Tyler Gimmestad at right guard this past season.
Getting on the field on game day has proven to be a challenge, though. Gimmestad started 14 games as a sophomore and continued to cement himself as an anchor up front as a junior. The Bison don't rotate a lot of linemen throughout the game, so Nack's time on the field usually came late with the outcome already decided.
That was the exact scenario that played out on a sunny afternoon in Frisco, Texas on January 5. The Bison were well on their way to a 39-13 win over Sam Houston State that would give them their second straight FCS national title when Nack came onto the field for NDSU's final offensive possession.
"That first play it was kind of like, 'Holy cow,' " he said. "You look around and see all those people in the stands. After that first play, you settle in and it's a regular game. When we were driving to the airport to fly back to Fargo, I went to one of my buddies who got to play, 'We just played in a game that was on national television.' It kind of hit me like, 'Wow.' "
Nack has that same reaction when he looks back on his entire career with the Bison. He still has one year left to continue to get better and try to earn more playing time. That won't be easy with four of the five starting offensive linemen back for NDSU.
One thing that won't do is affect how he approaches things this off-season. Nack has worked himself onto the cusp of being in the Bison's rotation up front. That's already more than he could have ever imagined a few years ago.
"It's amazing," he said. "Just to be given this opportunity to play football at this level, regardless of how we've done. Being able to say I graduated in a class of 70 kids, and I've been given the opportunity to play Division I football at a school that now has won two national championships back-to-back. It's an unbelievable feeling and I'm so proud of that."