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Fargo Invaders quarterback Stauss has learned lessons on his way to semipro football

Fargo Invaders quarterback Tony Stauss has thrown for 910 yards and 10 touchdowns in nine game this season. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Fargo

He was once considered the best high school quarterback in the Midwest. Now, former Northwestern and North Dakota State quarterback Tony Stauss, 32, is the quarterback of the Fargo Invaders of the Midwest Premier Semiprofessional Football League.

He went from playing in stadiums with thousands in attendance to playing on fields with hundreds.

It’s easy to throw around the “how the mighty have fallen” phrase when talking about Stauss, but it’s the shots to the ego that have taught him the most.

“It’s been a journey where I’ve really learned a lot,” said Stauss, whose Invaders take on the West Central Broncos at 7 p.m. today at Fargo Shanley High School for the league championship.

It was a benching by former NDSU coach Craig Bohl for the final three games in 2004, Stauss’ last memories of collegiate football, which made him who he is today.

“That was the year that I realized it’s not all about me,” Stauss said. “It’s more about the team chemistry and your teammates and the guy that you come up with in that locker room. That’s what you end up really remembering.

“You got the scores and you got the wins and losses, but the things you really take away are the relationships with the guys in the locker room. The platform that you have as a leader and a quarterback is you influence life.”

Stauss called the years 1997-99 some of the best years of his life.

He was traveling to football camps at places like Auburn University. He was getting Division I scholarships offers from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Boston College, Northwestern and Western Michigan.

He threw for 3,181 yards and 29 touchdowns in 11 games as a senior at Horlick High School in his hometown of Racine, Wis.

Coaches were calling. He was ranked 28th among seniors by Rivals.com, and everyone kept telling him how great he was.

“It was a crazy time,” Stauss said. “You’re definitely told how great you are. You’re told from not only your parents to your classmates to everybody you know how great you are. It can really unnecessarily pump up your ego.”

Then, the ego took a hit.

After two years at Northwestern, Stauss left after starting just three games as a sophomore. Stauss’ former high school teammates Cory Vartanian and Mike Rhone got Stauss to come to NDSU.

Stauss was coming off an 8-3 season with NDSU, when he started all 11 games, throwing for 2,134 years and 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

“What was special about 2003 was it was coach Bohl’s first year,” Stauss said. “You could just tell that he’d been at the big time, and I had a taste of the big time and we both hooked up to form a good (relationship). I feel like that was a banner year. People don’t really point at that year, but we got things rolling.”

NDSU started 5-3 in 2004 with Stauss throwing 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions before the Bison won their last games with Steve Walker at quarterback.

Walker went on to throw for 7,033 yards and 60 touchdowns from 2004-07 with a 30-6 record as a starting quarterback for the Bison.

“I had a real rough season,” Stauss said. “I had five years in college and four offensive coordinators and we were transitioning to Division I. I learned I could get a little fired up on the field. That bit me more than once.”

Stauss was cut by the Green Bay Blizzard of the Professional Indoor League and played for the Fargo-Moorhead Liberty in 2008. The Liberty folded after the 2008 season and Stauss thought his playing days were over.

Just as he came to NDSU, Stauss came to the Invaders thanks to encouragement from another former teammate. This time it was a Liberty teammate and current Invaders linebacker Rochenel Jeanbaptiste.

“It was going to be a player-owned team,” Stauss said. “We raised $30,000 this year, and there’s not one guy that owns the team that calls all the shots, skips town and doesn’t pay all the bills. That was the main reason why I came out. I wanted to see this program have a good foundation.”

In nine games, Stauss has thrown for 910 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 65 pass attempts for the Invaders this season.

Stauss recently wrote an email to Invaders offensive coordinator Brent Lundgren saying the backup quarterback Alex Becher should get some more playing time.

“That doesn’t happen often,” Lundgren said. “He wants others to have success. What a great person to coach, incredible competitor, leads by example, perfect team player.”

The now computer programmer for StrataCom Inc. in Fargo is a different player and person than he was.

His decisions have gone from what college to play for to how much longer he wants to play.

“I have a decision to make at the end of this year, whether to play or coach or anything,” Stauss said. “I can definitely tell my age. I feel like the Fargo Invaders are going to be around for a while.”

Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy is the Minnesota preps and Fargo Force beat reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009 and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so. If reading him in the paper and online isn't enough, you can read more of him at the Forum Preps Blog: http://forumpreps.areavoices.com/  

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