FARGO - Ryan Jones grew up watching North Dakota State win FCS championships at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
Now he hopes he'll be able to play in his hometown and help the Bison win another title. The Frisco native verbally committed to NDSU on Monday afternoon. Jones plays at Frisco Reedy High School, which is just three miles away from Toyota Stadium, the home of the FCS Championship Game. Jones says it almost was predetermined that he was going to be a Bison, dating back to NDSU's first trip to Frisco in January of 2012.
"It was the first championship down here, my dad and I were able to get tickets to get to go. I didn't know anything about the team, I was 7 or 8, and we went in to one of the suites, my dad gave me a giant Bison jersey, it probably still doesn't fit. The only teams I knew about where NFL teams, that's the first time I watched the Bison play." Jones said.
The 6-3, 195 pound strong safety was offered by the Bison in May. With official visits prohibited by the NCAA because of the recruiting dead period extended to January 1st, the Jones family decided to come to Fargo earlier this year on their own. That move put Jones over the hump.
"We weren't able to take a real visit because of COVID. My family and I were able to head up to Fargo and tour the campus and city by ourselves, that led to my decision to go there." Jones said.
Frisco Reedy plays at a couple of venues that are familiar to Bison fans. The Lions have played two games this year at Toyota Stadium, which had Jones thinking about the future. "I just had a game there two weeks ago at Toyota Stadium. I remember thinking 'hopefully I'm playing here.' I was definitely thinking about that, siting in the locker room, this is the same spot I could be in in a couple years." Jones said.
Jones has actually been at the championship game each of the past two years. Frisco has a select group of high school players go onto the field before the game to hold the American flag during the national anthem. Jones was there in January before NDSU's 28-20 win over James Madison.
"I remember the last time against James Madison, what if I played for North Dakota State, I didn't think I'd be committed there a few months later."
Jones is projected to play strong safety at NDSU. He had offers from several FBS schools, including Wyoming, Air Force, Army and Navy. But the Bison were always number one in the Jones house.
"The day I got the offer, Coach Entz sat down and offered me, my parents were totally stoked after that. That day my parents started talking and said you can come back to Frisco and play in a championship. NDSU was definitely at the top of my head after that."