FARGO - Make that three in a row for North Dakota State quarterbacks getting a chance at professional football. The Los Angeles Chargers took Easton Stick in the fifth round Saturday afternoon in the NFL Draft in Nashville, Tenn.
There was no shortage of national attention on Stick. ESPN had a camera in his family’s home in Omaha, Neb., to catch his reaction, which included a long hug from his teary-eyed father Mike Stick. The selection of Stick means the Chargers won't be without an NDSU player for long. Former Bison defensive end Kyle Emanuel recently retired from the club.
Moments after getting off the phone with a Chargers coach, Stick turned to the assembled crowd in his house and yelled, "We're going to L.A.!" His selection was yet another ESPN moment for NDSU, which has been a regular on the network since it began winning national titles in 2011.
“Once again, it gives us an opportunity to celebrate an unbelievable student-athlete who’s been a huge part of Bison football over the course of the last five years,” said NDSU head coach Matt Entz. “Hopefully it shows other kids out there that, man, there’s endless opportunities when you come to NDSU. You get an opportunity to get a great education, an opportunity to win football games and if things work out, an opportunity at the next level.”
When he was the Bison defensive coordinator, Entz saw first-hand the potential of Stick when he was the scout team quarterback as a true freshman.
“All the things he did for us, part of me says this is not a big surprise,” Entz said. “Back then we saw his command of the huddle and how mature he was at 18. A lot of us on defense thought this was going to happen some day.”
The Chargers, whose defensive coordinator is former NDSU player and assistant coach Gus Bradley, were one of the teams that had Stick in for an in-house visit. Stick told Chargers.com that he met with Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen.
Entz figures the face-to-face meeting is what sold the Chargers on an FCS quarterback.
“They gave him the full treatment and sat him down,” he said, “and in my opinion the Chargers took the time to get to know him. Once you get to know Easton, you appreciate everything about him.”
With L.A., he'll be the understudy to veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers, which Stick told Chargers.com that it's a dream come true.
"He’s one of the best to ever do it.," Stick said. "Just to have the opportunity to be around him every day, it’s something I don’t think you can put into words how important that is to get a chance to learn from him. I watched him a lot growing up."
Stick is the first Bison player taken since quarterback Carson Wentz and offensive lineman Joe Haeg went in the first and fifth rounds respectively in the 2016 draft. With Brock Jensen having played in the CFL, Stick becomes the third NDSU signal caller to reach the next level.
Jensen left in 2013 as the all-time winningest quarterback in FCS history. Wentz took the reigns in 2014 and 2015.
Stick replaced him and beat Jensen’s mark with a 49-3 record as the Bison starter.
The 6-1, 223-pound Stick completed 175 of 281 passes for 2,752 yards, 28 touchdowns and 7 interceptions last season. His career totals were impressive in their consistency; he finished with 8,693 yards passing, 2,523 yards rushing for a total offense production of 11,216 yards.
Easton Stick— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) April 27, 2019
Welcome to the squad! pic.twitter.com/KdjGvVwxsj
Stick was picked ahead of a couple of other quarterbacks that ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had pegged to be taken ahead of him, most notably Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson. The Philadelphia Eagles, with the next pick after Stick, took Thorson preventing the Bison quarterback from becoming a teammate again with Wentz.
"Good mechanics, outstanding mobility and a very good athlete," Kiper Jr. said. "The problem is he doesn't have the big-time arm. He's a good leader, an inspirational-type of quarterback. If his arm strength gets stronger in the league, he has a chance."
From a Missouri Valley Football Conference perspective, Stick followed Western Illinois defensive lineman Khalen Saunders, who was taken in the third round by the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday night.
Two quarterbacks went before Stick in rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday: Ryan Finley of North Carolina State and Jarrett Stidham of Auburn, both in the fourth round. Stick was the eighth quarterback taken and the 166th player overall.
"Just that I’m really, really thankful for the opportunity," Stick told Chargers.com. "You’re going to get my best every single day, and I’m going to work my tail off to hopefully make Chargers nation really, really proud."
Two of Stick’s teammates signed free agent contracts with NFL teams Saturday. Offensive lineman Tanner Volson signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Chargers., Running back Bruce Anderson, signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.