FARGO — North Dakota State is guaranteed to have one former offensive lineman playing in the Super Bowl and blocking for a legendary NFL quarterback.
Green Bay Packers guard Billy Turner and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Joe Haeg and their teams are set to face off in the NFC Championship game, which is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 24, in Green Bay at Lambeau Field.
Turner and Haeg were bookend starting tackles for the Bison for two seasons in 2012 and 2013.
“To have Joe and Billy, who were teammates and have remained close friends, on the field together in the NFC Championship game is going to be pretty incredible,” said Janet Haeg, Joe’s mother.
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Turner has developed into a fixture on the Packers offensive line this season, playing multiple positions. The 6-foot-6, 298-pound Haeg has been a key reserve for the Buccaneers, also seeing time in the starting lineup earlier this season.
“I couldn’t be more excited for both of them,” said former Bison offensive line coach Conor Riley, now an assistant coach at Kansas State. “That’s pretty neat, but both of those guys, they belong, and they’ve proved time and time again they belong. The moment is not going to be too big for them.”
Turner, 29, was a four-year starter for the Bison at left tackle from 2010-2013. Haeg, 27, was a four-year starter at NDSU from 2012-2015. Haeg started at right tackle for two seasons before he took over for Turner at left tackle for his final two seasons.
“It’s fun to follow all the Bison players, but to see Billy really find his home, has really been fun,” Janet Haeg said. “The journeys for each of these guys are so different and there’s nothing ever guaranteed. I’m excited to see those two on the field again.”
Turner played left tackle for the Packers in last weekend’s victory against the Los Angeles Rams, protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ blind side. The Packers have been without All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, who suffered a season-ending knee injury weeks ago.
Matt Schneiderman, who covers the Packers for The Athletic, tweeted praise for Turner after Green Bay’s 32-18 victory against the Rams last Saturday.
“Billy Turner went from a liability at right guard last season to a guy who made everyone forget the Packers were without their First Team All-Pro left tackle against the best defense in football,” Schneiderman wrote.
Turner has played more than 900 offensive snaps this season with 292 coming at left tackle, 244 at right guard and 423 at right tackle.
“I think what is most impressive about the both of them is their ability to play multiple positions,” Riley said.
Haeg was in the game for multiple short-yardage plays in Tampa Bay’s 30-20 victory at New Orleans last Sunday. He was on the field when Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 4 minutes, 57 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter that sealed the outcome. Janet pointed out that her son and Brady have something in common: Both have a grandpa who was from Browerville, Minn.
Janet, the media secretary at Nisswa Elementary School near Brainerd, Minn., said this season's Tampa Bay playoff run has her reminiscing about Joe’s playing career at NDSU.
“I haven’t felt that excited since the Bison playoffs,” Janet said. “It just kind of brought all those feelings back. … It’s such an amazing opportunity. You may never get it again so you just have to enjoy it.”
Janet is going to be at historic Lambeau Field for Saturday’s game with a limited number of fans allowed into the stadium due to the coronavirus pandemic. Janet hasn’t been to a game in person this season due to COVID-19.
“I haven’t gone all season mainly because of COVID,” Janet said. “You may never get a chance to go to this game again so you have to go. I haven’t seen (Joe) on the field for like two years now.”
Joe played 16 offensive snaps against the Saints and 14 offensive snaps the week before in Tampa Bay’s playoff victory against the Washington Football Team.
Riley was NDSU’s tight ends/running backs coach in 2013, Turner’s final season with the Bison. In 2014, he became the team’s offensive line coach.
“The one thing, when you go back, is that you appreciate so much their professional approach to preparation,” Riley said.
“Joe learned so much from Billy during his NDSU years,” Janet said.
Former Bison offensive lineman Zack Johnson is also on Green Bay’s practice squad this season.
(NOTE: Former Bison offensive line coach Conor Riley interview starts at 1:35:38)