FARGO — Trey Lance was in Fargo last Saturday afternoon and stationed in the North Dakota State coaching box during the team’s NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision opening-round game against Eastern Washington.
“He was on the headset talking to our quarterbacks and I wanted him there to talk to the quarterbacks,” said NDSU quarterbacks and associate head coach Randy Hedberg.
Hedberg said the former Bison quarterback landed in Fargo right around kickoff time for Saturday’s game before making his way to the Fargodome.
“It’s important to him,” Hedberg said. “Bison football is important to Trey. That’s the way he is, that’s the type of person he is, he’s got a connection and players that he played with loved him. He treats the No. 1 guy like the 100th guy.”
Less than a week later, Lance landed on football's biggest stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The San Francisco 49ers selected Lance at No. 3 overall of the NFL Draft on Thursday, April 29, in Cleveland.
“I kind of had an inkling it was going to be San Francisco, personally. I was happy for him, excited, it was an exciting time,” Hedberg said. “He’s a special young man from a special family.”
The 6-foot-4, 226-pound Lance played 19 games during his Bison career, making 17 starts. He led NDSU to a 16-0 record in 2019, leading the team to an FCS national championship as a redshirt freshman. Lance played in one game for the Bison last October as a sophomore before he declared for the NFL Draft.
Hedberg said the 49ers are the perfect landing spot for Lance. San Francisco played in the Super Bowl two seasons ago and has a veteran quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo on its roster.
“I think it’s really big as far as having an offensive line that he can be protected by and I think that’s key. I don’t know if there is going to be pressure of playing right away,” Hedberg said. “He won’t be thrown in the mix right away, he’s going to learn and I think that’s the key thing. He’s only 20 years old, he’s still a young guy. I think the upside is tremendous for him, but he’s still young and learning.”
Lance becomes the second Bison quarterback to get drafted in the top 3 of the NFL Draft in the past five years. The Philadelphia Eagles selected Carson Wentz, who now plays for the Indianapolis Colts, at No. 2 overall in the 2016 draft. The Los Angeles Chargers also drafted former Bison QB Easton Stick in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.
“It’s pretty special,” said Hedberg, who also helped coach Wentz and Stick.
Hedberg said he thinks Lance’s intangibles are one of the reasons NFL teams have a high opinion of Lance as an NFL prospect.
“I think his personality. I think his humility,” Hedberg said. “I think that played a huge factor in it, I think teams were attracted to that. Plus, his athleticism, his ability to get the ball down the field were big.”
Hedberg said Thursday night was somewhat surreal since Lance was in Fargo last weekend. After Saturday’s game, Hedberg was with Lance in the elevator that took them from the press box to field level.
“We got off the elevator from the press box after the game,” Hedberg said. “He thanked the lady that runs the elevator to the press box and it was really neat. It’s the type of kid he is.”
San Francisco has an offense that is based off a strong running game and features All-Pro tight end George Kittle.
“We try to mimic them a little bit in what we do. I think there is quite a bit of similarity and I think it’s a great fit for him,” Hedberg said of the 49ers offense. “I think it’s a great, great opportunity for a quarterback like Trey to learn from a quality head coach and a quality program. It couldn’t have worked out better for him I don’t think.”
Lance completed 208 of 318 passes for 2,947 yards and 30 touchdowns with one interception during his Bison career. He also rushed for 1,325 yards and 18 touchdowns. He won all of his 17 starts.
“I’m extremely happy for him and proud of what he’s accomplished,” Hedberg said. “It’s just a tremendous, tremendous accomplishment.”