MOORHEAD — Austin Altepeter has always tried to set himself apart from others. He was driven to succeed in football from an early age.

“I’ve tried my best to excel at football at a faster rate,” Altepeter said. “I always pictured myself at a Division I school somewhere playing football.”

That Division I school will be across the river, four miles from where the Moorhead Spuds rising senior made a name for himself on the field. Altepeter, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker, verbally committed to North Dakota State on Wednesday.

"Excitement — that’s all I can say to describe it," said Altepeter, who announced the verbal commitment via Twitter. "My family was in the room. We were all excited and we’re celebrating a bit tonight."

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Altepeter held offers from South Dakota and North Dakota, both Missouri Valley Football Conference schools, and an FBS offer from Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference. He’s NDSU’s first known verbal for the class of 2022.

“It feels great getting out of the recruitment process right now,” Altepeter said. “NDSU was kind of a no-brainer for me right now. They’ve been my top school for awhile, and I just wanted to make it verbally official.”

Altepeter said he hit it off with NDSU’s coaching staff right away, and it "felt like family" when he visited.

Altepeter finished his junior season with 76 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions for the Spuds. Moorhead won all six regular-season games this season, as well as the lone playoff game against Alexandria.

An injury he suffered during the track and field season prevented Altepeter from attending any summer recruiting camps. He's been sidelined for the last five weeks by a stress fracture in his foot, which luckily doesn’t require surgery, he said.

“The timeline between the healing process and getting back from physical therapy is about three months,” said Altepeter, who will return in plenty of time for his senior season.

Moorhead rising senior Austin Altepeter verbally committed to play football at North Dakota State. Forum file photo
Moorhead rising senior Austin Altepeter verbally committed to play football at North Dakota State. Forum file photo

Before the injury, Altepeter was planning to attend the University of Minnesota’s team camp this summer. He doesn’t have an offer from the Gophers, but the program has been recruiting him for awhile.

“Ultimately, I think my decision would’ve stayed the same, even if I was feeling 100%,” Altepeter said. “...Growing up, seeing NDSU win national championships was really cool to me. I was always a Bison fan growing up.”

Altepeter is the second Spuds player to commit to a Division I football program this week. Altepeter’s teammate and fellow rising senior Jack Teiken, a defensive end, gave his verbal commitment to North Dakota on Monday.

Teiken is the fourth player from Moorhead’s 2020 team to head to UND. He’ll join 2021 quarterback recruit Trey Feeney and 2021 wide receivers Blake and Brady Walthall, who helped lift Moorhead to a “mythical” state football championship last fall.

“That was something I was considering, but I felt like keeping them out of the equation, NDSU was the right place,” Altepeter said on the Spuds pipeline to UND. “We’re excited to face each other. We were talking about that after I committed.”

Altepeter plans to take it easy the rest of the summer to heal up his foot, but said he still joins his team in the weight room with physical therapy.

Moorhead opens the regular season at home Friday, Sept. 3, against St. Cloud Tech.