FARGO — Nathaniel Staehling has started at quarterback for the Brainerd Warriors the past two seasons, but he’s ready to move to the other side of the football in college.

The high school senior-to-be verbally committed to North Dakota State this week and is projected to play linebacker for the Bison.

“I’ve always wanted to play defense,” Staehling said. “As a linebacker, I can play loose and have fun, use my athleticism, make some hits, make some plays.”

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Staehling was the starting quarterback for Brainerd during his sophomore and junior seasons. He expects to play safety and running back for the Warriors next fall as a senior. Staehling said he also had an offer from the University of North Dakota and a preferred walk-on offer at the University of Minnesota.

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Staehling said he decided to commit to NDSU in part because he likes the coaching staff and the program’s tradition. The Bison have won eight NCAA Division I FCS national championships since the 2011 season.

“I couldn’t pass up on an opportunity like NDSU. I just loved it too much,” said Staehling, who visited NDSU earlier this month. “NDSU is like almost a perfect fit. It’s a really good fit. At the end of the day, you’re going to pick the school that is best for you and that’s what I did.”

Staehling was among the first two known verbal commitments for the 2022 Bison recruiting class, joining Moorhead Spuds linebacker Austin Altepeter, who also committed to NDSU this week.

Staehling has had a busy June, attending camps at Minnesota, UND, South Dakota State and NDSU. He said he hadn't received an offer from SDSU.

“The amount of information that is in my head this June is unbelievable,” Staehling said “It’s been so hectic, but it’s fun.”

Staehling wanted to make his decision by early July.

“I wanted to commit before the Fourth of July so I could really enjoy my summer and not worry so much about recruiting,” Staehling said.

Brainerd played only four games last fall during a COVID-shortened season. Staehling was injured early in the team’s fourth and final game of the season at Moorhead. Staehling said he wasn't too concerned about playing in only four games during his junior year.

“It was the same for everybody,” he said. “Of course there were those days that I was a little worried, but I had to keep my hopes high and (college) coaches understood that.”

Staehling completed 20 of 50 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns as a junior. He also rushed for 175 yards and three TDs on 47 attempts.

Staehling said he’s grateful the NDSU coaches saw the potential in him as a defensive player. He projects to most likely play middle linebacker for the Bison.

“It’s all still pretty new to me,” Staehling said of playing defense. “I’m going to put the trust in them that they know what’s best for me. I’m going to give it my all, come in with an open mind and learn as much as I can.”