NORMAL, Ill. — A large crowd will greet North Dakota State when the Bison take on Illinois State on Saturday. It’s homecoming, the 100th annual at that, and the atmosphere in and around Hancock Stadium is expected to be at a season-high pitch.
No word if the original Jake from State Farm will be there. The Illinois State graduate and his autographed khaki pants hang proudly at Pub II, a bar near campus where Jake Stone used to work.
“It’s a nice little landmark and a claim to fame for us,” said Pub II owner Luke Rokos.
The famous commercial was filmed in 2011 when Stone was a State Farm insurance agent in adjacent Bloomington. He was 26 years old at the time.
His commercial that was filmed in California has stood the test of time. Recently, Rokos got a call from somebody around 9 a.m. asking if he could open the door because the person was on a scavenger hunt and needed a photo of Jake’s pants.
“It’s touching that so many people still remember that,” Rokos said.
Homecoming has perennially been the biggest business day of the year for Rokos. His bar boasts autographed jerseys from former Redbird football stars like running back James Robinson and tight end James O'Shaughnessy.
ISU will be a decided underdog for the 2 p.m. kickoff. The Redbirds are 2-3 and 0-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. NDSU is 5-0 overall, 2-0 in the Valley and ranked third in both the Stats Perform media and FCS coaches polls.
“That doesn’t make a difference, we have faith in the Redbirds,” Rokos said. “They can beat anybody. It’s going to be a sold-out crowd and packed all around. We get a lot of local people coming to celebrate and so many alumni and old friends that used to come around.”
A Redbird celebration would mean an upset in FCS football. It wasn’t always that way in this series — these teams played for the 2014 national championship and the last two were competitive Bison wins.
NDSU took a 9-3 victory in the 2019 quarterfinals at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome and outlasted ISU 21-13 in a conference game last spring. The Bison needed a long, fourth-quarter drive to secure that win.
Illinois State’s last victory in the series was a 2010 homecoming game at Hancock Stadium. That atmosphere bordered on raucous in the 34-24 victory, a game that featured an appearance of the Stanley Cup thanks to an Illinois State graduate who worked for the NHL champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Research famous Illinois State graduates and names like former “Bachelor” Colton Underwood, actor John Malkovich and country singer Suzy Bogguss come to the forefront. Hard to find a mention of Jake from State Farm.
Stone, who still lives in the area, is a 2003 graduate of Normal Community High School and got his degree from ISU in 2007. He was working in the call center at State Farm when he answered a company casting call request.
In the ad, a husband was talking on the phone at 3 a.m. in a dark house when his suspicious wife shouts to him “Who are you talking to?” The response was Jake from State Farm. She grabbed the phone and asked, “Oh, what are you wearing Jake at State Farm?”
Stone, on the other end of the phone sitting in a cubicle, answered, “Uh, khakis.”
“He’s the same old guy, good down-to-earth fella,” Rokos said.
If Jake at State Farm is not at the game, perhaps Beer Nuts will be at the concession stand. They were invented and are manufactured in Bloomington.