FBS offer was intriguing to Mandan's Duttenhefer, but Bison still his choice in recruiting process

Jaxon Duttenhefer, who will be a senior at Mandan next fall, has verbally committed to play football at North Dakota State. Will Kincaid / Bismarck Tribune

FARGO — If the last player chosen in the NFL Draft is labeled Mr. Irrelevant, than in the local college football recruiting circles Jaxon Duttenhefer is Mr. Relevant. He’s the first official recruit for the 2021 North Dakota State football recruiting class.

The 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive tackle from Mandan, N.D., made it official taking the Bison over South Dakota, North Dakota, Dartmouth and Central Michigan of the FBS Mid-American Conference.

If any of that came down to math, it probably wouldn’t have taken him long to figure it out. A student with a 4.06 grade-point average, Duttenhefer participated in a national math competition this year that challenges the brightest students in the country.

“It’s kind of an ACT on steroids,” he said. “The math questions were so hard they hurt your brain.”

Although the Bison have had a few players from Mandan over the last few decades, Duttenhefer is most likely the biggest recruiting prize. He was around 255 pounds last summer when he came to the NDSU summer football camp.


By the end of football season last fall, he was between 260 and 265 pounds. He put on another 10 pounds “of muscle” over the winter.

And he still has a senior season to play for the Braves.

Committing this early, he said, wasn’t a priority for him in the recruiting process. Duttenhefer said he was prepared to see how things played out through the summer, but the closing down of schools to the coronavirus outbreak and the unknowns associated with that gave him second thoughts.

“With everything going on, what if I can’t get to a camp and they won’t see me?” he said. “You don’t know what happens … and I know NDSU. We’ve stayed in contact three-to-four times a week since this whole thing happened.”

Duttenhefer is also a standout in track and field in the shot put, with his visit to USD having been in that sport. He was able to see the campus and get a feel for the football program. He made a campus visit to UND, but did not travel to Central Michigan or Dartmouth.

He said the Central Michigan offer gave him pause to think about the “perspective” of his list. He said he was impressed with the professionalism of all the schools he was considering.


“You have to compare: What are your top schools?” he said. “What have they done and what haven’t they done? That’s what made NDSU stand out.”

Mandan's Jaxon Duttenhefer hits West Fargo quarterback Dustin Mertz as he throws Aug. 30, 2019, at the Essentia Health Packers Stadium, West Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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