Kolpack: Entz pulls back layer of his personality during D.C. trip

North Dakota State head football coach Matt Entz, second from right, was asked by President Donald Trump to say a few words during NDSU's visit to the White House last Monday. Special to The Forum

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The fans at Kansas State have taken an immediate liking to their new head football coach. Perhaps it’s the awe-shucks humble demeanor of Chris Klieman, a trait that seemingly will work in a mid-sized town in a state that has a lot of rural to it.

Kansas is a lot like North Dakota in that regard. Maybe it was that “win the dang day” saying. Whatever the case, wherever he spoke, Klieman has been warmly received by Wildcat fans.

It’s no accident. The guy is a good speaker, something that he wasn’t when North Dakota State named him the head coach in 2014. Klieman quickly learned that talking to players in a locker room is vastly different than talking to boosters with big pockets.

He did it by being himself while adding some spice of voice inflection and rate of speech.

It doesn’t hurt to throw in a dramatic pause once in a while.


Matt Entz is already figuring this speech thing out.

He was named the Bison head coach in December, but took over full time when Klieman left after the FCS national title game in Frisco, Texas. Like Klieman in 2014, Entz’s wheelhouse was preaching to players in a locker room, a meeting room or on the sideline.

Now, like it or not, he’s the face of the program. He’s the guy who has to be one of the closers to a Daddy Warbucks getting ready to write a big check.

Entz was put to the ultimate speech test on Monday when the Bison visited the White House. He got caught off guard when President Donald Trump called him to the podium to say a few words. And when the president calls, you better figure out something to say. Fast.

“I was unprepared for that moment,” Entz said. “But I need to be ready to speak at all times. Did I ever think in my wildest dreams at NDSU or anywhere else that I would be speaking in the East Wing of the White House? Probably not.”

He delivered a few basic thank-you words that worked for the occasion.

Later in the day, when Entz spoke at a luncheon hosted by North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven at the U.S. Capitol, we caught a glimpse that Entz will not be afraid to show his true emotions in front of people.

He had more time to prepare for this one. Granted, being called to talk in front of a room consisting mostly of his players is different than looking Trump in the eye and turning to the national television cameras in the White House. But the Capitol is a big stage nonetheless.


Entz asked the Bison seniors to stand up. His voice cracked with emotion when talking about how he wouldn’t be the Bison head coach if it weren’t for those players, whose last game was NDSU’s seventh FCS title in eight years.

“I think the world of the kids, they know I love them to death,” Entz said later in the day.

I’m not suggesting that you need to cry in front of people to be a good head coach. It’s a formula that’s worked at NDSU, however, a human trait that connects to people in the Midwest. Maybe former athletic director Gene Taylor or former men’s basketball coach Tim Miles started it. Taylor would cry at a touching commercial.

Klieman nearly broke down every time he mentioned a family member, especially after games.

“I think that’s something Chris Klieman taught me,” Entz said. “It’s OK to love your players and love your coaches. You’re probably better because of it if you do.”

Coaching football is an emotionally-charged business. It doesn’t matter if the head coach is more like stoic Craig Bohl, but hearing a voice crack sure does make him more interesting to fans. For whatever reason, it just connects with people.

On Monday, Entz pulled back a layer of his personality and revealed he’s going to be more like Chris Klieman in that regard. It’s probably a good script to follow.

After winning a lot of dang games, of course.

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