McFeely: It's best to take time and savor Lance in a Bison uniform
Quarterback is mum about his NFL plans, but there's a good chance Saturday's game with Central Arkansas will be his last at NDSU
It was best just to get to the point with North Dakota State head football coach Matt Entz, so I asked the question on everybody's mind.
Is this Saturday, when Central Arkansas visits the Fargodome for the Bison's only game in this upside-down pandemic world, the last time we'll see Trey Lance in a Bison uniform?
"I don't know," Entz said. "I haven't talked to him about it. All I do is continue to try and challenge him to be the very best Bison he can be. I'm going to continue to enjoy this opportunity with this group."
The quarterback himself, meeting with local media for the first time since January following the FCS national championship game in Frisco, Texas, somehow offered even less insight into his future. When the first reporter to ask him a question nibbled at the idea of the quarterback declaring for the NFL Draft next spring, Lance tried to shut it down.
"I'm focused on playing football here at North Dakota State," he said. "Honestly, I'd rather not answer questions about that today. It's game week. I'm one thousand percent focused on winning this game and everything is just hypotheticals at this point. I'll let you guys talk about the NFL and all that, but that's not my job right now."
Credit where it's due. Lance can stiff-arm to the media as well as he can a cornerback. And he's only 20 years old and a redshirt sophomore. His NDSU quarterback predecessors Carson Wentz and Easton Stick taught him well.
A solid piece of advice for fans and anybody else watching the game this weekend, one in which the early line has NDSU as a 23-point favorite, is this: Savor No. 5 wearing green and yellow because you're not likely to see Lance quarterbacking the mighty Bison again.
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He'll likely declare for the draft be the next NDSU quarterback to be dissected into a million pieces. Get ready for that ride again.
These words, by the way, are coming from the same guy who wrote in May that we all needed to tap the brakes on the Trey Lance Hype Train . It was at the height of early coronavirus nuttiness that one swami after another was putting Lance near the top of their 2021 mock draft boards. It was my belief, and that of some people well-connected to the Bison program, that at least part of the Lance fanfare was based on national media needing something juicy about which to write in the midst of a total sports shutdown.
It's clear that there's plenty of fire where there was smoke. Entz acknowledged in Monday's Zoom press conference that NDSU's staff has talked with "five or six different GMs" of NFL teams. On almost every draft board, Lance is projected as a top 10 pick if he leaves the Bison.
The money is just going to be too much to resist.
When pushed Monday about a timeline for announcing a decision, Lance demurred.
"I don't know yet. I'll talk to my family after the game and everything like that," he said. "I'm not going to let anything take away from the guys here. After the game on Saturday I'm sure I'll get the same questions. I'm not going to have an answer for you then, either."
Entz said he'll not push for a decision, and told Lance to take as long as he can to make one. According to the current college football schedule and NFL Draft dates, Lance would have to announce his intention by Jan. 18, 2021. NFL rules say underclassmen must apply for approval to enter the draft and they have until seven days after the college football national championship game (Jan. 11 in 2021) to do so.
"The No. 1 thing I can tell you and can tell our fans is that we've tried to give Trey as much input and information to him and his family as possible so that when the decision is made they can feel comfortable with it," Entz said. "But regardless I am going to continue to support that young man. He's been an outstanding Bison. As I've told him ... he's our first pick in the draft, too."
Lance said this summer has not been stressful, despite the national focus on him. Bison senior offensive tackle Dillon Radunz, also projected to be a high-round draft pick, said he and Lance joke about all the media attention the two have received. Lance spent as much time Monday talking about his stance on social and racial justice, saying it's not difficult to put aside draft talk.
"It's not as hard as you think. At the end of the day, my job is to play football here. That's what I signed up to do. I love doing it more than anything else in the world," Lance said. "I'll let you guys talk about the NFL and these other things. It's not my job to worry about it. It's all hypothetical. It's all people guessing."
I'll guess that it would be wise to enjoy Lance wearing a Bison uniform Saturday because we aren't going to see it again.