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Bison LB Wisniewski repeats as Elite 90 award winner

It's the second straight year Wisniewski won the academic award.

North Dakota State's Cole Wisniewski displays his Elite 90 Award given for his 4.0 GPA during media day at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2023.
David Samson/ The Forum

FRISCO, Texas — The North Dakota State football team had just finished taking a team picture at a virtually empty Toyota Stadium on Friday when an announcement was made over the public address system. Bison linebacker Cole Wisniewski was named the recipient of the NCAA’s Elite 90 award, which goes to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average in the title game.

After some ribbing by teammates asking for a speech, Wisniewski got in front of the team and said a few words. Perhaps public speaking isn’t part of his business administration major and 4.0 GPA, but he gave it his best shot.

“For being put on the spot, not too bad, he did a lot better than I probably would have,” said defensive end Spencer Waege.

“It was OK, it could use some work,” said offensive guard Jake Kubas. “But being put on the spot like that could catch anybody off guard.”

It was the second straight year Wisniewski won the award. Last year, he didn’t give a speech.


“Guys were giving him a hard time about that,” said linebacker James Kaczor. “But he gave a great speech today.”

Kaczor figures he was a close second in the award. He carries a 3.98 GPA in manufacturing engineering and playfully argued that his engineering classes are tougher than Wisniewski’s business classes. Kaczor has two Bs and one C on his record.

“One thing we preach in our program is how you do one thing is how you do everything,” Kaczor said. “For a guy like Wiz to be able to get it done on the field and in the classroom, the preparation he takes to the field is the same preparation he takes to the classroom.”

Waege credits Wisniewski’s ability to balance his lifestyle between football and academics.

“Everyone knows the type of hours that athletes have to put in to perform at a high level,” Waege said. “But I think people forget we still have to do schoolwork on top of that and Cole’s done a tremendous job with that.”

Wisniewski is the sixth NDSU football player to receive the award and counting multiple-year winners was the ninth for the program. He joins linebacker Esley Thorton (2013), quarterback Carson Wentz (2014-16), wide receiver Daniel Polansky (2018), tight end Ben Ellefson (2019) and linebacker Jackson Hankey (2020).

“He is a guy of unbelievable high character,” Kubas said. “He’s a great teammate, a great person to be around, always has high energy and always lifting people up. A man of faith, can’t say enough about that guy.”

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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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