Bison breakthrough players in 2021; Dominic Gonnella

The freshman running back exploded for 163 yards in the Bison playoff opener against Eastern Washington

North Dakota State's Dominic Gonnella rips off a 22-yard carry against Sam Houston State late in the game on Sunday, May 2, 2021, during the FCS quarterfinals at the Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas. David Samson / The Forum
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The first series in the Bison Media Zone's offseason coverage focuses on five breakthrough players for the 2021 season.

The final player to be highlighted was one of the young stars on the offense, freshman running back Dominic Gonnella. Gonnella was another high profile recruit out of Florida, who had FBS offers from Bowling Green and Southern Miss. He arrived on campus last summer as a player the Bison coaching staff was touting that could see the field early.

Gonnella nearly played in the one game of the fall season against Central Arkansas, but an injury kept him on the sidelines. Ironically, it was an injury in the spring that pressed Gonnella into action. When Seth Wilson was injured against Youngstown State in the spring opener, Gonnella got his chance.


The third game of the spring is when he hit his stride, rushing for 76 yards on 14 carries against Missouri State, including a 32 yard burst where you could see his potential. He followed that up with an 83 yard day against North Dakota and once Kobe Johnson went down with an injury, Gonnella was considered the number two back behind Hunter Luepke.

Gonnella showed his considerable promise was worth banking on in the opening round of the FCS Playoffs against Eastern Washington. Gonnella got a season high 20 carries, running for 163 yards and scored two touchdowns as the Bison rallied to beat the Eagles 42-20.

North Dakota State's Dominic Gonnella carries against Missouri State Lucas on Saturday, March 6, 2021, in Springfield, Mo. David Samson / The Forum

He followed that up with a couple of big runs against Sam Houston in the quarterfinals, including one which he nearly broke for a touchdown that would have given NDSU a late lead. Gonnella finished with 495 yards and two touchdowns on 91 carries and solidified himself as one of the top backs heading into the fall.

Gonnella then left Fargo to go play baseball in the Arizona Diamondbacks summer league. He was signed as a undrafted free agent and his baseball career could be taking off as quickly as his football one. With the return of Luepke, Johnson and Jalen Bussey, it's a interesting mix of backs returning for the Bison in the fall.

North Dakota State's Dominic Gonnella gives the Bison horns gesture to a camera in celebration of his touchdown against Eastern Washington during their first-round FCS football playoff game on Saturday, April 24, 2021, in the Fargodome. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Dom Izzo is the Sports Director at WDAY-TV. He began working for WDAY in 2006 as the weekend sports anchor and was promoted to Sports Director in 2010.
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