Bison Game Day: It's a dirty job, but NDSU's Division II transfer loving life as an FCS backup nose guard
Michael Buetow always wanted to play at NDSU, so he gave it a shot after three years at Minnesota State Mankato.
FARGO — Take a gander on the Theo’s 24 Prime Steak’s Seafood and Wine Bar website and if hunger isn’t the first thing on your mind, it won’t take long. It offers the best steak, seafood and wine selection in Fond du Lac, Wis., a city of 43,000 people located about halfway between Milwaukee and Green Bay.
Ted Beutow, cooperator of the restaurant and a head chef, made it known when the place opened in 2015 that the food won’t reach the table unless it is of the highest standards. The renovated look of an old building that has stately curb appeal looks like it's a joint Frank Sinatra would have frequented.
“I’m probably more of the charcoal-grill steak guy,” said Michael, a transfer from Minnesota State Mankato.
He’s the nose guard. He’s the guy in the middle. Not only that, he’s a backup who usually plays in short-yardage situations where the requirement is to throw all of your might into an offensive lineman. It’s tough, dirty work.
“It’s very physically demanding,” Michael said. “It’s the way it is. It’s a violent, violent game and you have to be a man in there. You can’t be soft. You can’t play here if you’re soft.”
At 6-foot, 284 pounds, Michael looks like he should be playing in the rain and dirt of a grass field every Saturday, not inside at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. While defensive linemen like Eli Mostaert, Brayden Thomas (also a Mankato transfer) and Will Mostaert lead the team in quarterback sacks, and thus the notoriety that goes with putting the QB on the turf, it’s players like Buetow who are counted on to stuff the run in critical situations.
“You have to be very dominant, very physical,” he said. “You have to play angry; it’s the mindset you have to have.”
The mindset as a high school player for Buetow at St. Mary’s Springs Academy High School in Fond du Lac was to play at the Division I level. He had communication with NDSU defensive line coach Nick Goeser, who recruits in Wisconsin, but the Bison didn’t offer.
It wasn’t for a lack of notoriety. St. Mary’s went 50-2 in his four years on varsity that included two state championships. It wasn’t for a lack of knowledge about NDSU, either. He grew up knowing about former Bison running back Blaine Toshner, from Fond du Lac. The St. Mary’s head coach is Bob Hyland, a former NDSU standout in the 1960s who is in the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame.
“Coach Hyland loves the Bison, he wears it on his sleeve,” Michael said. “A lot of what we did at St. Mary’s Springs is similar to here. It’s a program built on tradition.”
Seeing no Division I looks, Buetow went to Division II Minnesota State Mankato, where he started 27 of 43 games. He was a second team all-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference pick in 2019 as a junior.
Buetow said he enjoyed his time with the Mavericks and still has plenty of good friends from Mankato. But something inside of him was burning for a Division I shot. So he grabbed his transfer bat so to speak and swung for the fences by contacting Goeser. Buetow still had Goeser’s cell phone number and texted him.
“He said, hey, I just want a chance,” Goeser said. “I just want an opportunity to play at the next level. My dream was always to play at NDSU.”
Taking the plunge wasn’t easy. Buetow moved to Fargo in the summer of 2020, during the height of coronavirus pandemic shutdown issues. He didn’t know anybody. He was ineligible for games that fall because of transfer protocol, although it turned out NDSU played just one game anyway against Central Arkansas.
He showed up hoping to find a role.
“It was very difficult adjusting,” Buetow said. “But I’m a big believer that you have to earn your right to have anything. You have to earn your right to have friends, earn your right to be in a position to play and earn your right to gain the respect of your peers. That’s how I approached it coming here, earning my right to put myself in a position to succeed.”
Over a year later, he’s a popular player on the team. It’s easy to like any veteran player who takes a no-ego, do-anything attitude.
It’s what Hyland saw in him as a high school player. There were times when Buetow had to be told to tone it down in practice.
“That was hard for him to do that,” Hyland said. “He was one of these kids who was in love with football from a very young age. He couldn’t get enough of the game of football. Every chance he got, he worked on fundamentals and did weight training religiously.”
Hyland said he encouraged Buetow to give NDSU a try. He saw a player who did everything he could for three years at Mankato. He knew Buetow couldn’t wait to see what he could do at the next level.
“He’s loved every minute of it I think, I don’t think he’ll ever regret it,” Hyland said.
Incidentally, Ted Buetow was an all-state defensive lineman in 1974 for Hyland at St. Mary’s Springs.
“A gourmet chef,” Hyland said. “He specializes in sauces. It’s one of the popular places in town.”