Bison Game Day: Senior lineman Cordell Volson reaches demanding 61 career games milestone
But with free year of eligibility because of the pandemic, it's likely his record will be broken next year by a teammate.
FARGO — The last time a record of 61 was broken around here, the number of significance was owned by Roger Maris. He’s the Fargo Shanley graduate who hit 61 home runs in 1961 for the New York Yankees.
On Saturday, North Dakota State right tackle Cordell Volson will join an exclusive college football 61 club when the Bison take on the University of South Dakota at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. He will join safety Christian Dudzik, defensive end Kyle Emanuel and fullback Andrew Bonnet as Bison players who have played in 61 career games.
“You hear 61 games and it doesn’t hit you right now, but maybe it’s something down the road I’ll look at,” Volson said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play in that many games and not get banged up. It’s something in the future that is going to be a pretty special memory.”
The ceiling on Volson could be 65 games, which would assume a first-round playoff bye and the team reaching the FCS title game in Frisco, Texas. It still would take a player from a very successful program who played in several games in the COVID-19-altered 2020 season, which for the FCS spilled into the spring of 2021.
The playoff format of the subdivision allows for four to five games after an 11- or 12-game regular season and makes those types of career records attainable.
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“You talk about all the games,” Emanuel said. “When the NCAA sets this up, they’re not expecting teams to make it that far for four, five years in a row. I always tell people, my body got beat up but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Christian, Andrew and Cordell would say the same thing. We’re fortunate and blessed to play in that many games. No other program has that.”
Volson’s record may be short-lived, however, and he knows it. Starting right guard Nash Jensen has played in 51 career games and tight end Josh Babicz 50. Both have made it known to the Bison coaches they’re coming back next season for the free year of eligibility. Assuming NDSU ran the gamut this year and next, both could possibly play in at least 70 career games.
“Obviously all sorts of records are going to be broken with guys able to come back for a sixth year,” said Bison tight end Noah Gindorff. “It’s definitely an interesting time.”
Similar to when Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record in 1961, when an asterisk was put on it because of games played in one season before later being removed, a case could be made for an asterisk to college football career records.
Dudzik, however, laughed at the thought.
“An asterisk? No, good for him because all of us that have played understand how taxing the game can be,” Dudzik said. “Both mentally and physically and especially for him and the style of play they have every game. I would say it’s harder for him to accomplish that. I’m just happy for him.”
Said Volson: “I appreciate that coming from a Bison great but, yeah, maybe there should be an asterisk next to it. I’ve just been very fortunate.”
Emanuel played in 71 career games in the NFL over five seasons. Counting his NDSU career, that’s 132 games. He can feel it at times, mainly in his low back if he’s on his feet for too long or being more sore than normal after a workout.
“But for the most part, I’m holding up OK,” Emanuel said. “There are little things that pop up, things you just feel and that I know are from 10-plus years of high-level football.”
When Emanuel retired in 2018 after four seasons with the Chargers organization, he commonly heard the comment that it seemed too soon to leave the NFL. Most people also didn’t know how many games he played in college, either.
“Especially at a position like I did, like Cordell does,” Emanuel said. “You never really feel healthy. You never had a game where you didn’t have the bumps and bruises or fingers taped up. I guarantee Cordell is feeling the same way. And he’s had to do it in the spring and the fall, I never had to do that.”
Volson played in all of NDSU’s 10 games last spring, with the last game the FCS quarterfinal loss on May 2 at Sam Houston. He took the rest of the month off and returned the football seasonal cycle to normal with the start of summer workouts in June.
He spent the first part of May making daily trips to the NDSU training room to accelerate the recovery process of bumps and bruises.
“Then I got out of town for a couple of weeks, just hung out and was on the down low,” Volson said. “It was refreshing to get away from the game because in this calendar year there’s been a lot of football. But I’ve been loving every second of it. You come here to play football, not to lift weights, so it’s nice to play a lot of ball in the last year.”
The NCAA record is 62 games held by Appalachian State’s Pierre Banks from 2004-08. Volson will pass that mark if the Bison win one playoff game. Dudzik will remain the NCAA record holder for games started with 61, and it’s possible that could stand the test of time of the extra year of eligibility for current players.
“Things fell into place, I got the opportunity to play as a redshirt freshman,” Dudzik said. “Just being a free safety or corner, it wasn’t like I was in the box a whole lot. I was a physical player, but it’s not like I had to do it every play.”
For Dudzik, Emanuel and Bonnet, however, their magical 61 mark is about to be erased. It took a world crisis to do it.
“It’s kind of funny, at the end of it, when I had my 61 games, we were all talking about how could that ever get beat?” Dudzik said. “Well, sure enough, something had to happen like that.”