Bison have 15 former players with NFL teams with Week 1 of regular season starting this week
NDSU has 15 former players with NFL teams, including 12 players on 53-man rosters with the regular season starting this week.
FARGO — Former North Dakota State offensive lineman Joe Haeg signed with the Cleveland Browns and added to their active roster Monday after the Pittsburgh Steelers released the veteran NFL lineman last week.
Haeg’s signing means the Bison are going to have 15 players with NFL teams heading into the opening week of the regular season, which starts Thursday. That includes an FCS-best 12 players on 53-man rosters and three more who are on practice squads.
“To have 15 guys in the league, I think says a lot about the development piece,” Bison head coach Matt Entz said. “We’ve got kids that come here for the right reason. They want to work hard. Coach (Jim) Kramer does an outstanding job of putting on the right weight.”
The 6-foot-6, 304-pound Haeg is entering his seventh season in the league with previous stops in Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis.
“I’m super excited for Joe,” Entz said.
The Bison added four new players in the NFL this season, including wide receiver Christian Watson and offensive lineman Cordell Volson. The Green Bay Packers drafted Watson in the second round and the Cincinnati Bengals picked Volson in the fourth round of last spring’s NFL Draft. Former Bison tight end Josh Babicz and defensive end Brayden Thomas went undrafted, but Babicz landed on the Carolina Panthers practice squad and Thomas on the Los Angeles Rams practice squad.
Watson, Volson, Babicz and Thomas all played for the 2021 FCS championship team that capped the season with a 38-10 victory against Montana State in the title game. The Bison have won nine of the past 11 FCS championships.
Entz said he tries to follow the former Bison in the NFL as much as he can, but that becomes tough once the college season starts.
“I probably don’t do a very good job of following (them) during the season,” Entz said. “I try to connect with most of our players prior to or when the announcement came out, either making the 53 or the practice squad.”
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jabril Cox, Denver Broncos offensive lineman Billy Turner, Detroit Lions linebacker Chris Board, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Easton Stick, Minnesota Vikings tight end Ben Ellefson, Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrek Tuszka, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance, Titans offensive lineman Dillon Radunz and Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz are also former NDSU players who are on 53-man rosters. Former Bison receiver Darrius Shepherd is on the Denver Broncos practice squad.
Outside the Bison locker room in the Fargodome, there is an “NFL Wall” that highlights the former NDSU players who have gone on to play in the NFL.
“I think it’s something that we should celebrate,” Entz said. “When you talk about playing in the NFL, you’re the best in the world.”
Lance is the starting QB for the 49ers and Wentz is the starting quarterback for the Commanders.
“We have two of the top 32 quarterbacks in all of the world, playing in the NFL,” Entz said.
Entz credited Kramer, the Bison strength and conditioning coach, the team’s nutrition staff and training staff for helping players develop physically while in the program. Entz said a Chicago Bears scout recently complimented the Bison on their player development.
“The scout from the Bears was in and made the comment, ‘If you put our uniforms on your guys, they look the same.’” Entz said. “Your guys are big, long and lean. You don’t have any bad-bodied kids out here.”