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Former Bison fullback Luepke preparing for NFL while rehabbing injured shoulder

The Bison standout will miss the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine as he rehabs from shoulder surgery.

Luepke sit down with Izzo
Former North Dakota State fullback Hunter Luepke sits down with WDAY's Dom Izzo to discuss his NFL future.
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FARGO - This was going to be the time when Hunter Luepke was going to become a household name for NFL scouts and general managers. Instead, Luepke will need his highlight reel to do the talking.

"It's up to the doctors, it's not my call. If it was up to me I'd be practicing today." Luepke said, as he was about to get the sling off of his right shoulder. The former North Dakota State fullback/tight end missed the final five games of the season after suffering a second injury to his right shoulder that happened in the second quarter at Southern Illinois.

"I should be starting the rehab process pretty soon. Now it's all about getting as healthy as I can for a Pro Day." Luepke said.

Luepke was set to be front and center for the NFL scouts in early February. He was invited and excited about an invite to the Senior Bowl, the premier college football all-star game. The executive director of the game, Jim Nagy, told WDAY Sports last April that he already had his eyes on Luepke: "You have a fullback up there we have our eyes on. What a better place than Fargo to find a fullback?"

Luepke finished the 2022 season with 631 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Despite Luepke missing the final five games of the year, he led the team with four touchdown receptions, as well. He had a stretch of scoring 18 touchdowns in 12 games, including scores in eight straight games.

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With the rehab process set to take at least four months, that means Luepke will miss out on the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine, which is set for early March. Those are two huge events that can send FCS and small-school prospects to NFL stardom. Just look at how former NDSU wide receiver Christian Watson took advantage of that last year, rising from a fifth round pick to an early second round selection by the Green Bay Packers.

The question some fans and even the NDSU coaching staff had for Luepke was simple after learning he would miss out on most of the pre-draft process? Would you want to come back to Fargo for another year?

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North Dakota State’s Hunter Luepke heads onto the field on senior night ahead of their football game against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

"I sat down with that for a little bit. I talked to my wife Sadie and my parents, we thought it was the best thing for me to move on with my athletic career. I got my degree in December and for my body's sake and my family's sake, this was the best decision for me." Luepke added.

With the inability to get on the field or to do any of the pre-draft process, Luepke will need to rely on his game film, which did include a three-touchdown performance against FBS team Arizona back in September.

"I'm confident in what I've put on film. Your film is your resume, and I'm confident in that. I'm just trying to push as hard as I can to get a pro day in and show more of my athletic ability."

Luepke's legacy at NDSU may go beyond the football field. Head coach Matt Entz repeatedly has described Luepke not as a fullback or tight end but as a football player. Incoming recruit JoJo Azure, who also hails from Wisconsin, has been listed as a football player.

"Having a utility guy on the field never hurts, it's a guy that can do as much as he can for the team."

Luepke will begin running shortly with the hope that he can do some workouts at a pro day in Fargo. The NFL Draft is slated for April 27-29 in Kansas City. Luepke has long been ranked as the top fullback in this year's draft class.

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The question now will be where does that land Luepke in the NFL Draft? The answer won't be known for at least a few more months.

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North Dakota State's Hunter Luepke carries against Western Illinois during their football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Macomb, Illinois.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

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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