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McFeely: Special day for NDSU senior Tutsie, his daughter and the Bison

Bison whip UND 42-21 on Senior Day at Fargodome as NDSU readies for the playoffs

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North Dakota State's Michael Tutsie heads onto the field with his 15-month-old daughter Sarai during senior night ahead of his football game against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
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FARGO — Michael Tutsie said it was head coach Matt Entz's idea. And, really, how could any dad resist the opportunity to show off his precious 15-month-old daughter to 18,806 adoring fans?

"At Southern Illinois last week, coach Entz came up to me in the locker room right after the game and said I should do it," Tutsie said Saturday after helping North Dakota State to a 42-21 football victory over North Dakota at a sold-out Fargodome. "It was awesome. I have him to thank."

"It" was Tutsie carrying his daughter Sarai as he ran through the inflatable Bison helmet and onto Gate City Bank Field during Senior Day introductions prior to the big game. The crowd roared as Tutsie hugged Entz as the spotlight shined down on them. Sarai, dressed in a blue-jean jacket with "Tutsie" on the back, seemed unperturbed.

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North Dakota State fans hold up four fingers ahead of the fourth quarter of their football game against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

Then Tutsie ran to join his teammates, carrying Sarai in his right arm while waving the "horns up" sign to the crowd with his left hand.

"I realized she was kind of bouncing around as I was running," Tutsie said. "I had to kind of tone it down. She was fine."

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The sixth-year safety said this after NDSU's postgame press conference in the lower level of the dome. He brought Sarai to sit on his lap while the Fargo media asked him questions. Tutsie sat in the middle of offensive lineman Cody Mauch and quarterback Cam Miller as Sarai sat quietly. Tutsie pecked her on the cheek a couple of times.

He was asked about running onto the field carrying his daughter.

"It's hard to really put into words. I told somebody that's probably the single-handedly best experience I've ever had besides when she was born," Tutsie said. "It was just amazing. Amazing in the fact that this place and coaching staff allows me to do that and I have teammates in the program that cares about her and loves her so much.

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North Dakota State fans hold up four fingers ahead of the fourth quarter of their football game against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

"It's just hard to put into words. I don't want to say too much or I'm going to start bawling up here. But, man, just an amazing place, special people all around and just an experience I'll never forget. One of the best of my life."

Tutsie's story has been told before. The Forum's Jeff Kolpack wrote a lengthy feature story last month about Tutsie, Sarai and the support system the two have at NDSU. Bison players, their parents, coaches and coaches' wives, staff — all have helped look after Sarai when Tutsie had a game, practice, class or a student teaching assignment. Tutsie's parents, too, have helped.

"It takes a village," said Tutsie, a 24-year-old from Indianapolis.

"That young lady has been as big a part of this football program as anybody this year," Entz said. "On a daily basis, she probably stops by my office and says hello to me because there's somebody else babysitting her when Michael has to go substitute teach. One of his teammates is watching his daughter. And so this is a Bison family."

Sarai comes to most home games, Tutsie said, often sitting with his father Steve in the stands. That's why, Tutsie said, she took the pre-game introduction and cheering fans in stride. Cool as a cucumber.

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North Dakota State fans strike a pose for the big screen during a football game against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

"She's heard that dome noise before," Tutsie said. "She knows."

Even Mauch, the Bison's NFL-bound offensive lineman with his giant 6-foot-6, 300-pound body and shoulder-length red hair, said he was near tears seeing Tutsie run onto the field carrying Sarai.

"I mean, that was about as emotional as you get," Mauch said. "It's tough enough watching your buddies go through the tunnel for the last regular-season game. And then you see something like that and sitting there tearing up while watching that."

As for the game itself, well, it didn't measure up to Tutsie's and Sarai's entrance. NDSU jumped to a 21-0 lead against the overmatched Fighting Hawks, assuring a high playoff seed when the Football Championship Subdivision postseason pairings are announced Sunday.

The atmosphere in the Fargodome wasn't exactly like the old days of the rivalry, when emotions ran red-hot and coaches like Rocky Hager and Roger Thomas were spouting off. Saturday, the dome was church-quiet by the third quarter and fans were leaving in packs. There were more empty blue seats when the final horn sounded than ones filled by fans.

That was good news for the Bison, who will play at least one more home game. That means Sarai will get one last day to spend watching her dad play football.

"It means everything," Tutsie said. "This place is special."

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North Dakota State fans throw their hands in the air while doing cheers for their team during their football game against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
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Fans of the North Dakota State Bison and North Dakota Fighting Hawks react in different ways to a North Dakota touchdown during their football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
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North Dakota State fans and North Dakota fans and players react to a Bison touchdown during their football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
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North Dakota State fans celebrate a touchdown against North Dakota during their football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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