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'Old man' Tutsie ready to grind out another year with Bison football team

NDSU safety who has started 41 straight games one of seven players in their sixth year of college

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North Dakota State safety Michael Tutsie runs drills during the opening day of practice at Dacotah Field on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — Michael Tutsie hasn’t been on the North Dakota State football roster since the school went Division I in 2004, although there will be times in the next few weeks he may feel like it. He’s 24 years old, has an 11-month-old daughter and is entering his sixth year with the program.

He’s a veteran’s veteran.

When NDSU gave seniors the option after last season to come back and use the extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tutsie jumped at it. He’s one of those guys who has lived and breathed the game his entire life — his father was a college football coach — and the thought of giving it up wasn’t a thought.

“I just think you have to love it first of all,” Tutsie said. “Just have a deep passion for the game.”

Tutsie is one of seven Bison players in their sixth year of school, 2017 high school graduates who redshirted their first season. The others are safety Dawson Weber, offensive tackle Cody Mauch, tight end Noah Gindorff, defensive end Spencer Waege, offensive guard Nash Jensen and Jacob Streit, a transfer from Northern State (S.D.).

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“It goes way past football,” Tutsie said. “They know I would do anything for them off the field and I know they would do anything for me or my daughter and that’s what it means to me. That’s how you get through it. You’re not going to coast and do that for your teammate.”

It’s the most sixth-year players the Bison have had in the Division I era and possibly the most in school history.

Until players who played during the pandemic cycle through, it will be common in college football.

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North Dakota State safety Michael Tutsie leaps to grab a pass during the opening day of practice at Dacotah Field on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

It can be a two-way street. Seniors with five years of college experience behind them can be susceptible to not working as hard. They can also be the heartbeat of the team.

“This program, knock on wood, doesn’t have to worry about it,” head coach Matt Entz said of sixth-year players not giving full effort. “We have a handful of them right now. They’re great leaders. They’re all part of the leadership council. I anticipate maybe one or two may be captains for us. I think the expectations and the standard that’s been set with previous teams and with our staff will eliminate any opportunity or even a chance of senioritis.”

Tutsie was a backup his freshman season, but started all 16 games as a sophomore and has been a fixture at strong safety since. He was a second-team all-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection in the pandemic-delayed 2021 spring season and was a first-team pick last season.

He was also a Stats Perform third-team All-American and will go into the season opener against Drake University Sept. 3 at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome with 41 straight starts.

Predictably, he got the old-guy question after NDSU finished its first day of practice on Thursday.

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“Definitely, 100% I feel like an old man,” Tutsie said. “Mentally and physically, just my knees and stuff like that. I just have to be ahead of that a little bit more.”

When Tutsie was a true freshman, Tre Dempsey and Robbie Grimsley were the starting safeties. Chris Board, who was a starting linebacker, is in his fifth year and second team in the NFL.

Now Tutsie is around and mentoring 32 true freshmen players who just graduated from high school.

“Seeing guys coming in that are 18, 19 years old, I’m 24 years old and it’s crazy,” Tutsie said. “But it seems like it went by super fast. Seeing guys like (Grimsley and Dempsey), I was trying to figure out what a zone Cover 2 was then. It’s crazy to think about, but I’m blessed and I wouldn’t change it, as well.”

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Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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