Former Bison OL Volson nabs big contract, but he'll 'always be the same old Cordell'

Family from small town in N.D. now has two sons who put on a NFL uniform

NFL: Scouting CombineCordellVolson2.jpg
North Dakota State offensive lineman Cordell Volson goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
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FARGO — Big things remain in store for a big man in former North Dakota State offensive lineman Cordell Volson. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound offensive lineman turned last season into one for the ages, and subsequently the Cincinnati Bengals took notice.

They drafted him in the fourth round and earlier this week reportedly signed Volson to a four-year, $4.3 million contract with a signing bonus of $656,000. But to his family and friends back home in Balfour, N.D., nothing has changed.

“No, he will be the same person with the same love for the game no matter if he’s making a dollar or whatever he ends up making,” said Wendy Volson, his mother. “He'll always be the same old Cordell. He’s the type of person where nothing changes him. He will always be true.”

It’s hard to believe the true story of the Volson family. Oldest son Tanner Volson, also a former Bison offensive lineman, was signed as a free agent in 2019 and made it to the final cut of the Los Angeles Chargers before being released.

Former North Dakota State offensive lineman Cordell Volson hugs headcoach Matt Entz during senior introductions before kickoff against South Dakota at the Fargodome on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Volson recently signed a contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.
David Samson / The Forum

Tanner was picked up by the New York Giants, but that was also in the summer of 2020 and, with trimmed rosters because of the COVID-19 pandemic, made it tough for a rookie to catch on. Then there’s Cordell, who took advantage of the extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic to go from a possible NFL prospect to a hot one.


“I don’t think there are words to describe it,” Wendy said. “Nobody would ever have guessed it or imagined it happening. It’s proof it doesn’t matter where you go to school or where you were raised. If you’re determined enough, you can accomplish things.”

The Bengals are hoping to find some help in the offensive line to help protect quarterback Joe Burrow, the prized franchise player who had difficulty finding time to throw. Volson is currently set to play right guard although he was mainly a tackle at NDSU.

His versatility is another bonus the Bengals like. Volson got game action at four different positions on the Bison offensive line.

These days, the Volson family is going to be more versatile watching football. With nobody left at NDSU, they’ll be able to see more of the two youngest sons, high school sophomores Zack and Kyle, play 6-man football at Drake-Anamoose.

“As much as we’ll miss Bison football, it’s time to focus on the next two,” Wendy said. “We’ll spend more time with them but we’ll also be able to get to Cordell.”

No word if the Volson van, with photos of Tanner and Cordell in their Bison uniforms on the back two doors, will get a Bengals adjustment. It will, however, be at Cincinnati’s first preseason game when the Bengals host the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 12. They may fly to a couple of more games and try to combine a holiday with a game visit.

Meanwhile, Tanner is back home working at the family business, Ralph Volson Enterprises. He and his wife, Kristin, have 3-month old twin daughters.

The timing of the NFL shot for Tanner was less than ideal with the pandemic.


“They had to cut the roster before he got to camp,” Wendy said. “They had to downsize and he didn’t get a chance to prove himself. But he made some good friends and has lots of great memories. He was out in the world and experienced things outside of our small town in North Dakota. He has stories to tell forever.”

For that matter, the communities in and around Balfour will also have stories to tell forever. Two of their native sons put on NFL uniforms.

“I’m just so very proud of them for their hard work,” Wendy said. “They invested a lot of their time. It takes more than what people see from the outside.”

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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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