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Cobbers running back Peyton Mortenson brings farm-tough 'grittiness' to Concordia offense

Concordia senior Peyton Mortenson provides a physical presence to Cobbers spread offense.

Concordia Cobbers running back Peyton Mortenson.
Sheldon Green / Concordia Sports Information
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MOORHEAD — Concordia running back Peyton Mortenson grew up on a pig farm outside of Marietta, Minn., an upbringing that helped develop him as an athlete.

There were times when Mortenson had to deal with hogs that weighed around 300 pounds.

“It’s a lot of hard, manual work, which I appreciate now as far as the discipline and mental toughness growing up,” said Mortenson, a Lac qui Parle Valley High School graduate. “At the time it maybe wasn’t the most fun, but looking back, I’m glad I had it.”

The 5-foot-8, 200-pound Mortenson brings a physical component to Concordia’s spread offense with his running style.

“He’s a hard worker, he’s a hard runner and he's a physical, pounding type kid,” Cobbers head coach Terry Horan said. “The running game in what we do is still important. You still want to be two-dimensional.”


Concordia Cobbers running back Peyton Mortenson
Concordia Cobbers running back Peyton Mortenson has more than 900 rushing yards in his college career.
Sheldon Green / Concordia Sports Information

The Cobbers (2-0) open Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play against Gustavus at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at Jake Christiansen Stadium.

“I think there is a lot of confidence in the guys,” Mortenson said. “That has everybody believing and excited for games to come in the MIAC.”

Mortenson has 901 rushing yards on 179 attempts for his career heading into the game in an offense that features the pass more than the triple-option style that Concordia used when he first entered the program. Mortenson likes the change to the spread scheme, which still allows for him to run the ball and also catch passes out of the backfield.

“I’ve really enjoyed the transition from the triple option to the spread,” Mortenson said. “I feel like it fits my running style a little bit better. We’re passing a lot more than we did running the triple, but I still think we have a good mix.”

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For example, the Cobbers ran for 400 yards on 68 attempts in a 42-13 victory against Presentation College (S.D.) a couple weekends ago to finish the nonconference schedule. Mortenson rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown in 28 attempts.

“He’s just a special, special kid,” Horan said. “He will do anything and everything for you. He’s a motivator, too.”

Mortenson was a three-sport athlete in high school, growing up near Marietta, which is about 160 miles south of Moorhead. He was a three-year varsity starter for the football team, and also wrestled and played baseball.

“I think that's a credit to a lot of his grittiness, growing up in that farm lifestyle working hard," said Cobbers senior offensive lineman Collin Fleisch, from Fall City, Wash. “We like to think of Peyton as our sixth offensive linemen. When he’s back there in protection with us, we know that he has us covered.”


Mortenson said his blue-collar approach on the football field came from working on the farm, and also his parents, Randy and Becca Mortenson. He recalled one story where a 300-pound hog got loose from the barn that he chased around the yard with his father and one of his younger brothers.

“We kind of had to wrestle it to the ground to be able to get it back into the barn,” Mortenson said with a laugh. “It was always a good workout.”

Mortenson is in his fifth season in the Cobbers program, using an NCAA eligibility waiver to play an extra season due to COVID-19. Concordia didn’t have a season in 2020 due to the pandemic. He said it was an easy decision to return for that extra year.

Mortenson has played in 24 career games for the Cobbers, rushing for 563 yards and six touchdowns on 100 attempts in nine games last fall. He’s expected to continue to be a key cog in the offense this season.

“I lean back on the hard-nosed style of running,” Mortenson said. “You’ve got to run through people, it sends a message to the defense, but also being an athlete on the field.”

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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