'It's been awesome': Moorhead's James Eggert thankful to play college football for hometown Dragons
Minnesota State Moorhead senior linebacker James Eggert is expected to be one of the veteran leaders on the Dragons defense.
MOORHEAD — James Eggert relishes his decision to play football for Minnesota State Moorhead.
Eggert graduated from Moorhead High School in 2018 and remaining in the community was important.
“I’ve really enjoyed growing up here, continuing my education here,” Eggert said. “It was a big decision because I’m close with my family. I really enjoy being able to go home and have a home-cooked meal. I enjoy representing the city that I grew up in. … It’s been awesome. I’ve been very thankful for MSUM and the opportunity that they gave me.”
The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Eggert is set to start at middle linebacker for his final college season. The Dragons had their first practice of fall football camp Monday, Aug. 8, at Scheels Field at Alex Nemzek Stadium.
“It’s bittersweet because it was my last, first football practice of the season,” said Eggert, who was a multi-sport high school athlete for the Spuds. “It brings on a lot of emotion, a lot of excitement, it brings back all the feelings you have for football.”
Eggert started multiple games at outside linebacker during his sophomore season in 2019 before the 2020 season, which was lost due to COVID-19. Last fall, he didn’t start, but was a regular in the LB rotation and finished fifth on the team with 51 total tackles in 11 games.
“He’s a guy that’s a natural leader,” Dragons head coach Steve Laqua said. “He’s a guy that leads with toughness on the field. He’s a physical player, very smart. His work ethic has really allowed him to blossom into a good player for us. … I think being a Dragon is important to him and representing the community that he grew up in is important to him. It’s nice to have guys who have that extra level of connection to the program.”
The Dragons lost more than 20 seniors off last season’s team that posted a 5-6 record overall and in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. That large veteran group included eight super seniors who came back for an extra season, using an NCAA eligibility waiver due to COVID-19.
“It’s hard to replace those guys, but those guys had such a huge impact on a lot of us,” Eggers said of last season’s seniors. “They were such great leaders. I give a lot of credit to those guys who just left. They really set us up to continue to build upon it.”
Eggert is expected to be a primary leader on defense. He's part of an experienced linebacker crew that includes sophomores Marcus Gulley and Josiah Behm. Gulley and Behm both started last season.
“I think it’s a great group of guys that have bought into the program,” Eggert said. “I think we’re on track to have a really good season. … The excitement level, the energy and chemistry on the team has been the highest I’ve been around in my whole time here.”
Eggert’s parents, Lisa and Rich Eggert, and his older sister and two older brothers all live in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
“He wants to be in this community and give back and be a part of it,” Laqua said. “I think that’s really cool, just the Moorhead story. This is his hometown. He’s played here, he’s going to work here, he’s a product of who we are.”
In the NSIC preseason coaches’ poll, the Dragons were picked to finish in a tie for fourth place in the North Division and No. 9 in the overall league standings. MSUM averaged 24.7 points per game, while allowing 25.0 points per contest last fall. Sophomore quarterback Tommy Falk returns as the team’s starter.
“I'm excited because we’ve got a lot of great players coming back,” Eggert said. “We’ve been underestimated. I truly believe we have a top defense in the conference.”
The Dragons are slated to start the regular season at 6 p.m. Sept. 1 against the University of Sioux Falls at Scheels Field at Alex Nemzek Stadium.
“As a team, we will have an edge and a focus because of our cohesiveness as a team,” Eggert said. ”I’m excited to see where we’re able to go.”