‘Tough times don’t last forever’: Journey of Fargo South’s Sibomana to Bison began in refugee camp

Fargo South senior Enock Sibomana's journey to Bison football started across the world.

Enock Sibomana stands Saturday, Dec. 19, outside Fargo South High School. He has signed with the North Dakota State football team. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor


Enock Sibomana walks off the practice field or court around 6:30 p.m., and his day is far from over. He’ll go home to change, then to work at the Walmart on 13th Avenue.

The Fargo South senior works a few shifts during the week after school and practice, and on the weekends.

He has to.

Sibomana, who is of Burundian descent, was born in Tanzania. He lived in Africa until he was about 7 years old. He came to the United States from the Mtabila refugee camp in Tanzania with his parents and most of his siblings. His older brother, who died in the summer of 2019, stayed.


His older brother’s wife and children are still in Africa. Sibomana works so he can help take care of them financially. He sends money back home to the family so his nieces and nephews can go to school.

Fargo South's Sibomana Enock breaks away from West Fargo's Junior Gbaley on a 73-yard touchdown run at Essentia Health Packer Stadium on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. David Samson / The Forum

“Sometimes I have to cut down my budget,” he said. “There’s times I can only spend $20 in a couple months because everything else has to go back to the kids.”

As an 18-year-old, Sibomana has responsibilities many his age don’t have to deal with. His journey hasn’t been easy, but football has been his safe haven. Sibomana’s done big things on the field that have put himself in a position to help his family out.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Sibomana signed his letter of intent to play football for North Dakota State last week. Sibomana, a North Dakota Class 3A first-team all-state selection, verbally committed to the Bison on May 3. He played running back and some quarterback, and safety for the Bruins. At NDSU, he's set to play safety and maybe linebacker, as well.

Sibomana doesn’t get more than six hours of sleep a night. He works out in the mornings before school, his only time to do so, and finishes most of his schoolwork during his off periods.

“I don't really like sleeping,” Sibomana said. “I feel like the time I'm sleeping is time I could be helping my family out.”


Fargo South safety Enock Sibomana signed his letter of intent to play football at North Dakota State on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at Fargo South High School. Photo special to The Forum

“You look at the kid and that’s not something normal 18-year-olds are doing or have to do or want to do,” Bruins head football coach Tyler Kosel said. “He wants to look out for those people around him.”

Sibomana has six siblings — three sisters and three brothers — who are still living. Between his siblings, their children and significant others, he had more than 20 family members, as well as some teammates, former teachers and coaches, at Fargo South for his signing day Dec. 16.

He’ll be the first person in his family to go to college.

Before he died in 2019, Sibomana’s brother told him to “keep going” in his sports, follow his dreams and listen to his parents.

“I used to tell him whenever I had games,” Sibomana said of his older brother. “He would check up on me and check how I was and asked my parents if I was being good or bad. To be signing to continue this dream of mine, I think that’s gonna make him really proud.”

Sibomana’s older brother was in his mid-30s, still in Tanzania, when he became ill. He didn’t have the resources to find the right doctors until it was too late and he was too sick to recover. He died before the start of Sibomana’s junior season.


“I’m not going to say my story is the hardest,” he said. “It is kinda hard, but, tough times don’t last forever.”

Fargo South's Enock Sibomana carries against Fargo Davies during their football game Friday, Sept. 11, at Davies. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Sibomana is a fierce competitor on the field, but gets emotional when he talks about his family, especially his mom.

His mom is paralyzed on the left side of her body. He doesn’t specifically know what led to the paralysis, but said it has been that way since he can remember.

“That’s the fuel to my engine, really,” Sibomana said about his mom. “I can’t waste time.”

Over the years, the paralysis has gotten worse. His mom has had a few strokes, but she’s recovered each time. Some days are harder for her — those are the emotional times for Sibomana and his siblings.

“Seeing her deal with those kinds of things, it makes me feel like I have to get stronger every single day,” Sibomana said. “I always feel like I have to work harder than everybody else, because I see her struggle on a daily basis. Waking up, she struggles to even get out of her bed. That’s why I don’t make many excuses.”


Kosel, who has coached Sibomana since his freshman season, said work ethic will never be an issue with him.

Fargo South safety Enock Sibomana was joined by more than 20 family members when he signed his letter of intent to play football at North Dakota State on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at Fargo South. Photo special to The Forum

Sibomana, who also plays basketball, has been kicked out of the weight room for working out too much. As a freshman, there were a few occasions where he beat one of his basketball coaches to the school. His coach later told him to get some rest because he looked tired at practice, but Sibomana said he wasn’t.

He was just working hard.

Kosel also coaches Sibomana in track, and said if the coaches wouldn’t shut him down, he’d be out there on the pitch jumping all day. Sibomana placed second at state track meet in the Class A boys long jump as a sophomore. His junior track season was axed by the pandemic.

“He wants to be the best. He’s always working to get better and improve,” Kosel said. “He doesn’t like to lose. A lot of things NDSU builds their program off of, Enock has a lot of those qualities.”

Sibomana hasn’t backed down from a challenge since he first picked up a football in elementary school. He first started playing the game in third grade after moving to the U.S., and his passion for football partially resulted in the sport being banned from recess for a week.


Sibomana and his classmates were playing tackle football as third-graders, when it was supposed to be two-hand touch. Years later, Sibomana kept that energy with the Bruins.

During one of the first practices his freshman season, which was also Kosel’s first year with the school, Sibomana was challenging some of the seniors during one-on-ones. Kosel couldn’t believe he was a freshman.

“I thought he had to be a junior. I was like, ‘Holy cow. He’s gonna be special,’” Kosel said.

Carissa Wigginton is a high school sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. A Fargo native, she graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Wigginton joined The Forum’s sports department in August 2019.
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