FARGO — North Dakota State head football coach Matt Entz is a former college football player who looks like he could have inflicted some damage at the line of scrimmage in his day. So when he says he avoids giving a high-five to senior Garrett Malstrom “because I think he’s going to rip my arm off,” that’s saying something about the NDSU fullback.
There’s a reason Malstrom has the nickname “Meat Stick.”
“Every offense needs a fullback with that type of name,” Entz said. “I think that says it all right there.”
It will be up to Malstrom and redshirt freshman Hunter Luepke to uphold the tradition of the Bison fullback. For starters, it’s the look. You have to be somewhere around 6-feet tall and somewhere around 240 to 250 pounds.
Then there’s the attitude. You have to like to block. You have to like hitting people. In that once-in-a-blue-moon chance you carry the ball, you look for somebody to run over, instead of somebody to run around.
And if you have the nickname “Meat Stick,” all the better.
“That just came about the first year I was here,” said Malstrom, from Frazee, Minn. “It just kind of happened.”
Malstrom saw the field plenty in his first three years. He had three starts and played in all 15 games as a sophomore. He played in all 15 games last year, started four, and has 38 games in all under his belt.
He has yet to carry the ball or catch a pass.
“You have to be physical and tough,” Malstrom said. “You have to be willing to throw your body into defenders and pretty much put it on the line for the team. That’s what it’s all about though.”
On the flipside, what it was all about for Luepke in high school in Spencer, Wis., was carrying the ball. He was a tailback who had 5,770 yards and 95 touchdowns in his prep career, with 82 of the TDs coming as a running back.
But he was recruited as a tight end/fullback and now it will be more about taking out defensive linemen or linebackers.
“I knew I wanted to come to NDSU for the culture,” Luepke said. “It’s an amazing program and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
He was 6-1 and around 220 pounds when he first enrolled. He’s up to 245 -- and gaining.
“He’s done a really good job, he’s learning,” Malstrom said of Luepke making the switch from a high school tailback to a college fullback. “It’s more blocking than running the ball and he’s doing a good job of transitioning into it.”
The Bison can also use a tight end in a fullback-like look, something they’ve done over the years with the likes of Connor Wentz or Andrew Bonnet. That role may belong to senior Ben Ellefson next fall.
Malstrom said he likes to watch tape of Wentz blocking. Or he’ll also watch former fullbacks like Andrew Grothmann and Jedre Cyr, both of whom relished blocking more than handling the football.
Neither of those players had a nickname like Malstrom has.
“I think ‘Meat Stick’ is the typical fullback around here,” Luepke said. “My goal is to be like him.”
So, how about “Meat Stick Jr.?”
“Not yet but I’m trying to get there,” he said.