The floor in the Cully's Kids Cabin Playroom at the Sanford Children's Hospital is a replica of a hockey rink, thanks to the work of Matt Cullen and his foundation. Standing on a goalie crease, not far from a light fixture of hockey sticks, including an Easton brand stick, the starting quarterback at North Dakota State was forced to call an audible and this one had nothing to do with a 280-pound defensive lineman snorting fire.
Easton Stick was surprised to learn he was one of only 22 players in all of college football named to the Allstate Good Works Team. It honors charitable involvement and community service.
"Speech, come on," Bison head coach Chris Klieman said from the back of the room.
Stick joked it would have been nice if he was given a heads up, but he proceeded to knock it out of the park. As you would expect from the senior. In an impromptu address to the assembled crowd, he talked about not knowing what he was getting himself into when he signed his letter of intent five years ago.
He talked about how the Fargo-Moorhead community has embraced he and his family. He mentioned how fortunate he is to be able to give back and how it's something he enjoys doing.
"A lot of guys in our locker room go out all the time and try to serve people," Stick said.
Serving people is one thing.
Serving kids, children, toddlers, who are not feeling so well is a different ballgame. And you thought staring down that 280-pound lineman was hard? Stick said the hardest part is not knowing how the kids are feeling.
"You haven't been in their shoes," he said. "The biggest thing is to have a little fun with them because they probably want a little normalcy in their life. Having a conversation with someone who isn't a doctor or someone like that hopefully can be impactful."
Jake Fish, a physician at Sanford Children's Hospital, sees the impact all the time with local athletes. He sees the influence it has on the kids he's treating. Professionals like Fish do the heavy lifting, but they could always use an assist.
"It just brightens their day so much," Fish said. "They get so excited about it. Sometimes they'll bring up a plastic football. You're sick, you don't feel good, you're stuck in a room and local celebrities come up to visit. These kids just love it."
Stick received his award Thursday in front of the cameras. Here's the other impressive nugget: It's rare that these players do these things in front of cameras. They don't do it for the proverbial photo op.
"It's not why they're here doing it," Fish said. "It's pretty low key, it's not a big ordeal or anything. These kids just want to get their mind off of stuff and they're so good at getting their minds off of stuff. They interact with them so well. It's impressive to see."
Nose guard Aaron Steidl, offensive tackle Luke Bacon and receiver Darrius Shepherd accompanied Stick on Thursday. Stick has also been involved in North Dakota Special Olympics, Make-A-Wish, SchoolsAlive!, Feed My Starving Children and the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties. He's been a guest reader in local elementary schools and a guest speaker at various church communities and youth groups.
"What you've done community-involvement wise is above and beyond what we could ever ask for," said Fred Hage, a local Allstate insurance agent.
The Bison players were back at practice later Thursday, all intense gearing up for Saturday's game with North Alabama. It's a 12-month-a-year job, Division I football. They have classes, homework and more football-related tasks than most people would want to know. Somehow, they find time to help out.
Seeing 300-pound football players helping a 30-pound sick kid with a smiling face draw a picture? There are no words.
NDSU CAREER PASSING YARDS
1. Brock Jensen, 8,598 (2010-13)
2. Steve Walker, 7,033 (2003-07)
3. Easton Stick, 5,989 (2015-18)
NDSU PASSING TOUCHDOWNS
1. Brock Jensen, 72, (2010-13)
2. Easton Stick, 60 (2015-18)
2. Steve Walker, 60 (2003-07)
FCS CAREER WINS BY A QB
1. Brock Jensen, NDSU, 48 (2010-13)
2. Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State, 43 (2006-09)
3. J.R. Revere, Georgia Southern, 42 (1998-01)
4. Eric Ward, Richmond, 41 (2006-09)
Easton Stick, NDSU, 35 (2015-18)
MVFC CAREER RUSHING YARDS BY A QB
1. DeAndre Smith, Missouri State, 2,276 (1987-90)
2. Tirrell Rennie, Northern Iowa, 2,176 (2010-11)
3. Easton Stick, NDSU, 1,895 (2015-18)