FARGO - Chris Board's rise from backup with the Bison to one of John Harbaugh's favorite players is one of the most unlikeliest in recent NDSU football history.
Board came to Fargo in 2013 as a safety out of Timber Creek High School in Orlando. He made an immediate impression in the 2015 FCS Championship Game, recovering a short kickoff to begin the second half for the Bison against Illinois State. That was the start of Board's impact on special teams.
He would continue to be a key player on special teams throughout his four years playing. He would add starter at linebacker before he was done in Fargo, saving his best collegiate game in his final performance with the Bison in the 2018 title game against James Madison.
Three years later, those days on special teams has made Board one of the most valuable members of the Baltimore Ravens defense. "He has played excellent football. He is becoming a really good inside linebacker. Very rarely do you see these guys excel on special teams in their first couple years and grow into that. I think he's really making a name for himself." Harbaugh said.
His former teammates and coaches are not surprised. He was unstoppable when it comes to raw talent. He's just as fast as me and as big as the Incredible Hulk." said former Bison safety Tre Dempsey. "He was a special teams player here and by the end of his time here he played his best game ever against James Madison. He's got his confidence up and he's just playing crazy. I love to see it."
Board recorded his first two NFL sacks in the next to last game of the season against the Giants. The Ravens open the postseason Sunday against Tennessee in a rematch of a playoff game last year that Baltimore lost.
Jamar Cain coached at NDSU from 2014-16 and saw the early flashes with Board. Cain is now the inside linebackers coach at Oklahoma and is still telling stories of Board's special teams play. "We are showing tape from around the country and we see a tape of Chris Board. " Cain said. "And the coaches asked where did he play? I screamed out North Dakota State! I said to the team, guess how many games this guy started in college? I said three. Now he's going into his fifth year, so don't tell you can't play special teams and get to the NFL."
Board may not have gained the most notoriety in college, but his play is speaking for itself in the NFL.