GRAND FORKS - Otis Weah's return to the football field has been a long time coming.
"I had a hiccup, but I got my mind right and I'm excited to play." Weah said this past week.
Weah's football journey began at Jim Gotta Stadium in Moorhead, where he routinely ran over defenders. He ran for over 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns in his senior year in 2017, which led to a scholarship offer from the University of North Dakota.
He told me on National Signing Day in February of 2018; "It's been nerve wracking. I've been sitting at home thinking 'holy crap this is about to be real, about to be set in stone.'"
As a freshman on the UND football team in the fall of 2018, Weah earned some surprise reps. He scored his first collegiate touchdown against Northern Colorado. That momentum carried over to the spring in 2019, where Weah was routinely the top running back in practice.
He was poised to have a big 2019. Then everything stopped. Weah was off the team, ruled academically ineligible.
"It was a bitter taste in my mouth, obviously all the hype around me and couldn't do my part in the classroom. I've never seen anyone come back to the school from a situation like that."
The pain of not being on the team really hit home during UND's season opener in 2019.
"It was kind of hurtful, I walked into the Alerus Center for the 2019 season opener and I cried, I just missed out on an opportunity."
The UND coaching staff didn't give up on Weah. Head coach Bubba Schweigert and offensive coordinator Danny Freund checked in on Weah's progress throughout the entire fall 2019 season. Weah got his grades back up and was reinstated to the team for the spring of 2020.
But the return to the football field would have to wait after COVID hit. UND along with the Missouri Valley Football Conference had postponed its season to the spring. Weah would have to wait a little longer.
"You need to hold yourself accountable and responsible in all aspects of what it takes to be a college football player. Otis has done that and we're excited to see him back on the field." Schweigert said.
Weah is now back on the roster. He's weighing in 215 pounds and is expected to be a feature piece of the UND offense this spring. He's currently listed as the number two running back heading into the spring season for the Fighting Hawks.
"Don't take things for granted, because you never know what is going to be taken away from you."