CLEVELAND — Dillon Radunz had a chance to play in the powerful Southeastern Conference, but turned it down and stuck by his commitment to North Dakota State. That decision didn't hurt Radunz's NFL prospects.
The former Bison All-American offensive tackle was taken in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. Radunz was the 53rd overall pick.
Radunz is the eighth offensive lineman from NDSU taken in the draft, and the first since tackle Joe Haeg went to the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round in 2016. Tackle Billy Turner was a third-round choice of the Miami Dolphins in 2014.
The 6-foot-6, 300-pound Radunz started 32 straight games to end his Bison career, which halted in the fall of 2020 with a single game against Central Arkansas. Radunz chose to bypass the Football Championship Subdivision spring season and declare for the NFL Draft.
Radunz signed with NDSU out of Becker (Minn.) High School and redshirted with the Bison in 2016.
"He committed to us in June of 2015. When Dillon called and said he wanted to be a Bison, I was at a Team Maker golf event. I was out there dancing around when he told me. The guys were probably wondering what in the world I was doing," said former NDSU offensive line coach Conor Riley, who is now at Kansas State.
Radunz will get a four-year contract worth $6,326,873. The guaranteed money will be a signing bonus of $1,961,36, according to professional sports contract tracker Spotrac.
Riley and other Bison coaches were nervous other, bigger schools would continue to recruit Radunz even after his verbal commitment to NDSU — he already held offers from FBS Wyoming and FCS Northern Iowa — and their fears were well-founded.
About five weeks before signing day, Missouri of the SEC called Radunz and wanted him to make an official visit to the school. The Tigers were persistent, but Radunz turned them down several times and signed his national letter of intent with NDSU.
"I don't believe Dillon wanted to be that far away from his family. That's how impactful family is to him," Riley said. "Proximity was one of our bigger advantages."
Radunz's father Jeff died when Dillon was young, and his mother Kathy raised three children. Dillon's younger brother Nick joined NDSU after playing two seasons at the North Dakota State College of Science.
NDSU coaches believed Radunz was going to eventually work his way into the starting lineup during his redshirt freshman season in 2017, but the youngster suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener against Mississippi Valley State after playing 15 snaps.
He came back to start all 15 games his sophomore season and was named to the all-Missouri Valley Football Conference second team as the Bison won a national championship. NDSU had the top rushing attack in the league at 286.2 yards per game and 6.4 yards per carry. The Bison also led the conference and were top 10 in FCS for fewest tackles for loss allowed.
My current OT5, Radunz can play guard or tackle on the next level. He’s an ideal fit in a zone based blocking scheme and should be a prime target in the 2nd round for OL needy teams. pic.twitter.com/KV5hCiFmR0— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) March 12, 2021
Radunz was dominant by his junior season, leading a Bison rushing attack that set a school record with 4,601 yards. NDSU ranked fourth in FCS with 287.6 rushing yards a game and was best in the subdivision by allowing less than four tackles for loss per game.
He was a consensus first-team All-American by the Associated Press, AFCA, STATS, HERO Sports, FCS Athletic Directors Association, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Phil Steele and Athlon Sports. Radunz was a first team all-MVFC pick.
Radunz planned to return to NDSU for his senior season in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic shut down FCS. In a video posted to social media in August, Radunz said that despite having offers to move to an FBS school for the fall season, he would finish his career with the one fall game against Central Arkansas and then leave to prepare for the NFL.
He graduated from NDSU in December 2020 with a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering and management.
Protector of the blind side, Radunz played in 33 games as a Bison - he started 32 of the 33. Dillon exemplifies everything it means to be a Bison, we couldn’t be prouder.— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) April 26, 2021
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