WEST FARGO — Carson Hegerle burst onto the North Dakota Class 3A football scene as a sophomore when he opened the season with a highlight-reel catch on a successful two-point conversion.
He reached up with one hand, tipped the ball to himself in the air and juggled it to complete the play, which showcased the skill and athleticism he’d become known for. The West Fargo senior-to-be has since evolved into one of the region’s top football prospects for the class of 2022.
“We’ve known he’s had exceptional talent all the years he’s been with us,” said West Fargo Packers head football coach Jay Gibson.
A 6-foot-3, 190-pound receiver, Hegerle has picked up nine NCAA Division I offers, five of which are from Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Currently, Hegerle holds FBS offers from Wyoming, University of Toledo, Utah State, Army West Point and Nevada. Of those five, three are in the Mountain West Conference.
He has four Football Championship Subdivision offers from North Dakota State, North Dakota, South Dakota State and South Dakota — all of which compete in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Hegerle was the Fighting Hawks’ first offer for the class of 2022.
Hegerle’s stellar sophomore season, which earned him all-state second-team honors, was followed by a phenomenal junior campaign.
He generated 425 yards on 33 receptions and four touchdowns in eight games last season and was a Class 3A all-state first-team selection. A playmaker on both sides of the ball, Hegerle compiled the second-most interceptions in the conference with four, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
There’s been little down time for the standout receiver this summer. Hegerle, who is rated a three-star recruit by both Rivals.com and 247Sports, has stayed busy on the recruiting trail.
He opened the month of June in Madison, Wis., at a University of Wisconsin football camp, his first of the summer. Hegerle attended camps at both North Dakota D-I schools and had one-on-one workouts at the University of Nebraska and Wyoming. He also visited South Dakota State’s campus last month.
Nebraska, along with Kansas State and Kansas, are showing a lot of interest in Hegerle on defense, but haven’t offered yet.
Hegerle posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.50 seconds during his workout at Nebraska, which he said went “really well.”
“I had a nice talk with Coach (Scott) Frost,” Hegerle said of the Cornhuskers head coach. “He said he would love to coach me someday and I would fit really well at free safety for them.”
He ran a sub-4.50 40-yard dash a couple days later at Wyoming. The 4.48-second time was an official personal best.
“He’s got such quickness,” said Gibson, who will enter his 31st season at the helm. “I see that on the basketball court also. He’s just a little bit quicker than everybody he’s playing against.”
Hegerle, who holds the school record for career receptions with 93, is a three-sport athlete and a standout in all three. His junior year was one of many crowning achievements. Hegerle, a guard, helped West Fargo win its first Class A state basketball championship in almost 30 years. He was the team’s second leading scorer with 18.4 points per game to go along with six rebounds.
Hegerle also captured two second-place finishes at the state track meet in the 100 and 200 meters in his first year running track. The lanky receiver checks a lot of boxes, Gibson said.
“He’s an exceptional return man. He jumps extremely well. It puts him at a level that is higher than I’m sure everyone but maybe one person in North Dakota, but I don’t know who that is,” Gibson said.
Gibson added that Hegerle, who has played on varsity since he was a freshman, has “great” hand-eye coordination — one of the attributes he possesses that have made Gibson believe Hegerle has the skills to succeed at the next level.
“He catches almost everything that you can get within his range,” Gibson said. “Within his arms length, he’s going to come down with it.”
A few schools are recruiting Hegerle at receiver and some on both sides of the ball. Most of the Power Five schools are recruiting him to play defense. Hegerle said he’d like to play receiver in college, however, is still very much open to other options.
Hegerle has deep family ties with NDSU, but that won’t be a factor in his decision, he said. Hegerle’s dad played football for the Bison and his mom was a sprinter for NDSU. His sister, Kalli, a West Fargo graduate, played volleyball at the school for two seasons before transferring to the University of Jamestown.
“My parents say it’s really where I want to go, and if I don’t fit in somewhere, then I’m not going to go there,” Hegerle said. “It’s my decision.”
Hegerle said he’d like to make that decision before his senior football season starts.
“I would say it’s pretty open right now,” Hegerle said. “I’ll just see the opportunities I get in a couple weeks, and I’m hoping to make my decision in about a month.”
The Packers, who went 5-3 last fall, open the season on the road Aug. 27 in Minot.
“I feel really confident. I think it’s gonna be a fun senior season,” Hegerle said. “I'll have my decision of where I’m gonna be going to college, so I won’t have to play with that stress at all. The team is looking really good, we’re going to the field a lot.”