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Former Bison lineman Cordell Volson goes in fourth round of NFL Draft to Cincinnati Bengals

All-American at NDSU comes from 9-man program, hopes his story serves as inspiration for other small-town players

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Former North Dakota State offensive lineman Cordell Volson (67) is from Balfour, N.D.
David Samson / The Forum
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LAS VEGAS — Chalk one up for the little guy, which might seem odd when you're talking about a 6-foot-6 man who weighs nearly 315 pounds.

Former North Dakota State offensive lineman Cordell Volson was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday. He was the No. 136 overall player selected.

Volson went earlier than most draft reporters speculated. He was viewed primarily as a sixth- or seventh-round pick.

Former Bison teammates like quarterback Trey Lance, offensive tackle Dillon Radunz and wide receiver Christian Watson all went in the first two rounds of the draft the past two years.

Volson viewed being selected anywhere a significant honor, based on his background. His family is from Balfour, N.D., population 20 in the latest U.S. Census. He graduated from Drake High School — with an enrollment of about 85 in grades 7 through 12 — and played 9-man football for the Drake-Anamoose Raiders.

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Balfour is in McHenry County, about 45 miles southeast of Minot.

"Hopefully I'm an example for the kids that grew up in those small communities that, you know, maybe don't have the resources, don't have the trainers, don't have the fanciest facilities," Volson said before the draft. "None of that matters. It just matters about showing up every day and going to work. ... If I can help one kid realize that, hey, I can do it, then that's what it's all about."

Volson returned to NDSU for a fifth year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the coronavirus pandemic. It paid off as he was named first team All-America by several organizations and was selected to the first team of the Missouri Valley Football Conference all-conference squad for the third straight year.

Volson's durability is unquestioned. He played in a school-record 65 career games, including 41 consecutive starts over his final three seasons. That is an impressive feat for an offensive lineman, who are involved in a physical scrum on the line of scrimmage every play.

Primarily a right tackle, he played all four guard and tackle positions during his career. Volson is projected as a guard by NFL teams.

Volson's older brother, Tanner, played center for the Bison from 2014-18 before signing as an undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The NFL is a long way from the Drake school weight room.

"What's so special about it is because I remember my brother, we would go into our school weight room, and it was like a 10 by 10 jail cell. It's what it looked like," Volson said. "But we would go in there and we had no idea what we were doing, you know, but we would make up a plan. Just this day, we're going to do this. This day, we're gonna do that. We're like, shoot, we're gonna just get to move as much weight as we can. ... That's the way I was brought up. It was blue collar, just showing up with hardhat and lunch pail every day and going to work."

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Cordell Volson runs through drills during North Dakota State’s annual football pro day at the Dacotah Field Bubble on Thursday, March 24, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Volson was a do-it-all athlete for his high school football team. He was a five-year starter and played offensive line, defensive line, tight end, fullback, linebacker, punter and kicker. He blocked 14 punts in his career.

Volson also starred on the basketball court as an all-district player in Class B, averaging 21 points and 15 rebounds as a senior. He set school records with 33 points in a game and 35 blocked shots in one season.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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