Kolpack: Inspired Science football players win one for their 'G-Money'
North Dakota State College of Science head football coach Eric Issendorf knew he needed to make some changes following his first season in 2018. Specifically, the culture and behavior of some players was not up to snuff.
So he told some of them to go elsewhere. Some very good players, at that, got the boot.
If there was ever a verification that character matters with a team no matter what the sport, it came last weekend when Science hosted Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College from Cloquet, Minn.
Early in the second quarter, Issendorf’s 13-year-old son Gabe took the brunt of a sideline collision with a couple of players who had just run out of bounds. He broke the femur on his right leg and the tibia on his left leg.
The good news is “G-Money” is going to be OK.
“He’s banged up,” Issendorf said. “It was a double whammy.”
It was a double whammy for all involved. First, understand that G-Money is like one of the players, a fixture on the sideline whether it be in practice or games. He’ll eat in the cafeteria with them; be around them anyway he can.
The players love him. He drives them nuts at times, Issendorf said, but they love him.
That’s what made the incident last Saturday that much tougher. Running back Desean Phillips, after getting the ball in space on the outside, was trying to beat a Fond du Lac player to the sideline when he got shoved out of bounds.
G-Money knew the drill. He did as instructed by going opposite of the way a player is running near the sideline so as to get behind the play.
“Then we he shoved him he went straight out of bounds instead of at an angle,” Issendorf said. “Gabe happened to walk into it.”
What followed is a series of events that no head coach/parent would ever want to think about. An ambulance was called. Thankfully, Issendorf’s wife, oldest son and sister were at the game.
There was pain with G-Money, but nothing beyond that. He could wiggle his toes, his pulse was good and the medical care was top notch. So the decision was made for Eric to stay back and coach the game (he’s also the defensive coordinator), his wife Trisha to go with G-Money in the ambulance and his sister to take the car to Sanford Health in West Fargo.
His oldest son, Isaiah, remained on the sideline to keep Eric updated on G-Money’s status.
“Obviously, you want to be with him,” Eric said. “But you have to hold true to what you’re doing. My wife understands it. Just being able to experience how tight your family is, my wife knew I couldn’t go. What came of it is how much of a football family you are. It builds everything from toughness to patience.”
Meanwhile, the Wildcat players put their toughness to test. Behind 14-0 at that time of G-Money's injury, defensive back Nathan Seward came up to his head coach and said, “We got your back coach, we’re going to get this done.”
Seward intercepted three passes and the Wildcats scored 17 fourth quarter points to win 38-28. After his first season at NDSCS, Issendorf was right on the culture thing. It works. It’s what he took from being an assistant at North Dakota State, Concordia and Fargo South.
“Credit our captains and the 19 sophomores that we kept,” he said. “The thing we talk about in recruiting, you need to be a Wildcat, not just looking to go somewhere else right away because that attitude translates to four-year schools. Gabe is a special kid and is a fabric of our team and our program. The kids dug deep and never lost their poised.”
Meanwhile, later at Sanford, G-Money wanted to see Phillips, the back who ran into him. He wanted to make sure Phillips was OK and wanted to tell him it wasn’t his fault.
“He went through all that and he’s still thinking about the player,” Issendorf said.
Creating a family football atmosphere at the likes of NDSU is one thing. Players are there four to five years. Doing it at a two-year school where player turnover happens fast is another.
Label 2019 a major success already at Wahpeton. Getting G-Money back on the sideline will double the success.