With Lance, it didn't take long for NDSU to take center stage in a pro day

The eyes of the NFL will be on former Bison quarterback Trey Lance Friday, much like they were on Carson Wentz.

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance throws a pass against South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D., on Saturday, Oct. 26. 2019. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — The North Dakota State Pro Day that featured Carson Wentz and his NFL potential in 2016 was as glamorous as it could get, at least for a quarterback throwing to receivers with no defensive backs. The Bison have had their share of big-time moments in the last decade and that was one of them.

Never to be seen again.

Until Friday.

The NCAA Division I FCS school will be on the same platform again with Trey Lance showing his potential with 30 of the 32 NFL teams being represented at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. That includes some general managers and head coaches. At stake: How does Lance stack up to being a potential high pick in the first round?

NDSU quarterbacks coach Randy Hedberg coached Wentz for his last two seasons in college and mentored Lance during three years in the program. Lance declared early for the NFL Draft, which is set for April 30-May 1.


“The major difference is Carson was in his fifth-year season and Trey was a third-year sophomore,” Hedberg said. “There’s a little difference in age. I think both have the ability to throw the ball with accuracy. Trey has advanced knowledge of defenses like Carson so there are similarities there. Trey is very athletic, we ran a lot with Trey. We didn’t have the quarterback run game as much with Carson as we did with Trey.”

The Pro Day will be closed to the public, but will be televised live on the NFL Network and ESPN. Former Bison offensive lineman Dillon Radunz and former cornerback Marquise Bridges will also take part. reported Lance will not run the 40-yard dash or do any agility drills. The online website reported Lance’s 44-yard touchdown run against James Madison in the 2019 Division I FCS national championship game was the 12th-fastest among all backs and best among quarterbacks according to GPS tracker technology. He was clocked at 21.54 miles per hour.

It’s going to be all about the throws.

“I can tell you, the arm speed from the trigger position through the throw and release point, he had that from Day 1,” Hedberg said.

The last time NDSU players were scrutinized this hard on pro day was in 2016 when Wentz put his skills on display in front of the NFL Network and ESPN. Wentz was on his game, completing 62 of 65 passes to a variety of receivers running a variety of routes.

Bison head coach Matt Entz was the NDSU defensive coordinator when Wentz went through his workout. Plus, the Bison weren’t in the midst of a season like they are with the Missouri Valley Football Conference spring season. NDSU hosts Illinois State on Saturday afternoon.


“It’s apples and oranges,” Entz said. “I’ve had more interviews this week and leading up to this week. It’s been good, it’s positive attention to our program and will bring a bright light on three incredible Bison.”

Nobody saw Lance rising in stock this fast. Hedberg remembers standing on the south stage of Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, after the Bison defeated James Madison for the 2019 FCS national title. The day prior, Lance was named the winner of the Walter Payton Award that goes to the best player in the FCS and the Jerry Rice Award that goes to the best freshman.

“And I was thinking we get this guy for three more years,” Hedberg said. “That changed in a couple of months. It happened fast; probably didn’t happen like I wanted it to happen, but I’m happy for Trey, he’s earned everything he’s gotten to this point.”

Heading into Pro Day, there is no questioning Lance’s personality, intelligence, leadership and ability to be part of an NFL huddle by the Bison coaches.

“He’s a great teammate,” Hedberg said. “He treated everybody on the team the same way and respected them. That’s extremely important. Not everybody has that trait, but Trey Lance has it. He’s one of the best guys we’ve had as a teammate and a great friend to the players in the program.”

Entz said the Bison players will be allowed to watch their former teammates from afar in the dome. It’s part of why it was scheduled for the morning so the NDSU players have the afternoon to continue preparations for Illinois State.

Speaking of, this week, Redbirds head coach Brock Spack was asked about the young quarterbacks in the Missouri Valley Football Conference this spring before the conversation turned to Lance.

“I know our guys were extremely impressed with Trey Lance,” Spack said. “A lot of them said that’s the best player I’ve ever played against.”


On Friday, 30 NFL teams will get an up-close look at NDSU’s third straight quarterback who developed into a pro prospect. Easton Stick was a fifth-round pick of the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2019 NFL Draft.

“The bottom line is all three of them are big-time competitors who want to win in whatever they do, whether that is football or golf,” Hedberg said. “That’s the No. 1 trait for all three of them, which I think is very good at the next level.”

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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