Stick says Lance's willingness to study was 'unique' for a true freshman last year

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, left, is shown here as a true freshman during practice. Lance learned from veteran quarterback Easton Stick, right, last season. Stick is now with the Los Angeles Chargers. David Samson / The Forum


Easton Stick was in graduate school during his final season of North Dakota State football, so the commitment to be in a classroom wasn’t as taxing as it is on most undergraduates. He spent a good chunk of his day during the week at the Fargodome studying opponents.

By his side was a true freshman who spent as much time as school would allow to hang with Stick.

That would be Trey Lance, who many times over the course of this season has credited Stick with helping him learn the tools of the trade of Division I FCS football. The mentor has looked good. Lance won the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the FCS and has led the Bison to the national title game Jan. 11 against James Madison.

“He was there with me every day in the morning,” Stick said. “He was there when he didn’t have class and that’s unique as a freshman. Just being a backup, it’s hard to prepare that way … but it was impressive in seeing his willingness to study, learn the game and prepare.”


Stick, the third string quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers, has watched as much Bison football this year as time allowed. He’s seen Lance become more comfortable in the NDSU offensive system as the year has gone on.

He’s seen Lance call some audibles at the line of scrimmage. Not many freshman quarterbacks across the country get the keys to do that.

“You can tell how confident he is when he’s playing,” Stick said. “He doesn’t get rattled and those are all the qualities that I saw in him.”

Stick first saw those qualities when Lance began summer workouts with the Bison players in June of 2018. He was just days removed from receiving his high school diploma in Marshall, Minn.

“You could tell he was a little more mature than most guys coming in as freshmen,” Stick said. “He was eager to learn what we were doing. He didn’t say a whole lot, just put your head down and study. He picked it up quick. He’s smart.”

The two players have remained in touch mostly through text messaging. With the decade being considered over after 2019, it is Lance who is taking the baton from years of title excellence at the position into the next decade.

Brock Jensen led the Bison to three national titles from 2011-13. Carson Wentz took over in 2014 and ‘15 with a strong assist from Stick in his last year after Wentz missed eight games with an injury.

With Wentz in the NFL, Stick and Wentz talked often during Stick’s senior year at NDSU. Now it’s Stick doing the mentoring to Lance.


“I enjoyed spending time with him and I’m glad we still have a relationship,” Stick said.

With Stick at the controls, the Bison went 15-0 and defeated Eastern Washington in the national championship game. Like Lance is this year, Stick was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award that goes to the top offensive player in the FCS.

Stick did not attend the Payton banquet the night before the title game. Lance will follow the same protocol.

“At this time, he’s going to stay at the hotel with his teammates,” said Bison head coach Matt Entz.

Entz said the Wentz-Stick-Lance run of Bison quarterbacks has an important common denominator in NDSU quarterbacks coach Randy Hedberg. Stick had to play in 2015 as a redshirt freshman. Lance, who played in two games last season but still preserved his redshirt because of the four-game NCAA rule, was the No. 2 quarterback at the end of the year, but was not needed because Stick remained healthy.

It meant Hedberg had to get both quarterbacks up to FCS speed in a hurry.

“What an unbelievable quarterbacks coach he’s been,” Entz said. “You just look at the last five, six years of his body of work. It’s pretty impressive.”


Former North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick, far left, was a mentor for Trey Lance, second from left, last season. Lance has had a strong redshirt freshman season this fall as the Bison starter. David Samson / The Forum

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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