Bison Game Day: It took 46 games, but long road worth it for NDSU DE Dylan Hendricks – InForum


FARGO — One of the first video business deals for the North Dakota State soccer team this week in preparation for Friday’s FCS Division I Quarterfinals game against Samford University had nothing to do with the Bulldogs. It had everything to do with a quarterback sack from Bison Junior defensive end Dylan Hendricks in last week’s second-round win over Montana.

And it didn’t really have much to do with that. NDSU head coach Matt Entz said he wanted to note the reaction from Hendricks’ teammates. It was pretty celebratory.

They essentially realized the long road it took for Hendricks to even play college football. It lasted three years and six games. So long that Hendricks joked he might hold the team record for longest time it took to make a college debut.

“The goal that keeps driving me is not to give up,” Hendricks said. “I’ve put too much time and effort into making this work.”

From Hendrick’s real freshman season in 2019 to his first game on Oct. 8 against Indiana State, the Bison played 46 games.

In his senior year of high school in Pulaski, Wisconsin, he tore his cruciate ligament playing rugby. He tore the meniscus in his knee while trying to recover from it in his freshman year at NDSU. Then in December 2020, while at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, he got into a car accident and injured his neck.

“I’ve made some really bad decisions and paid for them,” Hendricks said. “I learned a lot. I think it taught me a lot. I’ve certainly been through a lot. I had to fight a lot just to keep my place on this team.”

Hendricks said despite all his falls, the Bison coaches and his teammates never lost touch. He hoped to avoid any surgery on his neck and let it heal on its own, but eventually that plan failed and surgery was scheduled.

“Dylan has had a few moments in his career here at NDSU where he was almost not a bison,” Entz said. “He made some very bad decisions. But it’s exciting to see how a young man can turn it around and thrive.”

Entz said it was also important for Hendricks to have supportive teammates, as evidenced by the Montana film. Hendricks said two things happened after he brought Griz quarterback Daniel Britt onto the Fargodome turf: He immediately looked into the stands and saw his mother and brother and then the Bison players jumping around and screaming.

“I definitely feel a lot better in terms of what I’ve been working towards,” Hendricks said. “I can do this; it is an achievable thing.”

Entz said: “We keep pouring on him, he’s been struggling a lot. For him, success and pure joy. When he had that sack, look at everyone on the touchline and how excited they were for No. 95. It’s nice to see and it’s the right time of year for us.

It’s a good time of year, with the Bisons struggling with injuries and the usual battle-hardened ailments of a team that has played 12 games. Defensive end Spencer Waege didn’t finish the Montana game with a lower back injury but will return against Samford. Tony Pierce, the other starting defensive end, recently missed two games.

Defensive end Jake Kava was lost for the season in early October. Four more D-Ends are in their freshman or sophomore years, with redshirt newcomer Kole Menz seeing his role expanded.

Hendricks came to NDSU as a 225-pound linebacker. He redshirted 2019 with 2020 natural progression coming onto the field. That didn’t happen.

But he has grown to 6ft 3 and 243lbs. Learning the collegiate game and a new position wouldn’t be the problem, said Jerad Marsh, his coach at Pulaski High School. At Pulaski, he immediately absorbed the details of the game.

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North Dakota State’s Dylan Hendricks catches Montana’s Daniel Britt during the NCAA FCS playoffs at the Fargodome on Saturday December 3, 2022.

David Samson/The Forum

“He was one of those players who had a great feeling for football,” Marsh said. “You would install something, you watch him after you talk to him about it and immediately he was able to do whatever we asked him to do and understand how that fit into the system.”

Marsh was at Gate City Bank Field in the Fargodome for the University of North Dakota game three weeks ago. He said Hendricks introduced him to his teammates, further making the point of why his former star player would stay on and play college ball after so many years off.

“They make it really hard not to like football or deal with football in the way that they put him through it,” Marsh said. “The coaching staff, the support of families, the wherewithal to get through those injuries…he never got hurt in high school. Never. And getting through that is a testament to how this program is being run.”

Pulaski is a small village of around 3,500 people northwest of Green Bay. The Bison have made a living playing small-town Wisconsin players over the years, including fullback Hunter Luepke from Spencer, who makes up half of Pulaski’s population.

Like Luepke with career touchdowns, Hendricks was a Wisconsin state record holder and is currently fifth all-time in rushing yards with 6,359.

“He’s one of those guys that the kids are still talking about,” Marsh said. “After three, four, five years without school, that usually resolves itself, but even with our little kids, the lads who were Waterboys when he played, that’s the guy that when you talk about Pulaski football, that Name is that comes out of their mouths.”

However, defense was his college calling. NDSU first recruited him as an athlete before the conversation switched to linebacker.

“I just fell in love with defense,” he said.

After three years, the NDSU could not be more grateful.

“I think everyone on this team, except maybe a few newbies, understands my story and the things I’ve been through,” Hendricks said. “I mean everyone helped me with that. I loved how they all got into the game and cheered me and everything on.”