Today marked the first full practice outdoors for the Bison and you know the guys that play in the interior were all for it more than anybody else. It just fits their style. I talked with one of the big fellas afterward in left guard Bryce Messner, a senior who is Example 221 of a small-town North Dakota kid who walked on or signed with the Bison, went through the drudgery of the early years of being a practice guy, stuck it out and made it. (A story on Messner’s duo-number tight end-offensive line role will be in Tuesday’s newspaper).
It’s a story so common that it almost defies logic. Messner is from Dakota Prairie High School and if you’re scoring at home, it’s located in Petersburg, N.D., population 192 located between Grand Forks and Devils Lake. I’ve driven through there on a few occasions but it’s one of those places you drive through and that’s about it. “Kind of a textbook small-town North Dakota thing,” Messner said. “I take great pride in that and wouldn’t change where I came from. It was awesome.”
Messner played 9-man football. So did the Tuszka brothers in Warner, S.D. and Jarrod is a starting defensive end and Derek will play a lot at another d-end position. The Volson brothers — Tanner and Cordell — played 9-man ball at Drake-Anamoose. Tanner is the starting center this spring. Luke Bacon, currently the starting right tackle, is a 9-man product of Towner-Granville-Upham. The transition to 11-man ball is never easy, much at less at the FCS level and it takes time, but NDSU has made it work.
“Right away it was a whole new world,” Messner said. “Coming from 9-man to 11-man, just the speed of the game and the power of the game and I remember getting whooped up every day.”
Plus, Messner said his high school team ran to what amounted to be a spread offense, so coming to a program that runs power football was that much more the adjustment. Messner was a defensive tackle until last season when he was moved to the offensive line. There’s a long way before he’ll be confirmed as the opening-game starter; it’s possible the Bison could move Colin Conner to guard and insert Dillon Radunz at left tackle. But Messner is certainly in the mix. It’s an impressive resume of improvement from the first day of being on the team as a true freshman not knowing a whole lot about the 11-man game.