Trey Lance Is Quickly Emerging From Shadows Cast By Wentz, Stick At NDSU

Each of the last two QB1s at North Dakota State transitioned to the NFL. If Delaware coach Danny Rocco’s initial impression proves prophetic, redshirt freshman Trey Lance can make it three in a row.  

“There’s a couple of things that I recognize at first glance that would lead me to believe they’ve got another one there,” he said. “The last two were pretty stinkin’ good.”

The last two are Carson Wentz, the 2016 first-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, and fast-rising pro star; and Easton Stick, a rookie with the Los Angeles Chargers. 

One of the two was on the rosters of six of North Dakota State’s seven FCS national championships, helping to establish a legacy Lance aims to both continue and learn from. 

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“It’s really cool, getting to know those guys — Brock [Jensen], also,” Lance said, making sure to shout-out Jensen, as well. Jensen never made an NFL regular-season roster but began the North Dakota State dynasty as QB1 of the 2011-through-2013 championship teams. 

“How they handled their business, on and off the field, the type of people they are; how willing they are to help,” Lance said is the most profound impact his predecessors have had on his transition to college football, and Stick in particular as a mentor last season. “Easton’s the most detailed person I’ve ever met. I didn’t know, coming to college, it was possible to focus on the little things like he did.” 

And the dual-threat playmaker from Marshall, Minn., came to North Dakota State because of the standard those three set. Lance cited “winning championships” as one of the primary factors in his decision during the recruiting process, passing interested FBS suitors like Boise State and Northern Illinois. 

Playing for the Bison has indeed been an awfully reliable path to winning a championship; they claim seven of the last eight, and head into a Week 3 showdown with No. 18 Delaware ranked atop the FCS polls. 

A program doesn’t dominate the way North Dakota State has without attracting and cultivating NFL-caliber talent. From Wentz to Stick and at other positions, too — recently retired linebacker Kyle Emanuel, Green Bay Packers starting guard Billy Turner — NDSU is doing that. 

Landing a talented prospect the quality of Lance shows how that resonates on the recruiting trail. And with Lance balling out in his redshirt freshman season, the process looks cyclical. 

Lance heads into Delaware with two career starts, in which he’s completed 21-of-26 pass attempts for 347 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Lance also has 211 rushing yards on 21 carries with four touchdowns. 

Oh — and the quarterback’s services have not yet been needed for a full contest. 

Game film is limited, but Rocco didn’t need much to know he saw a special player. 

“He’s tall, the ball comes out quick, [the] ball comes out high above the defensive line,” the Delaware coach said. “He throws accurate passes, throws a good spiral.”

Rocco added Lance’s “dual-threat abilities” stood out, whether “by design or impromptu.” 

That’s not a new quality among the recent run of North Dakota State quarterbacks: Stick rushed for almost 700 yards a season ago, a chunk of his program-record 11,216 of total offense. But Lance just might take it to another level, leading the Bison in rushing early on. 

The future looks impossibly bright for Trey Lance. He has the skill set to become the Bison’s third straight NFL quarterback. He might well have a Walter Payton Award in his future, something no one from the program has accomplished, as unlikely as it might seem. And, because it’s impossible to talk North Dakota State football and not mention national championships, he’ll strive to keep the dynasty rolling. 

But in the meantime, the most important thing to him? 

“Next week,” he said.

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