There was a lot of cheering around Fargo, N .D., when the North Dakota State University Bison college football team won its third consecutive Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national title when they defeated Towson, M.D., 35-7, on Saturday, Jan. 4, in North Texas.
But there was also cheering in the Lake Shore and Nisswa communities.
That’s because NDSU starting offensive tackle Joe Haeg is from Lake Shore and attended Nisswa Elementary School from kindergarten to fifth grade.
“My mom (Janet) is the librarian at Nisswa School,” Haeg said in a recent phone interview. “So I think some of the staff and older students watched the (championship) game. My mom also talks with other (NDSU) alumni back home, and they probably watched the game.”
The fans which supported the Bison were thanked in person as Haeg returned to Nisswa School last week on his break from college.
“I stopped by the school and talk with the kids,” he said. “It was really fun. I was there about an hour and I talked with the kids, and showed them my (championship) ring from last year.”
Two of the Nisswa classes that Haeg visited were in the rooms of his former teachers - Karla Ziegler and Sarah Baker.
“Everything seemed a little smaller,” Haeg said of his old school building.
Haeg was much smaller when he started his football career playing for the Nisswa team in the Brainerd Youth Athletic Association program back in fourth and fifth grade. He went on to play high school football for the Brainerd Warriors, and today is a 6-foot-6, 293-pound lineman.
He was a red-shirt player his first year at NDSU, but worked hard in the offseason, and has now started 29 of the last 30 games the past two seasons for the Bison. He was honored as the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week last October.
“I still remember being a lineman in (BYAA) football,” recalled Haeg. “I’ve always liked the (lakes) area. I hope I can come back to live there some day.”
For now, Haeg is happy being part of the NDSU program. His blocking skills were a big reason for the Bison’s passing and rushing success this season.
“It’s unbelievable how much my life changed going to NDSU,” the civil engineering major said in a recent Brainerd Dispatch story. “It was probably one of the best decisions of my life. There were a lot of places I could have ended up, but I liked what I saw at NDSU. I liked the coaches, I liked the program. It’s similar to Brainerd — success is a common theme.”