There will be no lack of Minnesota flavor when North Dakota State University (14-1) plays Illinois State (13-1) for a fourth straight FCS National Championship Saturday afternoon in Frisco, Texas.
Minnesota kids have played key roles in each run to national glory.
John Crockett, a star running back for coach Jeff Ferguson at Totino-Grace High School, is NDSU's most dominant offensive weapon. The fifth-year senior rushed for an eye-popping 1,920 yards and 20 touchdowns in 15 games. If he racks up his season average of more than 120 yards, he'll easily crack 2,000 yards for the season. Check out all the NDSU stats right here.
But Crockett isn't the only former Minnesota prep star going for another title with the Bison. Minneapolis North's Carlton Littlejohn, an outstanding linebacker for NDSU, is also going for the four-peat, as noted by Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune. The former all-state wrestler leads the team in tackles with 109.
“When I came up here, I really had no clue what kind of support there was for the Bison,’’ Littlejohn told Reusse. “I had no idea it could be so crazy that ESPN would bring ‘GameDay’ here two years in a row to be part of it.’’
NDSU has a video series in Frisco, Texas, in which they follow a player around for a full day. Crockett was one of the player's profiled.
NDSU's leading wide receiver is also a Minnesota kid. Zach Vraa, Minnesota's Mr. Football winner from Rosemount in 2009, is NDSU's leading receiver with 39 receptions for 580 yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Kevin Vaadeland, a Park Rapids native, has 13 career touchdowns, including three this season.
They'll all go up against Illinois State, a team referred to as a "giant-killer" by USA Today.
NDSU and Illinois State were co-conference champions out of the Missouri Valley Conference. They did not meet in the regular season.