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Memory Lane was a sweet walk for former Bison player, current NFL coach

Jerry Rosburg, associated head coach of the Baltimore Ravens

FARGO — It's been a popular Twitter post this week by former North Dakota State football players still trying to live their NFL dreams. It included a care package of Bison swag like a stocking cap, a cup and a T-shirt delivered to their door. It's a nice touch to keep the alums engaged.

Another former NDSU player now in the NFL got his care package in person last weekend in Fargo. Jerry Rosburg, the current associate head coach for the Baltimore Ravens, took advantage of the team's bye week to attend a reunion of his 1977 Bison North Central Conference title team.

It was his first trip back since he was an assistant coach at Northern Michigan in the 1980s and the Wildcats got schooled 52-7 by the Bison in 1986 at old Dacotah Field.

"We felt the wrath of the Bison that day," he said.

It wasn't long after Rosburg flew into Fargo when he went for about a two-hour walk around campus, zipped over to where Fargo Shanley used to be and went by a house down the street where he used to live. It was literally a walk down Memory Lane.

One problem: Shanley is no longer there with the new school now located in south Fargo. Thankfully, a few campus buildings and the old brick grandstand at Dacotah were still there or there wouldn't have been much he recognized from his college days.

"Your memories just come flooding back," Rosburg said. "A lot of things changed, but a lot of things remained the same."

One thing that remained the same is the style of Bison football. The '77 team was a veteran group that was strong on the offensive and defensive lines, had a productive running game and was stout on defense against the run.

Rosburg was given the honor to speak to the current Bison players the day before they played the University of South Dakota last Saturday and made the connection from 40 years ago to today.

"I've seen them play football on TV and I have the videos for scouting ... I see a team that has those same characteristics," he said. "Great effort. Guys that are tough. They run the ball and support each other — nobody's trying to draw attention to themselves. I see the spirit of the program. It's football as it's meant to be played."

Rosburg was an all-American linebacker in 1977 who ascended the career coaching ladder with success and consistency. He started as an assistant at Shanley. From there he went to Northern Michigan, Western Michigan, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Boston College and Notre Dame before getting his break in the NFL.

He spent five years with Cleveland, one with Atlanta and the last nine with the Ravens. In all, it's been a 39-year run. His list of accomplishments as a special teams coach in the NFL is quite extensive.

This last weekend for Rosburg, however, was just plain special.

"Bison football is still important to us," he said. "A few of the guys, former roommates, I've seen off and on over the years. And there were people I hadn't seen in forever so it was great to see them."

Rosburg didn't immediately didn't recognize one of them when the players first got together and couldn't hear his name during introductions. The man seemed quiet and unassuming. It turned out to be Ward Arntson, an offensive guard back in the playing days and a retired brigadier general.

"He joined ROTC in college so he could get 100 bucks a month and 32 years later retired from the Army," Rosburg said. "A long story short, he was a brigadier general for the 101st Airborne. Whatever the rest of us have done pales in comparison. There were so many successful men that came out of that class. I'm humbled and proud to be a part of that group."

As for his last visit to Fargo? His Northern Michigan wasn't the only team to feel that wrath of a Bison team that went 13-0 in 1986 and beat USD in the national title game. Last Saturday, Rosburg watched the Bison stick a 49-14 defeat on the Coyotes.

Not everything has changed.

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

(701) 241-5546
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