FARGO -- It’s one of those streaks that’s good for the sake of conversation while sitting around the tailgating grill on a nice Saturday afternoon in the Fargodome parking lot. You used to see the city prominently displayed on the Bison “Thunderstruck” entrance video, but that has morphed into other graphical elements.
Still, when Levi Jordheim starts at outside linebacker Saturday, Sept. 23, against Robert Morris University and Zach Kubas gets in as the backup right guard, they will continue a run of players from Dickinson, N.D. It is almost unheard of for a community of that size. The last year there was nobody from the “Queen City” on the Bison roster? 1997.
That’s 19 straight years.
The oil boom has come and gone over the years in Dickinson, with the population ranging from around 16,000 to 18,000 from 2000 to 2010 to at least 23,000 in recent years. The football talent good enough to play at the Division I FCS level, however, has remained steady.
The Division II years part of the streak, 1998-2003, had two to three players on the roster each year, but that began to dwindle once the Division I schedule began in 2004.
Still, thanks to running back Kyle Steffes, tight end Landon Smith and wide receiver Nate Moody, the streak of Dickinson players remained intact. Smith did it solo from 2007-10 and Moody held the fort from 2011-13 until Jordheim walked on in 2014.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Jordheim said. “There are always guys from Dickinson who work hard, put in their time and do what they can for the program.”
The Kubas family has been more involved in the Bison football program than perhaps any other in Dickinson. Monte Kubas, Zach’s father, was a defensive lineman for NDSU from 1991-94. And if there’s any question how long the Dickinson streak will go on, the Kubas’ have at least one answer. It could be at least another five years.
Jacob Kubas, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior offensive lineman at Dickinson Trinity, has verbally committed to join his brother at NDSU.
“It will be nice to have him here,” Zach said.
When the Bison moved from Division II to Division I, there were doubts if anybody from North Dakota would be good enough to play in Fargo. Steffes dispelled that notion rather quickly and remains the program’s third all-time leading rusher -- with the last three years against a Division I schedule.
A decade later, the history lesson isn’t lost on Zach Kubas.
“When we first went Division I, a lot of people thought the North Dakota kids couldn’t compete at this level no matter what the sport,” he said. “But it’s been proven. You look at the guys from Landon all the way back.”
Not that he needed more NDSU influence, Smith also helped steer Zach Kubas toward Fargo. He attended a summer football camp where Smith was a coach before his senior year at Trinity.
“He gave me the background, what it was like for him,” Zach Kubas said, “what it was like from his freshman year all the way on up. It was nice to have a guy you know help prepare yourself.”
Smith, a tight end, was part of the back-to-back 10-1 teams in 2006 and 2007. Moody’s timing couldn’t have been better -- he left in 2015 with five FCS national title rings as a wide receiver.
A national title is a goal the new generation of Dickinson natives are searching for. Since 1998, the city has always been represented on a Bison football team.
“I think it’s guys that bank on being three-sport athletes,” Jordheim said. “They’re not dedicated to one thing, but try to be good at everything they do. They’re active in football, basketball, wrestling, track, baseball -- all those things.”