FARGO — It was back when he was a freshman in high school — all 5-foot-8 and 125 pounds of him — when Carson Wentz dreamed about being a quarterback someday. If only he could be like the bigger kids.
If only he could reach 6 feet tall, he thought to himself. Then, just maybe, the high school coaches would look at him as the potential starting quarterback at Century High School.
“That’s what I was praying for,” Wentz said.
The prayers were answered, and then some. Before Carson Wentz became the 6-foot-6, 231-pound starting quarterback for North Dakota State this season, he was a growing boy in high school.
He reached 5-foot-10 as a sophomore and that’s when things really started to take off. He grew to 6-3 as a junior and 6-5 as a senior.
“You could see the frame coming, but by no means did we estimate 6-5 or 6-6,” said Century head football coach Ron Wingenbach. “Just the physical awareness you see of Carson now is the most imposing thing. Look at the weight; he’s put on a lot of good pounds.”
Depending on who you talk to, Wentz has grown 10 inches and put on almost 100 pounds since his freshman year in high school. Those were part of the growing up years with his older brother, Zach Wentz, a former standout baseball player for the Bison.
Both were outstanding high school quarterbacks at Century, and Wingenbach will tell you two of the most enjoyable years his staff has had in his 25 at the school were when Zach was a senior in 2007 and Carson a senior in 2010. A big reason was the leadership and camaraderie each brother brought to the team.
“You wish you could clone them. It would make coaching a heck of a lot easier,” Wingenbach said.
You probably couldn’t ask for more complete student-athletes. Zach finished his college career with a 3.96 grade-point average, getting a B in one class because his percentage was 89.4 percent and the professor wouldn’t budge.
Carson carries a 4.0 GPA in physical and health education and is most likely following the same career path as Zach, a teacher at Century and a coach at the new Legacy High School. The fact Carson has the chance to finish college with a higher GPA than Zach makes it likely he will do so.
Like any competitive brothers, they had their battles growing up. They beat on each other. Every game or every anything had to have a winner.
“I tended to win the earlier battles,” Zach said. “I have a feeling now things would be a little different. To see his maturity has been really special. To see him as an athlete, to see his leadership ability come out, makes me proud as an older brother.”
It used to be for so many years that Carson went through life with the title, “Zach’s Younger Brother.” There’s still the occasional reference, like one photo from an in-state North Dakota newspaper about a month ago that referred to Carson as Zach. There was the time Carson scored a touchdown at Century and the public-address announcer credited it to Zach Wentz.
“He’s been my role model for quite some time. Now I finally get to look down at him a little bit,” Carson said with a smile. “All jokes aside, he’s meant a ton to me coming here. And just with life and family things, we’ve been through a ton together, and having him there has just been great.”
Zach Wentz signed at NDSU as a preferred walk-on quarterback in football, but baseball eventually won out. The recruitment of Carson was unique in the late frenzy of schools that went after him.
It wasn’t until past the midway point of his senior year at Century before Missouri Valley Football Conference schools like Southern Illinois, South Dakota State, North Dakota and NDSU contacted him, Wingenbach said.
“Even then, it was lukewarm, more of an inquiry,” he said.
The heat turned up when Central Michigan of the FBS Mid-American Conference entered the picture. CMU head coach Dan Enos was formerly an offensive coordinator at NDSU.
“Then all of a sudden it got real intense,” Wingenbach said.
Part of the reason was Wentz broke his hand his junior year, and when he returned to the lineup he became essentially a one-handed receiver, Wingenbach said. There wasn’t much quarterback tape on him until his senior season.
But by the time Central Michigan was about to offer, Carson said he made up his mind. NDSU was the place. He no longer was he a 5-8, 125-pound freshman quarterback, but a full-scholarship recruit at an in-state FCS school.
“I always thought the skillset was there, but I didn’t know what level or what sport,” Zach said. “He was always a fairly high-strung guy, and I was more patient, so baseball was more for me. Carson likes to be on the go-go and he blossomed into the football kid he is now.”