When the big boys came calling late, Bartholomew Ogbu stayed loyal to the Bison.
The two sport standout at Shiloh Christian, who arrived in Bismarck as a ninth-grader from Nigeria, officially signed to play college football for FCS powerhouse NDSU on Wednesday.
Ogbu, considered the No. 1 prospect in North Dakota, drew late interest from FBS Power 5 teams Vanderbilt of the SEC and Georgia Tech from the ACC. Both schools made in-house visits, but NDSU's early and persistent interest, spearheaded by assistant coaches Randy Hedberg and Buddha Williams, won out.
"For me, NDSU was the best place," Ogbu said. "I fell in love with the coaching staff and the program ... and obviously, they win a lot."
UND finished second for Ogbu's services. In fact, Bubba Schweigert's program in Grand Forks was the first to show serious interest in the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, who also excels in basketball for the Skyhawks.
"UND treated me very well," Ogbu said. "It was very special to me that they considered me like they did."
Liberty University (Va.) and Wyoming, coached by former NDSU head coach Craig Bohl, also were in the mix.
"I'm very blessed to be in this position," said Ogbu, who started his signing ceremony by thanking his family members in Nigeria, the family he lives with in Bismarck (Brad and Kathy Miller), his coaches, teammates and friends at Shiloh.
"So many people helped me to be in this position," he said. "I'm so thankful to be surrounded by so many great people."
Ogbu is projected as a defensive end at NDSU.
"They want to put some pounds on me and make me a good pass rusher," he said.
Shiloh Christian football coach Funnon Barker said the Bison are getting a gem.
"His best football is in front of him for sure," Barker said. "His ceiling is very high. We're looking forward to watching him grow into a great football player at NDSU."
Tough decision for 2-sport star
Trae Steckler had options.
The Mandan multi-sport standout has excelled on the football field and basketball court for the Braves, making his college decision a little tricky.
In the end, a chance to play for the Bison was too good to pass up. Steckler signed with NDSU as a recruited walk-on with the opportunity to earn a scholarship.
"They said it was really close," Steckler said when it came to getting a scholarship offer from NDSU. "Being a walk-on it just makes me that much more hungry to go and prove myself. It's definitely motivation for me to get bigger, get stronger and just get after it."
Steckler, projected as a tight end in the mold of current standout Jeff Illies from Lidgerwood, N.D., had plenty of scholarship opportunities.
UND showed interest. NCAA Division II teams were in hot pursuit, including MSU Moorhead, Bemidji State and the University of Mary.
Oh, and of course, there was the round-ball option.
Valley City was dreaming of a Steckler sweep, but the Vikings had to settle for half. Trae's brother Camren signed with VCSU where their dad Dave also played basketball. Trae and Camren have Mandan currently 4-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state.
"It was a tough call. The good thing is we're only 40 minutes apart," Trae said of Camren playing basketball in Valley City. "We both feel good about how things worked out."
Both brothers also have excelled in the classroom as members of the National Honor Society.
Like Brother ... Like Brother
Mark Stumpf knows all about the fanfare that comes with playing in the Fargodome.
His brother MJ was a star linebacker for NDSU from 2012-16.
Now, Mark hopes to blaze his own trail in green and gold after signing as a recruited walk-on.
"When they made the offer, it was a no-brainer for me," the 6-2, 185-pound Stumpf said. "There's nothing quite like the atmosphere when the fireworks are going off and all the noise. It's definitely something that's really unique."
Mark, who also had interest from the University of Mary and Bemidji State, will follow in the footsteps of his brother and play linebacker, although he doesn't feel any pressure to live up to the lofty standard of his long-haired, play-making mentor.
"My brother was a great player and did some amazing things there, but I'm trying to make my own path," he said. "I've always tried to be as mentally prepared as possible. I'm not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, but I think that's where the weight training and all the hard work comes in.
"I'm excited and ready to get to work."