Bud Etzold will be the first to tell you that Dickinson State football coach Hank Biesiot has an unorthodox way of luring a standout athlete into his program.
Etzold, who heads Jamestown's football program, coached with Biesiot for nine years and now game plans around Dickinson State.
Biesiot isn't one to make empty promises to a recruit. He won't fill a kid with flattery.
"Hank will say, ‘Well, it's your senior year and you're going to graduate. I suppose you're thinking about going to college,'" Etzold said. "The kid will look at him and say ‘Yes.'"
Biesiot will go on to tell the kid about Dickinson State's football program. There are still no promises and no flattery.
"You look at the kid's face and he's dumbfounded," Etzold said. "This kid is thinking, ‘Doesn't this guy know who I am?'"
If the athlete says he's interested in playing football, Biesiot will continue.
"Hank will say, ‘Good, football isn't for everybody. It takes a lot of time and you have classes. It's going to be tough. I think you're a good player and you'd have a chance to play college football. I can't make you any guarantees. It's not like buying a new set of tires,'" Etzold said. "Hank will say, ‘We'd love to have you. We can get you scholarship money to help with school, but nobody's on a full ride.'"
Etzold was always amazed that Biesiot's approach worked more times than not.
"It worked every dang time," Etzold said. "Hank is a frugal guy. He'll give a kid $300 or $400, and the kid thinks they're getting a bunch of money."
Just like Biesiot's recruiting style, his teams at Dickinson State have never been flashy. But like Biesiot's success rate in finding the right athletes, his teams pump out winning campaigns.
Biesiot enters the year just five wins away from tying the NAIA's all-time record in football wins.
Biesiot is starting his 37th year at the helm, all at Dickinson State, with a career record of 251-96-1, a win percentage of .723. The record is currently held by Frosty Westering, who most recently coached at Pacific Lutheran in Washington.
"I don't think coaches think about that," Biesiot said of approaching the milestone. "Coaches aren't really into that type of thing. They think of the first game and every game after that."
Dave Michaelson, a former head football coach at Dickinson High and a former player of Biesiot's, figured Biesiot would downplay the situation.
"I can just hear Hank," said Michaelson, who coaches track and field at DHS. "He'll say, ‘When you're around that long, you'll eventually get it.' He always said, ‘It's always nice to get that first win, then you can't go winless on the season.' That's how he approaches it. That's why it's so neat. It isn't the highest priority."
Michaelson said it was Biesiot's recruiting style that lured him to DSU. A school in DSU's conference approached Michaelson with flattery and promises.
"Hank had a genuine approach and honesty," Michaelson said. "That is what sets him apart from the other guys.
"There were a couple of times I thought about heading down the street and coaching for Hank. I loved playing for him, and I loved working camps for him. You can sit down and talk about other things with Hank than just football. You can talk about life with him. That is the symbol of a great leader."
Etzold said that Biesiot has a unique approach in dealing with his players.
"He has a soft hand," Etzold said. "The players know where the line is, and they don't cross it. Hank treats them like men, and they grow up.
"One of the big things about Hank is he's a good eveluator of people. He sees what you can do and not what you can't do. He has some insight us mortals just don't have."
Etzold wishes he could bottle up Biesiot's demeanor.
"Hank has a way of getting you to come around to his way of thinking without him telling you you should," Etzold said. "When I coached for him, I never felt like I was working one day. I never felt the grind. I wanted to go in earlier on my own. I didn't want to let him down. The guys who play for him feel the same way. The players want to play for him and want to win for him."
Michaelson had the utmost respect for how Biesiot ran his program.
"He didn't try to overcoach the game," Michaelson said. "He left a lot to his assistants and players. He just let the game happen, and that was what was so unique. He didn't try things his teams couldn't do."
Biesiot, who was born in 1945 in Duluth, moved to North Dakota and attended school in Michigan, said he always wanted to teach and coach ever since he was in junior high.
He just didn't expect to spend all his years in Dickinson. He had some opportunities to move on and never took them.
"It has been a really good fit for myself and family," said Biesiot. "I was smart enough to realize it was a good fit. I had one or two serious opportunities, but I came to my senses a couple times. I realized I liked it and
didn't want to mess up a good thing."
Etzold is hoping Biesiot
doesn't get his milestone win against Jamestown.
"He's got enough milestones against me to fill a bag," Etzold said. "I'm tickled to death for him, but I don't want to be there. I want him to get it the week before or the week after. I want to be the first to call and leave a message for him. I don't want to be the first to shake his hand and congratulate him."