Trae Steckler was ready to try and earn a football scholarship at NDSU.

Then, UND came calling, literally.

After committing to NDSU as a recruited walk-on on Dec. 20, Steckler got a phone call from Grand Forks the next day. The Fighting Hawks made the Mandan High standout a scholarship offer he could not refuse and he will now play for the Fighting Hawks.

"My goal was to play Division I college football. Whether it was at NDSU or UND it didn't really matter," the 6-foot-3, 210-pound projected tight end said. "When UND offered me a scholarship I just felt like it was too good to pass up."

Steckler had scholarship offers from a handful of NCAA Division II schools. NDSU dangled the carrot of a potential scholarship down the road, but nothing was guaranteed. When UND did, it was a no-brainer.

"After the signing period was over (on Dec. 20), UND called me and told me they wanted me to come and play for them," Steckler said. "I respected every coach through the recruiting process. I'm happy it worked out the way it did."

Steckler, who is also a standout basketball player at Mandan, said he felt a tie to the coaching staff at UND, many of whom have deep roots in North Dakota. Head coach Bubba Schweigert is from Zeeland and attended Jamestown College, now the University of Jamestown. UND offensive coordinator Paul Rudolph was the head coach at Minot State for seven years and is originally from Stanley.

"There are a lot of guys from North Dakota on the team and a lot of the coaches are from North Dakota, so there was a familiarity that we had with each other," Steckler said.

He knows that won't mean much when the pads are put on, though.

"It comes down to improving as a player both mentally and physically and just trying to learn everything and develop into the best player I can be," Steckler said. "I'm excited about the opportunity. You have to earn everything, but I'll be ready to get to work."

Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at (701) 250-8246 or