North Dakota Tough - by Jeff Kolpack
Before Dave Osborn became one of the all-time great running backs with the Minnesota Vikings, he grew up on a farm near Cando, N.D., without electricity all the while riding his horse to school. Even in the middle of winter. For a decade in the 1970s, the once-proud University of North Dakota hockey team fell on hard times, until a group of physical, fierce players were recruited into the program. Before North Dakota State football rose to prominence in Division I FCS football, the Bison laid the foundation in the 1960s with a group of gritty young men. One had a pet snake in his campus dorm room. In the early 1970s, Steve Blehm set a legendary high school basketball standard in Devils Lake, N.D., averaging 47 points per game. He was deaf - and, a great outside shooter, he did it before the 3-point line. In the 2000s, wrestler Collin Larsen from Casselton, N.D., lost the lower half of his leg in a motorcycle accident in August. By January, he was back on the mat with his one good leg. From 1938-43, Ayr High School won 109 girls basketball games in a row. In the 1940s, Elbowoods High was declared the Class B state boys basketball champion, but it took 60 years before the school was officially recognized. Now the town is under 90 feet of Lake Sakakawea water, but school pride remains strong. Doug Simunic. Bill Sorensen. Randy Hedberg. Brad Gjermundson. Tony Satter. Drayton baseball. They all have stories that need to be preserved. These are not sports stories; these are character stories that helped define a state.