“I won’t ever forget where I come from.”
Those are the words of Brock Jensen, starting quarterback for the two-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State University football team.
Jensen is a 2009 graduate of Waupaca High School who led the unbeaten Comets to a Division 3 state championship in 2008. His career successes have continued at North Dakota State, where he earned the starting quarterback job late in his freshman year.
He led the Bison to national championships the last two years and the Bison are aiming for a third straight FCS championship. They are off to a 6-0 start after defeating Missouri State 41-26 Oct. 12, a game in which Jensen had his best collegiate passing day, going 20 for 28 for 313 yards and three touchdowns.
This story is not about North Dakota State’s win over Missouri State or Jensen’s stats. While watching the game was a thrill, seeing him interact with the public, especially the young children, after the game revealed the real Brock Jensen.
“I felt lost at first,” Jensen said of arriving on campus with his scholarship. “I questioned if I belonged here.”
Some of the upperclassmen encouraged him and told him it would get better.
“You have to sell out and make a whole commitment to the program,” Jensen said, offering advice to Waupaca players contemplating playing college football. “You won’t make it if you don’t.”
NDSU’s senior quarterback at that time mentored Jensen and assured him it would get easier after he learned the system. After redshirting his first year, Jensen actually started seven games as a freshman. That experience led to his success on the field as a sophomore.
Another experience made an even larger change. An equipment manager told Jensen of a lady who was in the hospital. She had just a few days to live, but she was a Bison fan and wanted to meet him.
“She knew she was going to die and yet, she wanted to meet me,” he recalled. “She had a strong faith and knew she was going to heaven. At that time, I had an empty feeling. I hadn’t been going to church and God wasn’t a big part of my life. I was a nobody, but this lady wanted to meet me. I felt God reached out to me through her. If God can have that effect on a lady with one day to live, then He can have an effect on me.”
Jensen said the story changed his life.
After North Dakota State upset Kansas State earlier this year, his first comment on TV was to give credit to God for his performance. When I sat in the media room after the Missouri State game, Brock’s first response before answering any questions was to credit his performance to “his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
In observing Jensen in the hall with his young fans, that same sincere faith was evident. He talked and had his picture taken with a young fan who had had a lung transplant. He signed every requested autograph and smiled at all the fans taking pictures. He was patient and encouraging to all who wanted some time with him.
To those of us who made the trek from Waupaca to Fargo, he thanked us profusely for coming and supporting him. He gave credit to Waupaca football coach John Koronkiewicz and his assistants for his development as a player. He laughed when we reminisced about Koronk teasing middle school coaches Turtle and Zube about playing Brock at fullback.
Jensen knew about the Comets’ 36-20 win over Appleton Xavier, as several of his friends texted him during the game.
“I wasn’t worried when we were down at halftime,” he said. “I knew Koronk would make the adjustments needed to win. He always does.”
Although Jensen would love to have a shot at playing pro football, he remains grounded. In the media room, he wasn’t focused on NDSU’s winning streak, just his next opponent. He was looking forward to “stealing a win at their home.”
Jensen has never forgotten his home, Waupaca. He appreciates everything he learned and did here. He always thanks everyone for their support and he always says, “Thank you, Lord.”