Carlton Littlejohn and John Crockett lived on the North Side of Minneapolis and competed against one another in youth football. They are now fifth-year seniors at North Dakota State and headed again to play for the FCS national title on Jan. 10 against Illinois State in Frisco, Texas.
Littlejohn has been on three consecutive championship teams as a linebacker. Crockett has been on two as a running back. He still was becoming eligible to play for the Bison in the fall of 2011.
The major difference in their athletic résumés was in high school, where Crockett starred for the Totino-Grace football powerhouse and Littlejohn remained at North High, even as uncertainty grew whether the school would stay open.
There is a legend that when baseball was about to be dropped at North, Littlejohn convinced several football players to come out and save the sport.
“I can’t take credit for that,’’ Littlejohn said. “I was a freshman when that was going on. A couple of the older guys got me and few others to play baseball. I’d say that I got to be ‘OK’ as a ballplayer.’’
Littlejohn was North’s quarterback and an all-state safety in 2009. He skipped baseball in the spring to put on more muscle for what was ahead at North Dakota State. He also was among an outstanding group of freshmen redshirted by former coach Craig Bohl in 2010.
He was a standout special teamer and backup linebacker in 2011. He was a starter at outside linebacker in 2012. Last season, he started on the outside, missed a couple of games with injury, and then moved inside for the final six games to replace injured star Grant Olson.
“When I came up here, I really had no clue what kind of support there was for the Bison,’’ Littlejohn said. “I had no idea it could be so crazy that ESPN would bring ‘GameDay’ here two years in a row to be part of it.’’
Littlejohn will graduate this spring with a journalism major. In what area does he want to make his career?
“Print, I hope,’’ he said.
We hope so, too, Carlton.
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
Other NDSU seniors from Minnesota:
• Zach Vraa, WR, Rosemount. He’s 6-2 and 205 pounds, and he has 152 receptions and 23 TDs for the Bison. If he applies, he could get a sixth season after three broken collarbones early in his career.
• Kevin Vaadeland, TE, Park Rapids. He’s a 6-4, 250-pound blocking force, and has 13 career TDs. This is his sixth season after earlier injuries.
• Adam Schueller, OL, Fergus Falls. He’s 6-3, 305, and made his first five career starts earlier this season as part of a left guard rotation.