St. Michael-Albertville senior Mitchell Kartes wanted to make sure his signature was perfect when he signed his national letter of intent to play football for North Dakota State University.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Kartes said. "You don't sign more than once."

Kartes officially joined the Bison in an early signing ceremony at his high school Wednesday morning, surrounded by family members, teammates and coaches. A star running back and safety for the Knights, Kartes will play outside linebacker for the Bison, a team going for its sixth FCS title in seven years Jan. 6.

Even an ACL injury that abruptly ended his high school career didn't get in the way of Kartes' quest to play Division I football.

"It's just another step toward the future that I've always dreamt of," said Kartes, who helped the Knights win the 2015 Class 5A state title.

The four-year starter finished his senior season with 79 rushes for 620 yards and nine touchdowns in five games.

"He's just got an amazing amount of talent, and then he combines that with the work ethic that's really second-to-none," Knights coach Jared Essler said. "And that's a good recipe for success."

Kartes injured his left knee making a tackle in the Knights' Sept. 29 homecoming game against Totino-Grace, tearing his ACL and lateral meniscus. His recovery is slightly ahead of schedule, he said, and he's on track to participate in track this spring.

His dad, Kevin, mentioned how great NDSU has been, even contacting his son the next morning after his injury.

"They never wavered one moment," Kevin said.

Kartes' parents are both from North Dakota originally and still have family in the area, so following Bison football isn't anything new to them, either.

"Since he was little, he always wanted to play Division I football," his mother, Michelle, said. "We're pretty excited and pretty proud of him."