Dayo Idowu was a running quarterback and outstanding linebacker for East Ridge High School in Woodbury. North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota were among the pursuers of Idowu at the FCS level.
Idowu’s parents met in the United States, after coming here from Nigeria to attend college. His father Nelson graduated from Purdue and is a civil engineer. His mother Lola is a graduate of Minnesota and a dietician.
North Dakota State had the stability in its football program. North Dakota had the chemical engineering program. Idowu went to North Dakota and redshirted as a freshman. That means, in his fifth season in Grand Forks, Idowu already has his degree in chemical engineering and is now in a master’s program.
If Idowu had gone strictly with the football angle, he had a chance to be part of four national championship teams at NDSU – as a practice player in 2011, and perhaps as a contributor to the mighty Bison defenses in 2012-2014.
Regrets? “No … North Dakota has an outstanding engineering program, and I’ve been here as we’ve built it up in football,’’ Idowu said.
And now, finally, Idowu will get a chance to play against NDSU, the football program that has surpassed North Dakota hockey as the king of the sports landscape in that state.
“Yeah, the Bison … the guys from the Ag School,’’ Idowu said. “They had a tough loss at Montana to start the season, but they are very good again.’’
North Dakota and NDSU play for the first time since 2003 on Saturday afternoon in Fargo. It is part of a two-game series – Saturday and in 2019. Both games will be in Fargo.
These are not exactly programs functioning on the same terms. NDSU moved to Division 1AA (now FCS) football in 2004. North Dakota made the move in 2008, after the collapse of the Division II North Central Conference.
North Dakota was an outcast in all D-I athletics other than hockey until 2012, when it landed in the Big Sky Conference.
“It’s a spread out league,’’ assistant coach Shawn Kostich said. “Our closest conference game is Montana. We fly to all our games this year, except for the 75-mile trip to the South.’’
That’s the bus caravan from Grand Forks to Fargo for Saturday’s game.
The deal for the two-game renewal of the rivalry wasn’t made until 2014. North Dakota had been seeking to play again for several years. New coach Bubba Schweigert, hired after the 2013 season, was part of the North Dakota-NDSU rivalry and pushed to have some Bison presence on the schedule.
More important than this temporary renewal of the NDSU series to North Dakota has been the ability to land in the Big Sky. The other D-I schools from the Dakotas – NDSU, South Dakota State and South Dakota – all wound up in the rugged and geographically favorable Missouri Valley Football Conference.
There was no room for North Dakota in the MVFC, or in the Summit League, where the three Dakota schools compete in other sports.
North Dakota’s schedule this season included a non-conference opener at Wyoming. Craig Bohl is in his second season as the coach there. He had a great run at NDSU, winning the first three of these four straight national titles. He was the head coach of the staff that recruited Idowu.
North Dakota pulled off a 24-13 upset of Wyoming. “I saw Coach Bohl briefly; he wasn’t too happy,’’ Idowu said. “For us, it was a great game. We came back last week and didn’t play as well against Drake [a 21-18 victory].’’
Idowu used the word “complacent’’ to describe the Drake effort. Obviously, UND will need much more than that against the Bison.
Earlier this week, Idowu was among 11 players at the combined classifications of FCS, Division II and III and NAIA cnamed to the American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team. Allstate is the sponsor and it honors 11 players in FBS (major conferences) and then 11 from the combined other divisions.
The Good Works team honors the athletes for making a positive impact in the community.
Matt Mehlhorn, a Bethel defensive back from Lakeville, made the 11-person team along with Idowu.
Academic discipline is part of the award. Idowu has that, and is very involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and other community events.
“I take it as a real honor,’’ Idowu said.