Connor Wentz fulfills a valuable role for the Bison football team
FARGO — Tim Polasek was known to blurt out whatever came to his mind when he was the North Dakota State offensive coordinator, like the day when he was in a meeting with the Bison fullbacks and tight ends. A nickname for the position group just came to him.
The thought could be traced to his playing days at Concordia University (Wis.), but the message fit the tough, old school-style of the Bison offense.
“I just snapped, ‘Crew Chiefs, we do everything,'” said Polasek, now the offensive line coach at Iowa. “‘No matter what happens, we’ll take the garbage out.’ They embraced it.”
It’s the nature of a tight end or fullback in the program; which is usually more about blocking than getting the ball. And, in the case of the mentality, expecting credit for it is not the norm.
And you wonder how tight end Connor Wentz can just shrug off being called “the other Wentz?” Trivia question: Which Wentz was named to the all-Missouri Valley Football Conference first team?
It wasn’t Connor’s cousin, Carson, whose best league accolade was honorable mention. Connor Wentz made the first team this year as a fullback, which made for a funny exchange between he and Bison assistant coach Randy Hedberg.
“He said I’m the first one on the first-team all-conference team as a Wentz,” Connor said. “But he said, yeah, he’s going to be making a lot more money than you. I said, yeah, no kidding.”
Carson Wentz, of course, was the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft whose spectacular season this year with the Philadelphia Eagles was cut short by a knee injury last weekend. It’s left Connor as the player to follow this week in the family.
The cousins’ fathers are brothers, with Connor’s dad, Bruce Wentz, a former football player at the University of Jamestown (N.D.) in the 1980s.
The Crew Chief in Connor has been with him his entire Bison career. He admits to living in Carson’s shadow for most of his NDSU days, but on the other hand there is no way around it, either.
“He doesn’t mind it at all, he kind of chuckles at being the other Wentz and stuff,” said head coach Chris Klieman. “He’s handled that stuff really well and I think he’s having a phenomenal senior season. He’s so well-deserving to be first-team all-conference.” Connor came to Fargo from Dunnellon, Fla., and has indeed saved his best season for last, certainly statistically. Almost half of his 27 career receptions have come this season and his five touchdowns equal the total of his first three years.
“Carson’s such a great guy, everyone knows that, it’s not like it’s a crime to be called Carson’s cousin,” Connor said. “I think I’ve defined how the way I play, who I am, and I think people are starting to realize I’m somebody else. I’m not just Carson’s cousin; I’m actually a different human being.”
His latest big play got the Bison on the board last week in the FCS quarterfinal win over Wofford College (S.C.), a 48-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Easton Stick. It’s easy to measure those plays because they’re so visible.
But the coaches say Wentz is just as valuable as blocker. As a Crew Chief should be.
“You have to be meaner and tougher than the other guy you’re up against,” Connor said. “You can’t back down from a fight. If you have to (block) a 320-pound guy, you’re going to do it because somebody told you to do it and we’re going to take it on as a challenge.”
Connor plans on giving the NFL a challenge and will work out after the season for NDSU’s “Pro Day” in March. His advantage is not many college offenses employ a fullback these days and he’s been in a productive program for four years.
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take so I might as well go after it,” he said.
If pro ball doesn’t happen, Connor plans on taking his criminal justice major and psychology and natural resource management minors into law enforcement.
There’s always room for a Crew Chief in that field.
“I think he’s come out of his shell this year as far as being able to make plays,” Bison linebacker Nick DeLuca said of his fellow senior. “He’s always had that ability, it was a matter of getting him the ball. He’s a mismatch for guys.”