Bison cornerback uses Sturdevant family tree as motivation to succeed
FARGO — The family ties to North Dakota State football for junior cornerback Tre Fort are strong, so knotted that it would take a chainsaw to cut the rope. That’s the way his grandfather, Bill Sturdevant, played the game after all.
Sturdevant was inducted into the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame last fall, a reward for his days as one of the toughest kids on the block. He played both offense and defense for Bison teams in the 1960s, and is considered one of the players who brought the program to prominence after its winless season in 1962.
Tre said he used to ask his grandpa about the old days, but didn’t get many details.
“He never really talked about his playing time here at NDSU,” he said. “I just always knew he played both sides. Even though I would ask as a little kid — how were you? — he would just say I was OK.”
It wasn’t until the Hall of Fame induction did Sturdevant’s football excellence sink in on Tre.
“I didn’t know he had all these records and it was pretty amazing to see him and see him happy about his achievements,” Fort said.
There are more Sturdevants to the Bison family tree. His uncle, Terry Sturdevant, was also a Bison standout player in the 1960s and his cousin, Travis Sturdevant, was a Bison safety starting in the late 1990s.
“I look at it as motivation,” Tre said.
Certainly, Fort needed some motivation when he first walked on to NDSU from Fargo Shanley. He admits to the overwhelming nature of it, saying it felt like a whole another world of life.
He was a 5-foot-8 defensive back who had offers from area Division II schools like Minnesota State Moorhead, Bemidji State, Minnesota-Duluth and the University of Mary (N.D.). The higher level of competition at NDSU, however, gave him the itch to give it a shot at Division I FCS football.
“You’re the little man, you’re going against all these guys from Florida, California or all over the whole country,” he said. “It was like, wow, I’m from Fargo-Moorhead and just seeing all these guys who are bigger, faster and stronger, you have to work harder than them. So far, I’ve gotten a little improvement.”
He’s improved to the point where he’s played on most of the special teams units like kickoff return, kickoff coverage, punt return and punt coverage. The next step is to get some meaningful play in the defensive backfield, instead of mop-up duty late in games when the outcome has been decided.
He came into spring football listed second on the depth chart at cornerback, although senior Jalen Allison is sitting out rehabilitating an injury. He’s also been getting work at the nickel back, or the look NDSU goes to when it puts five defensive backs in the game against passing offenses.
“I want to get in when it’s like the second quarter or first quarter, just whenever they need me,” Fort said.
NDSU wraps up spring ball with its annual Spring Game on Friday, April 20, at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. It won’t be so much of a game as more of a one-hour glorified practice, but it’s important to the backups nonetheless.
You know grandpa will be paying attention to No. 37. For starters, Tre will be getting his second national championship ring in a pre-game ceremony.
“I’m all about being competitive, I always want to beat the person next to me,” said Tre, whose mother, Nanette Fort, is Bill Sturdevant’s daughter. “My grandpa played back in the day but I still think noe day that I can get that same mentality as he did. He was hard headed. He’s still hard headed.”