Defensive lineman Biegler the latest walk-on to get into Bison football mix

FARGO (FNS) — It was toward the end of football practice on Tuesday when the North Dakota State offense ran a running up play up the middle. In the midst of the defense was junior Matt Biegler, who looked the part of the run stopper with two knee braces, a No. 98 jersey and a workmanlike look at a stout 284 pounds.

The NDSU running back disappeared into the bottom of the pile.

Whether Biegler is able to contribute like that on Saturdays remains to be seen, but at least he’s put himself in position to play. It represents another step forward in the career of a walk-on from 9-man football in Underwood, Minn., located 60 miles southeast of Fargo.

Heard this story before? It happens often with the Bison.

“We love seeing that,” said Bison defensive line coach Nick Goeser. “This program through the years has had some unbelievable walk-ons. Nothing makes us happier than a kid showing up as a walk-on, working his butt off and rewarding that kid with a scholarship.”

Biegler is one of six players trying to earn prime time in the middle of the defense, competing with returning regular Cole Karcz and sophomore Lane Tucker at defensive tackle. Senior Jack Darnell, sophomore Costner Ching and redshirt freshman Dylan Evans are at nose guard, although those two positions are considered interchangeable.

Goeser insinuated it’s going to take all three weeks of August practice before the season opener Aug. 31 against Butler at Target Field in Minneapolis before a rotation will be decided.

“We’ll see how it’s all going to shake out … who’s going to make the bus,” said Goeser, referring to the travel roster.

For Biegler, just being in a position to make the bus from a freshman 250-pound tight end or fullback to a Division I FCS interior lineman has been striking.

“It’s been a long ride, that’s for sure,” Biegler said.

The ride started looking up to the likes of former Bison defensive linemen Nate Tanguay and Aaron Steidl. They were his role models. Those two are gone leaving Biegler as one of the upperclassmen.

Karcz and Darnell are the leaders being seniors, but Biegler isn’t far behind.

“I’ve been going out every day and embracing it,” Biegler said. “I’m just trying to do my role on the team and hopefully that gets into the mix.”

Biegler played in 10 games last year finishing with nine tackles, two tackles for lost yardage and a half quarterback sack. It was an upgrade from his redshirt freshman season when he appeared at the end of blowouts against Mississippi Valley State and Robert Morris University (Pa.).

It’s all about trying to find a spot on the field. It takes one day at a time, he said.

“Like we say, no one has a spot so you can lose it and you can gain it so you have to go out and get it every day,” Biegler said.

Which is music to Goeser’s ears. He compares Biegler to the likes of former Bison walk-on defensive tackles Steidl and Brian Schatz.

“He needs to find ways to make more plays for himself but he’s done everything we’ve asked and I’m happy the way he’s started camp so far,” Goeser said. “He comes to work every day. It’s not like he has a bad day, a good day and a bad day. Everyday he comes out with a good, positive attitude and practices as hard as he can.”