North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick isn't one to get sidetracked.
As a rare college student who didn't have a Twitter account (and still doesn't) and who earned his undergraduate degree in three-and-a-half years, Stick was able to hunker down in the football facilities and prepare every week as the Bison chased perfection his senior year.
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He was certainly aware that his name was out there as a potential NFL Draft pick, mostly because the media asked him about it. Stick genuinely responded that he wasn't tuned into what was said outside the locker room and facility walls.
But he had a plan in place as the season neared its end.
After NDSU won a historic seventh FCS national title in eight years on Jan. 5, Stick didn't take a breather. In fact, he didn't let one day go to waste. On Jan. 6, he boarded a plane to Irvine, California, to begin training for the NFL Draft.
“I didn’t get much downtime, but it’s the way we wanted it," Stick told HERO Sports. "We wanted to make sure we ended our senior season the right way and go from there.”
Stick signed with Rep1 Sports, the same agency that represents former NDSU quarterback Carson Wentz and linebacker Nick DeLuca and former South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert.
Two weeks after the national championship, Stick played in the East-West Shrine Game in Florida. He returned to Irvine, where Stick's been training for the NFL Combine that's held from Feb. 26 to March 4 in Indianapolis.
It'll be a hectic weekend for Stick. March 4 is also the date the NDSU football team visits President Donald Trump and the White House in recognition of what the program has accomplished this decade.
Stick said the plan is to make that trip to Washington D.C. Then it's back to training before returning to Fargo for NDSU's March 28 Pro Day.
Just like his time as the Bison's starting quarterback, Stick has a narrow focus on what's ahead of him. Then, it was the next opponent. Now, it's the next phase of the NFL Draft process. That focus didn't allow him to look past his senior season. And now it doesn't allow much time to look back on the history he made at NDSU.
“You’re kind of on to the next thing, so there hasn’t been a lot of time for reflection," Stick said. "There are some moments when you get some downtime out here. The guys I'm training with will tell stories and different things like that. So you have time to joke around, relax and reflect on what we were able to accomplish, which is pretty crazy. I feel very fortunate I was able to be a part of that program and that was a great senior class with a great group of guys that I'll have lifelong relationships with. Just really, really fortunate for the experiences I had in Fargo.”[divider]
Easton Stick and Carson Wentz celebrate a national title win in Wentz's final game at NDSU. (AP Photo/Mike Stone)[/credit]
It's hard to talk about Stick's career at NDSU or his NFL future without mentioning Wentz. A majority of his media interviews include at least one question about the 2016 No. 2 overall draft pick.
The connection can't be ignored.
Wentz injured his throwing wrist his senior year in 2015 and in stepped Stick as a redshirt freshman. He went 8-0 and led the Bison to the national title game, allowing Wentz to return and put on a performance in the win that began his meteoric rise on draft boards.
Stick started for the Bison the next three years, winning a national championship his junior and senior seasons. He became the all-time wins leader in FCS history in his final game, finishing with a 49-3 record. Stick threw for 8,693 career yards and 88 touchdowns to 28 interceptions. He added 2,523 yards rushing and 41 more scores.
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The Stick-Wentz connection is an easy talking point with the national media and draft analysts. Even this CBS article breaking down the quarterbacks in the draft starts its Stick evaluation with "No, we aren't talking about Wentz 2.0 here."
However, it's not a factor when Stick has talked with NFL scouts or personnel.
“Honestly, in most of the stuff at the Shrine Game in my conversations that I had it wasn’t brought up," Stick said. "They’re trying to get to know me. I’m a different person and a different player, so they’re evaluating me and getting to know me and what I can potentially bring to that organization. It’s not a huge topic that we’ve gone over. A lot of it is about my background.”
Stick and Wentz have remained close, which has made for a valuable resource.
“He’s a good friend, so I’ve talked to him quite a bit," Stick said. "When I have questions or want to bounce something off of him or ask about his experiences, he’s always more than happy to share his experiences. He’s been a really good resource for me. Nick DeLuca, who went through this process a year ago, is another guy. Just to have guys that have been through it that I really trust has been helpful.”[divider]
Easton Stick scores the game-clinching touchdown in January to win NDSU's seventh FCS national title. (Jay Torrell/HERO Sports)[/credit]
Stick is currently ranked the 13th best quarterback in the draft by NFLDraftScout and a projected seventh-round pick. The next month of workouts will be vital.
His athleticism and speed should shine during the Combine and Pro Day drills. The throwing workouts are going to be an even bigger factor in where his stock goes. Stick said he's been working on his footwork and cleaning up his mechanics in Irvine.
Another positive working in Stick's favor is the pro-style, under center offense he ran in Fargo. Stick should impress NFL teams when they put him on a whiteboard to diagram or diagnose plays.
But being an NDSU product extends beyond the pro-friendly system. Stick comes from a program, a culture and an attitude of winning. Whether it's been draft picks like Wentz or offensive lineman Joe Haeg, or undrafted guys like DeLuca or linebacker Chris Board, former Bison players have proven to be valuable players on the field and in the locker room.
“It’s really important," Stick said on being a part of NDSU's program. "You learn a lot of valuable lessons, whether you’re trying to play pro football or be a professional in whatever industry you’re going into. You learn a lot of things that allow you to be successful. It’s working hard. It’s being accountable. It’s treating people the right way … Those are qualities you have to have. (Strength coach Jim) Kramer and (head coach Chris) Klieman did a really good job of instilling all of that in us.”