Scoring a touchdown was almost a once-a-quarter occurrence for Brock Robbins playing football in Cavalier, N.D. His high school career featured 453 carries for 4,016 yards and 72 touchdowns.
His role has changed dramatically in his college career at North Dakota State. The junior fullback has five career rushes for 31 yards and 12 catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. But Robbins doesn't mind doing the dirty work.
And that’s the mindset needed to play fullback for the Bison.
At a high number of college football programs, a fullback is an extinct species. But the Bison run a pro-style offense and, if they could, would run A-gap power every play. That requires a fullback willing to smash into a linebacker or greet a defensive end head-on in some of the outside run concepts.
You have to have the right kind of guy with the right kind of mindset to get the job done, which is exactly what the Bison have in Robbins and junior Garrett Malstrom.
No offense to the higher-populated metropolitan areas or the warmer states, but the recipe for NDSU to find fullbacks has been that small-town, Midwestern, gritty high school recruit. Robbins played 9-man football in a town of about 1,300 people.
“You have to have a tough mindset,” Robbins told HERO Sports. “Just being able to do the things so others can succeed. You have to be selfless and have that tough mentality to put your body through it and hitting people every day.”
Malstrom was an offensive lineman and a state champion wrestler at Frazee-Vergas High School. His hometown of Vergas, Minn., has a population of 350 people.
“It’s a blue-collar mindset,” Malstrom told HERO Sports. “You have to bring your hard hat and lunch pail every day and be ready to do the dirty work … I love doing it. I just love smacking somebody. There’s no better feeling.”
The Bison, who are 13-0 and host South Dakota State in the semifinals Friday, are ninth in the FCS with 274.2 rushing yards per game, which leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Running backs Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn were recognized as All-Conference Second Team players. The big boys up front were also honored with right tackle Zack Johnson and center Tanner Volson making the First Team and left tackle Dillon Radunz on the Second Team.
The third part of the successful running attack was rewarded as well when Robbins was named the Second Team fullback.
Brock Robbins doesn't get the ball in his hands a ton, but his value is still huge. (Tim Sanger/NDSU)[/credit]
For someone who racked up the awards in high school, like the North Dakota 9-man Senior Athlete of the Year, this was the first for Robbins at NDSU. But he didn't have a problem going from star player to playing a role that rarely has stardom attached to it.
“It wasn't much of an adjustment,” Robbins said. “I was looking for any way to get on the field. Blocking for the guys that are running the ball is just as rewarding as the guy scoring the touchdown.”
The value of the fullback position can’t be overstated for NDSU. In parts of the 2016 season, Robbins and Malstrom were sidelined with injuries, forcing tight ends and even defensive end Caleb Butler to take the reps at fullback. The running game was noticeably impacted.
So on the outside, the fullback position might be looked at as the unsung heroes for a football team. But at NDSU, the fullbacks get enough love from their teammates and coaches to make doing the dirty work worthwhile.
“We run power football. It’s what we do at NDSU,” Malstrom said. “Everyone knows that we’re going to use the fullback. It’s a cool thing about the program and everyone embraces us.”