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Kolpack: Toughest player on the field Saturday may be the Bison head coach

NDSU head football coach Chris Klieman addresses his linebacking corps during a practice in August. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 2
North Dakota State running back Pat Paschall carries the ball against Northern Iowa in the 2009 game at the Fargodome. Forum News Service file photo2 / 2

FARGO — Asked to name the toughest player on the North Dakota State football team, head coach Chris Klieman said he wouldn't want to do that out of the risk of discrediting the other players. Suffice to say, there are plenty of options on the team.

"We have a lot of tough kids," Klieman said.

You want "North Dakota tough," which became trendy this week thanks to Jon Gruden's nationally televised affinity for Carson Wentz on Monday Night Football? You could make a case it starts with the head man himself.

An old newspaper article from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier surfaced this week, thanks to the Twitter account of Courier sportswriter Jim Nelson, with the following description: "Sometimes you find gems on microfilm. This one is from 1984."

It was a game story between local high schools Waterloo Columbus and Waterloo West. Toward the end was a tidbit on the Columbus quarterback—Chris Klieman.

"Klieman suffered bruised ribs in the first half and missed a series of plays, but returned to action after his ribs were taped," the story said.

I don't know how many of you have ever bruised your ribs, but I can tell you it doesn't feel good. It can literally hurt with every breath—and it's not like that thin, white athletic tape could ever provide much protection. Just sneezing, coughing or getting out of a chair can be a house of pain.

"Bruised ribs are tough," said Scott Woken, NDSU's assistant director of athletics for internal operations and a wily veteran of sports medicine. "You could just as well fracture them, that's what it feels like. With a fracture, obviously, an X-ray or picture will show the crack. Truly bruised ribs are just as painful, with so many muscle and cartilage connections. Every time you breathe, the ribs actually move."

Klieman said he doesn't remember much about the game, mainly because it was his junior season and most of his memories are from his senior year. But put it this way: You wouldn't want to play in the Saturday, Oct. 28, Northern Iowa at NDSU football game at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome with pain in the rib cage.

These teams annually hit each other. Hard.

And I'll pinpoint the one play that started the Division I rivalry. Oct. 10, 2009, fourth quarter, Fargodome. Bison running back Pat Paschall was shoved out of bounds after a 16-yard run with a couple of Panther tacklers following him all the way to the sideline wall. A shoving melee ensued with Paschall eventually being suspended one game by the Missouri Valley Football Conference for swinging his arm at UNI linebacker L.J. Fort, who was called for a personal foul on the play.

There's nothing like a little sideline altercation to get a feud brewin'.

The competitiveness of the matchup is nothing new to Klieman, who was an assistant at UNI in 2008 when the NDSU-UNI series was renewed at the Division I FCS level.

"It's always been a physical battle up front," Klieman said. "The offensive and defensive lines typically determine the outcome. It's a good game and a big rivalry for these teams."

Waterloo West, by the way, won that 1984 rivalry game 18-15 behind quarterback Courtney Messingham, the current NDSU offensive coordinator. Messingham went on to sign a letter of intent at UNI and Klieman joined him a year later.

Klieman said Messingham was the better high school quarterback. But there's no known written evidence of Messingham playing with a bruised rib.

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