Drawing parallels: Wanzek would join short list of NFL Blue Jays

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Jamestown's Noah Wanzek returns an interception while Grand Forks Central's Cody Aarvig (6) and Clay Morin (41) defend during a game in 2015 at Ernie Gates Field. Sun file photo

Numerous parallels can be drawn between former Jamestown High School sports greats Noah Wanzek and Robert Wiese.

Elite players for the Blue Jays on both the football field and the basketball court, they also shared a remarkable ability to punt a football. Following Wiese’s untimely death in a plane crash in 1971, legendary JHS football coach Ernie Gates said Wiese still held the longest punt in North Dakota high school football history at 76 yards.

Current Blue Jay football coach Bill Nelson believes Wanzek possibly booted one farther.

“He had like a 72 or 78 yarder. It was well over 70, I know that,” Nelson recalled. “I want to say it was against Minot because they played him at like 45-50 (yards) and he just hit a moonshot over his head.

“There were a lot of them back then that were moonshots.”


After Wiese helped lead JHS to its first Class A state championship in boys basketball in 1939, he became an All-American fullback at the University of Michigan before being drafted in the fifth round of the 1945 NFL Draft at 39th overall by the Detroit Lions.

Wanzek, who earned all-state accolades in basketball and football for the Jays before setting University of North Dakota’s Division I single-season record in receptions last fall at 74, is hoping he’ll find his way into the NFL as well, a journey that officially begins with this week’s draft.

The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft begins today (Thursday) at 7 p.m.

“He’s gonna get there,” Nelson said. “It comes down to somebody’s gotta take a chance on him, and somebody’s gonna take a chance and they’re going to really like what they see.

“He’s got all the tools.”

According to, Wanzek is attempting to become only the fourth Jamestown High School product to play in the National Football League, along with Wiese, Doug Beaudoin and John Thomas. Charles Maxime was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1957 but never played in an NFL game.

After serving in the Naval reserves during World War II, Michigan retired Wiese’s No. 38 and he played two seasons at linebacker for the Lions in 1947 and 1948. Gates, who said Wiese was “the greatest athlete ever to come out of North Dakota,” believed the multiple all-state performer for JHS “simply lost interest in the game.”


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Jamestown High School standout athlete Robert Wiese photographed in 1939. Sun file photo

Beaudoin was drafted in the ninth round of the 1976 NFL Draft at 243rd overall by New England and enjoyed a six-year career in the NFL at safety with the Patriots, Miami and San Diego. Thomas, who also played football at Jamestown College between 1919-20, suited up as a fullback in 1924 for the NFL’s Racine Legion in Racine, Wisconsin, and for the NFL’s Providence Steam Rollers in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1925.

The NFL was founded in 1920.

Wanzek will be a part of what is considered to be a very deep class of NFL hopefuls at the wide receiver position this week. He recently secured an agent and posted solid numbers at a virtual pro day hosted by Sanford Health last week in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Former Jamestown High School basketball coach Luke Anderson said Wanzek has persevered throughout his entire life playing the role of the underdog, going back to when Wanzek was a B squad basketball player at the middle school level.

“He never let that slow him down,” Anderson said. “He just put his head down and went to work.”

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Jamestown High School's Noah Wanzek goes up for a dunk during a game at Jerry Meyer Arena in 2016. Sun file photo


Wanzek averaged 20 points and 10.2 rebounds as a senior for Anderson and JHS basketball as a senior in 2015-16. UND football locked up the athletically gifted Wanzek, a Mr. Basketball finalist, in January of 2016 following a 20-point, 16-rebound performance against No. 1-ranked Bismarck Century at Jamestown’s Jerry Meyer Arena.

“You saw things athletically out of him that you don’t see out of kids, and you saw it every day out of Noah,” Anderson said. “He’s one of those kids that he’s as fast as he has to be; he can jump as high as he has to jump.

“I mean, he can do whatever it takes, and he will do whatever it takes, to get it done.”

Wanzek hauled in 32 receptions for 562 yards and four touchdowns for the Blue Jays in 2015, while also corralling four interceptions as a safety. Last fall for the Fighting Hawks, Wanzek’s 74 receptions went for 996 yards and four TDs, as he sits second all-time in UND career receptions (203) and third all-time in UND career receiving yards (2,696).

Wanzek may not have earned All-American status at a big-time college, like Wiese at Michigan, but entering the NFL of today is certainly not entering the NFL of the 1940s. Wanzek will still have options, either through a mini-camp invite or by being offered an undrafted free agent contract, if his name isn’t called during this week's draft.

As far as who was the better punter at JHS? That appears to be a juicy topic of debate.

“He's a 'get to' instead of 'got to' player," Nelson said. "Noah’s like, ‘What do I get to do today?' That was always the mentality, and he’s grown and matured in that time.

“Somebody’s gonna take the chance on him, and somebody’s gonna fall in love.”

Savaloja is the sports lead writer for The Jamestown Sun.
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