A three-year starter at quarterback, captain of the hockey team and all-state catcher for Jamestown High School, the athletically gifted Tommy Falk was born to lead.
But in what should be his final days anchoring Blue Jay baseball’s batting order, the senior sports rock recently shifted his motivational attention to the entire JHS graduating class of 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Try and find a positive out of all this mess,” Falk said. “Hopefully we can get back to doing more (soon) and a lot more good comes out of this than we think.”
Once with diploma in hand, Falk will have the opportunity to battle for the backup quarterback position as a true freshman this fall at Minnesota State University Moorhead. The Class AAA all-state signal caller committed with the NCAA Division II Dragons back in December and will be one of four quarterbacks on MSUM’s 2020 roster.
Up until roughly a year ago, Falk said he thought baseball would’ve been his logical landing spot at the next level. His dad, Jason Falk, helped South Dakota State University win a D-II North Central Conference baseball title as a catcher in 1995.
Tommy batted just shy of .300 and drove in a team-leading 15 RBIs during his all-state sophomore season as a backstop for the 12-9 Blue Jays in 2018.
“Up until last spring, I was probably going to play baseball,” Falk said. “If you’d have told me four years ago I was playing football, I’d probably say I doubt it. But I’ve always loved football.”
He’s pretty darn good at it, too.
Falk completed 277 pass attempts for 3,844 yards and 33 touchdowns in three seasons as the Blue Jays’ starting quarterback. He added 14 trips into the end zone with his legs, leading Jamestown to a pair of state semifinal appearances at the Class AA level and two victories in Jamestown’s return to AAA last season.
Jamestown’s spread offense and Falk’s ability to make plays happen impressed MSUM head football coach Steve Laqua. Laqua is 43-57 in nine seasons with the Dragons and led Fargo Shanley High School to back-to-back AA football titles in 2009-10.
“We got a chance to work with Tommy first-hand at our camp and have him make the throws that we ask our guys to do -- work the techniques -- and it really felt like he had the ability within him to do the things that fit our offense,” Laqua said. “Obviously, (Jamestown) playing in a wide open-type offense even made us feel better about it, especially his ability to really create some things outside the pocket and ad-lib because that’s things you can’t teach.
“Those are things that are kinda natural, instinctive … things that winners do.”
Falk was most recently a winner on the ice. A four-year varsity forward for JHS boys hockey coach Matt Stockert, Falk and the Blue Jays ended 2019-20 with a 4-3 victory over Minot in the consolation championship game of the state tournament at Farmers Union Arena in Fargo.
Falk was credited with an assist in Jamestown’s first state tournament victory in 22 years in 2018: a 4-2 victory over Grafton-Park River. All told, Falk helped Blue Jay hockey win 47 games with career totals of 38 goals and 43 assists.
“Winning is winning, competing is competing,” Laqua said. “And I think at (quarterback) the more times that guy’s been in a competitive environment, the better it is for him to handle the intensity of college football competition with the pressure that comes from that position.”
In whatever capacity fall camp is allowed to proceed, Falk will be competing with sophomore Max Carter and redshirt freshman Jenson Beachy for the backup quarterback job behind returning senior starter Jakup Sinani. Sinani earned All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North honors after throwing for 1,559 yards and 11 touchdowns in six games for the 6-5 Dragons in 2019.
Sinani missed a handful of contests last season due to injury, while Carter passed for 44 yards and a score in three games played after his redshirt was pulled. MSUM is a year removed from an 8-4 season in which Laqua earned NSIC coach of the year honors and led the Dragons to second place in the NSIC North.
“Ideally, I think in a perfect world for Tommy it’s a redshirt year, where you can come in and you can learn the offense and adjust, ” Laqua said. “But no one had spring ball. So in reality, he’s not all that far off from the other guys in our room. Who knows how it’ll shake out?
“With only four quarterbacks in camp, they’re all gonna get enough reps to be able to show what they can do.”
Falk said he’ll be ready. He’s coming off a career-high 1,762 yards passing last fall, leading JHS to victories over Fargo North and Dickinson in its return to the state’s top division.
“I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m ready for the challenge,” Falk said. “As a whole four years, it was quite a ride with all those guys. Winning that first one here last year was really fun, and there were the playoff games and all the battles that definitely stick out. I wouldn’t change anything.”
University of Jamestown football was also a possible landing spot for Falk, as Blue Jay senior teammates Johnny Browning (LB), Jeremy Williams (WR), Chris Sayler (RB) and Jaeger Dreher (OL) have all committed to the Jimmies and head coach Brian Mistro, helping to bring UJ’s flock of former Blue Jays rostered to eight in 2020.
“Coach Mistro made that a very, very tough decision,” Falk said. “I know those guys are gonna do really well there, but I’m happy with the decision I made and I’m really excited.”
But first comes graduation. Jamestown High School’s commencement ceremony is scheduled for May 24 at 2:30 p.m. at the Jamestown Civic Center, with attendance limited to four people for each graduate.
“I think it’ll be all right,” said Falk, who plans to major in business at MSUM. “I mean, it sucks when you’re trying to have a grad party and you’re trying to have some normalcy, but you’re hoping that plays itself out. You just do what you can with it, which has been a lot of our mindsets.”
MSUM’s first football game of 2020 is currently scheduled for Sept. 3 at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, Minnesota.
“Tommy’s a competitor,” said Blue Jay football coach Bill Nelson. “That’s the way he’s always been, and he’s gonna roll up his sleeves, he’s gonna bring his lunch pail and he’s gonna work.
“That’s the only way he knows how to do things.”