College Football: Staehling signs with NDSU

Brainerd Warriors senior Nathaniel Staehling signed his NCAA National Letter of Intent to join the North Dakota State University Bison football team.

Surrounded by his mother Erica, left, older brother Ben and father Joel, Nathaniel Staehling signs his NCAA National Letter of Intent to attend North Dakota State University next fall and become a member of the Bison football program. Jeremy Millsop / Brainerd Dispatch

The quarterback position just didn’t feel right for Nathaniel Staehling.

Despite being a starting quarterback his sophomore and junior years, the Brainerd Warrior senior knew the position wasn’t his home.

Now he’s hoping he found aperfect fit at North Dakota State University where Staehling will play linebacker for the Bison football team. Staehling declared his allegiance to the Green and Yellow by signing his NCAA National Letter of Intent Wednesday, Dec. 15, at Brainerd High School.

Nathaniel Staehling


“Quarterback felt somewhat unnatural and just the way that I’m built and my stature, 6-foot-2, 220-pounds, linebacker was definitely something that was in the back of my head,” Staehling said. “When I got recruited, that’s what really brought it out. They all told me I should be a linebacker and just thought, ‘yeah, they might be right. Quarterback doesn’t feel right.’

“When I played linebacker at camps it felt natural and it felt good.”

"I think our linebacker room is going to be very productive at NDSU."

— Nathaniel Staehling

Despite not playing defense for two seasons, the thought of playing defense and letting loose, flying to the ball, having fun and reacting and attacking appealed to Staehling.

He said being physical was an aspect he brought to the position of quarterback.

It was at a camp at NDSU when the move to linebacker and a future in Fargo seemed like a reality.

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“Nathaniel did a great job at camp, worked extremely hard, and is very competitive,” Bison linebacker coach Grant Olson said. “He is also a very fluid athlete, eager to learn and get better. We love the versatility he showed in high school playing multiple positions and he showed that he was pretty smart to play linebacker at NDSU. He has a great combination of size and athletic ability.”


Staehling fell in love with the campus during a junior day where he took a tour of campus, got his picture taken with a jersey and met Bison head coach Matt Entz.

NDSU offered a scholarship a week later.

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“I really liked it and it did feel like home,” Staehling said. “After that, I did visit Minnesota and just knew NDSU is the place. I only visited one school after NDSU, but that was the way to go.”

Brainerd's Nathaniel Staehling. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

According to, Staehling is one of 31 high school student-athletes who signed on to join the Bison Wednesday on the first of a three-day early signing period for Divison I football.

Staehling is one of four linebackers to commit. Brit Senftner of Bismarck, N.D., Jacob Kelly of Bemidji and Austin Altapeter of Moorhead will join Staehling next season.


“Jacob Kelly and I have talked before,” Staehling said. “He’s a good athlete. He didn’t play linebacker in high school, but we chatted before and he’s a good guy.

“Austin will probably be my roommate. He’s also a very good guy. I love both of them a lot. I think our linebacker room is going to be very productive at NDSU. I’m super excited and I can’t wait to work with those guys because I know they’ll make me a better player and hopefully I can make them better players.”

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The three-year starter was a team captain last year. He’s a four-year letterwinner who started at quarterback his sophomore and junior seasons before moving to running back on offense and linebacker for defense this past fall.

For his career, he rushed for 1,302 yards and 20 touchdowns. He passed for 835 yards and seven scores and caught eight passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

Brainerd's Nathaniel Staehling. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Last fall, he recorded 62 tackles with two interceptions, three pass breakups, two blocked kicks and three forced fumbles.

He was a two-time all-district selection and an Academic All-State honoree.

101021.S.BD.BrainerdHomecoming1 Staehling.jpg
Brainerd's Nathaniel Staehling catches the ball against Rogers Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, during the Brainerd homecoming game. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“Before going into Nathaniel's accomplishments as a football player, he needs to be first recognized for being a student first,” said Warrior head football coach Jason Freed. “Nathaniel has a 3.8 grade-point average and has earned Academic All-District three times but also this season was named to the Class 6A Academic All-State Team as well for what he did within the classroom, but also on the football field.

“Throughout his high school career Nathaniel has participated in other sports such as basketball, baseball, and track and field, but also found a true passion for our strength and conditioning program.”

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Staehling was also a Brainerd Dispatch All-Area First team selection as well as the team’s Most Valuable Player. He was named to the North Team for the Minnesota Football Coaches Association All-Star game that was played two weeks ago at US Bank Stadium.

Freed recalled seeing Staehling on his first day of practice as a freshman. He recalled the wide eyes, but also the potential.

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“Nathaniel is a humble young man whose quiet demeanor goes away when he steps on the field and is replaced with great intensity and heart,” Freed said. “He is willing to do whatever is asked of him, but I think what often goes unnoticed are his leadership traits. He helped set an example for what Warrior P.R.I.D.E. (Purpose, Relationships, Improve Daily, Discipline, Energy and Effort) is all about within our program for the future years of Warrior Football players to follow. On behalf of the Warrior Football Program, we are super proud of Nathaniel.”

Jacob Borgstrom, center left, runs alongside and blocks for Nathaniel Staehling, center right, as Staehling runs the ball into the end zone against Moorhead Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, at Adamson Field in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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