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College Football: Staehling to call NDSU home after graduation

Nathaniel Staehling has chosen his choice of colleges for after graduation.

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Nathaniel Staehling will keep the Brainerd Warriors and North Dakota State University Bison connection alive.

Staehling, an incoming senior at Brainerd High School, verbally committed to the eight-time FCS National championship program Wednesday, June 23, saying it was the perfect fit for him.

“I picked NDSU because I honestly love it,” Staehling said. “The coaches are incredible. I really have a good relationship with coach Entz (head coach Matt Entz) and coach Olson (linebacker coach Grant Olson) and all the coaches. My dad goes there for business. I have a brother who lives over there and honestly it really did feel like home when I was there. I had that gut feeling and I think I can succeed there and it was the best place for me.”

Staehling said the choice was between four other Division 1 schools, including the University of Minnesota as a preferred walk-on, and a handful of Division II schools.

Despite playing quarterback for the Warriors football program the last two seasons, Staehling will switch to linebacker at the college level. His 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame should handle the transition.

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“He told me one time the most fun he’s ever had was playing outside linebacker as a freshman,” Warriors head coach Jason Freed said. “I think he’s got a ton of upside. Obviously, he hasn’t played a ton of defense for us the last two years, which maybe isn’t a bad thing because he hasn’t formed any bad habits. He’s kind of starting with a clean slate from a coaching standpoint.

"I think they’re going to get a young man who is going to work hard. He is extremely dedicated to his craft and making himself a better version of himself. I’m excited to see what they end up doing with Nathanial and how they play him.”

Staehling will continue to play offense at Brainerd but will become a fixture in the Warrior defense as well.

“We see him kind of like a Swiss Army Knife for us,” Freed said. “He can do a lot of things for us. He can run the ball for us. He can play as a linebacker or potentially help us in the secondary. He’s got a really good skillset and can run very well, but yet, he’s very strong and he can hold up really well.

“We’re excited to see where things go. We have some things coming up this summer where we can work with Nathaniel and other guys and figure out the pieces of the puzzle and how we get our athletes on the field and get them into positions where they can succeed.

“That’s ultimately what we have to do with Nathaniel -- find ways where he can succeed in our system.”

He’s currently at an NDSU football camp with a few of his high school teammates.

What he’s most happy about is having the recruiting process done.

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“I think recruiting is a long process and it takes up a lot of time with visits and calls and stuff like that,” Staehling said. “I think making a decision before the Fourth of July is a blessing because now I can sit back and enjoy the summer and really let loose and have fun this year.”

Staehling will continue to concentrate in the classroom as he carries a 3.8 grade-point average and is a National Honor Society member, but football has been and remains his first love.

“Football was the sport I excelled at the most,” Staehling said. “I fell in love with it at an early age with Brainerd Youth Athletic Association football and flag football. I was always a standout and I just realized that this could maybe take me somewhere in life. I just figured I’m going to pursue this. I love the grind. It’s not even a grind for me. Every step is just one step closer to my dreams and goals.”

Staehling is the third Warrior football player to find a roster spot at NDSU within the last 10 years He follows former Warriors Joe Haeg, now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Josh Howieson, who recently graduated.

Like them, he hopes to bring national title glory to Fargo.

“Of course winning is a lot, but it’s nothing like the relationships that will be formed at NDSU and they have a fantastic culture and tradition,” Staehling said. “Winning a national championship sure would be incredible, though.”

Staehling completed 20 of 50 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns as a junior. He also rushed for 175 yards and three TDs on 47 attempts. Brainerd played just four games last fall because of COVID-19, but he said all the work he’s put in throughout his career and the help of his parents and coaches helped him catch the eye of the NDSU coaching staff.

“Starting with my family, my parents, my brother and my sister and even my grandparents, they’ve all just been incredible supporters,” Staehling said. “I can’t thank them enough. They’ve provided an incredible base for me to succeed. I really do owe them the world.

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“The coaches have been a guide for me. They’ve been the people I can talk to about recruiting and what colleges are looking at me. They’ve been really supportive and pushed me to be the best player I can be. There have been so many people who have been incredible and good to me and I really can’t thank them enough.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

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Nathaniel Staehling

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