It doesn't take long to sift through the successful teams of the Division I era at NDSU and find major contributors from South Dakota. Whether or not it adds to the rivalry that so many of South Dakota's top athletes choose to play in Fargo, the contributions of SD natives cannot be ignored. Michael Tveidt, Austin Kuhnert, Coulter Boyer and Mike Hardie are just a few of the names that Bison fans remember who crossed the border. BisonReport spoke with former Bison wide receiver and Sioux Falls, SD native Trevor Gebhart about his recruitment, his career, the Dakota Marker game and life after football.
Trevor Gebhart is the son of a South Dakota State student-athlete. His father Everett ran track and field for the Jackrabbits in the 1980s, and still holds the Jacks record for the 600m indoor run. Everett is also part of the record holding 4x800 meter relay team along with his twin brother Ervin. Trevor grew up going to football games at Coughlin Alumni Stadium and watching hoops at Frost Arena. That kind of upbringing could have led Trevor to the Jacks. It didn't.
"I grew up in that environment, but it never had a connection to me. I just did it because that's whay I was brought up with. I think that's why North Dakota State means so much to me, because the first time I went there it was a deeper connection with the community, the guys that I played with, the coaches and everyone involved with the program." explained Gebhart.
Trevor Gebhart was a very good track athlete in his own right. He owns Washington High School's (Sioux Falls) record in the 200m dash. "That's kinda how I first got involved in football, because I knew I was fast." he explained. His speed and athleticism brought him his first recruiting information from the University of Iowa.
Gebhart received recruiting letters from Iowa throughout his high school career, but they were always typed correspondence that were more than likely going to prospects all over the country. It was his first hand written letter, which came from the former wide receivers coach Terrance Samuel at North Dakota State that caught his attention. "He wrote me a letter, and he set a really solid impression in my mind. In the letter he said I just want to introduce myself as your next wide receivers coach."
The Thundering Herd would take on South Dakota State 6 times during Gebhart's 4 year career. The Dakota Marker game was played every season, and the two schools met in the FCS playoffs twice. North Dakota State won all six contests. North Dakota State did a lot of winning during Gebhart's career, compiling a 58-3 record and winning 4 FCS championships. When I asked what the most important regular season game was, the answer came up blue and gold.
"When you're in it, when you're playing, every game's serious because you want to win every game. When we played SDSU my blood would be boiling at a different level. It was inf ront of so much family, and so many friends. The majority of the people within the stadium would have some sort of connection with me." said Gebhart.
Leaving South Dakota to play ball in college meant competing against friends at the next level. Gebhart played on the same traveling basketball team as former South Dakota State QB Austin Sumner and and Jacks power forward Cody Larson. The rivalry stayed friendly and Gebhart was able to stay in touch: "I've known (Sumner) since I was 10 years old. We're all friends, we talk. We would never really poke much fun at each other, when Austin broke his foot I sent him a text."
The final game against the Jacks was the most memorable for Bison fans. It was the most memorable for Gebhart, too. Carson Wentz and the offense took over down 4 with just over 3 minutes left. "I remember looking up at the scoreboard thinking...If we don't make this happen now, it's over. Football's over." Wentz would find true freshman RJ Urzendowski in the back left corner of the end zone with a minute left. Another freshman, Tre Dempsey secured a Sumner interception on the next play from scrimmage and the Thundering Herd marched on to the semifinals.
Trevor Gebhart has since graduated and moved back to South Dakota. Working a normal job for Pepsi is actually a big step back in responsibility. NDSU football players have legendary strength coach Jim Kramer to deal with, their entire days were scheduled. "Now when you're working, you've got your job...and then it's basically whatever else you want to do." explained Gebhart. "What you don't have is the comraderie with the 90 other guys, and I really enjoyed that." The transition from player to fan is difficult for most student-athletes, but Gebhart has to do it in South Dakota, deep in enemy territory.
"You get heckled a lot more than you do in Fargo. In Fargo you get all the support in the world. Here there are a lot of USD and SDSU supporters that want to see the mighty Bison fall. I always tell em': you never understimate the mighty Bison."
After speaking with Trevor, I was reminded of the respect that exists in the NDSU-SDSU rivalry. There might be more distaste in the rivalry with UND and closer games (and probably more distaste) in the rivalry with Northern Iowa but the Dakota Marker game is special. The rivalry is special. Bison fans and Jacks fans don't forget that they jumped into the deep end of the Divison I pool together. As for Gebhart, he hasn't stopped being a part of the Bison family. He and his family will be hopping on a bus with the Kuhnert family (NDSU's starting center, another Washington High product) and rolling with the rest of the Herd to Brookings on Saturday afternoon.