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Seth Wilson at the National Championship

North Dakota State freshman and Holmen High School graduate Seth Wilson (30) tries to split three James Madison defenders during the FCS National Championship on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas.

Seth Wilson’s career at North Dakota State University is off to a winning start.

The Holmen High School graduate and 2016 Tribune co-player of the year helped the Bison win the Football Championship Subdivision national championship earlier this month over James Madison University in Frisco, Texas.

In the 17-14 national championship win, the freshman had two carries for 14 yards. He helped NDSU get the sixth title in its history.

“It’s a dream come true,” Wilson said. “It’s why players come to NDSU to be a national champion. It’s not really too surprising, because we have a good program that has a hard-working mentality year after year. I told myself in the final seconds, ‘Wow, we’re about to be national champions.’ I kept telling myself that we have the best defense in the nation for FCS. I kept going over that again and again in my head.”

His first carry in the title game was for 5 yards, and the Bison scored on their opening drive.

Wilson started the season as a redshirt, but because the NDSU running back group saw a slew of injuries, Bison coach Chris Klieman pulled Wilson’s redshirt on Oct. 28.

He was marked as active in the Oct. 28 game against Northern Iowa, but did not see game action. His first career rush and reception came against South Dakota State, which was the Bison’s lone loss of the season.

In that game against the Jackrabbits, Wilson had three rushes for 1 yard and two receptions for 25 yards.

“I honestly came in here expecting and wanting to play, and I felt I was very ready when they asked me to come suit up,” Wilson said. “It didn’t really exceed my expectations of when they asked me to (play), because I knew I wanted to.”

Wilson scored three touchdowns in his first-year campaign. The first one came against the South Dakota Coyotes, and he had 88 rushing yards that day. The other two scores came in the playoffs on touchdown receptions. His TD catch against Wofford on Dec. 2 made the SportsCenter Top 10 segment.

The former Vikings standout didn’t really admit to having a game day “welcome to college football’ moment, but practicing against one of the nation’s best defenses daily certainly was an eye-opener.

“I played as a freshman at Holmen,” Wilson said. “I know what it’s like to be the bottom man on the totem pole. I don’t think about it too much. We’re all just athletes trying to compete. That’s why we’re here.

“They hit hard, they tackle hard,” Wilson said of NDSU’s defense. “They practice all-out every day. Getting hit by those guys definitely made me a better football player. I got used to college football.”

Playing as a freshman isn’t foreign to Wilson. According to Vikings coach Travis Kowalski, Wilson is just one of three freshmen in school history to play in a varsity football game.

An ankle injury in his junior year at Holmen propelled Wilson to re-energize his motivation in his final year of high school.

The setbacks of said injury didn’t show for his senior year, as he ran for over 2,000 yards and scored 33 touchdowns.

“I knew he was going to be recruited pretty highly,” Kowalski said. “I told him if he wants to go where he wants to go, he’s going to have to put in the time. He’s a freak of an athlete. He went to a lot of camps, exposed himself, and different avenues. He was ready to play for us.

“Having that (opportunity) to play football varsity as a freshman was huge for him,” Kowalski added. “If he wouldn’t have hurt his ankle his junior year, I bet that Wisconsin would’ve kicked the door down to get him. His senior year was something to behold.”

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