North Dakota State’s Easton Stick was always about the team even as he became the winningest quarterback in FCS history.
Two weeks ago, he capped his stellar career with a second straight national title and a 49-3 record as a starter at FCS titan North Dakota State.
But it’s back to being in an individual fight for Stick and hundreds of other prospects who are making their way toward the NFL draft. This week, two of the three biggest major college all-star games are big steps.
Stick will be under the microscope at the 94th East-West Shrine Game, part of a contingent of FCS players that includes Athlon All-Americans B.J. Blunt (McNeese linebacker), Jimmy Moreland (James Madison cornerback) and Derick Roberson (Sam Houston State defensive end).
Fellow All-Americans Isaiah Mack (Chattanooga defensive tackle), Iosua Opeta (Weber State offensive guard) and Sterling Sheffield (Maine linebacker) will play in the 8th NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
More than 160 former FCS players have filled NFL rosters this season. Stick followed Carson Wentz into the North Dakota State lineup and hopes to join him in the NFL. He is highly efficient, although without a big-time arm, but he’s accustomed to being in a pro-style offense. His former head coach, Chris Klieman, estimates the 6-foot-2, 221-pound Stick made about 75 percent of the offensive calls at the line of scrimmage.
“You have to have a guy that can make everybody around him better,” Klieman said. “Not necessarily throw for 4,000 yards or run for 1,500 yards. I think the key is making people around you so much better, and that’s what our guy does. Even when he’s not throwing the ball, he’s making a check and getting us into a run play that the defense can’t defend. Or he’s running a zone-read and pulling three guys with him because he’s carried it out two or three times against teams that have gone for 50 and 60 yards.”
The other big postseason all-star game is the Reese's Senior Bowl, set for Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala.
94th East-West Shrine Game
When: Sat., Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
TV: NFL Network
FCS Players on East Roster (coach Sam Mills III): Northern Colorado LS Jacob Bobenmoyer (roster number 47); Villanova OT Ethan Greenidge (71); Princeton WR Jesper Horsted (84); North Alabama S Chris Johnson (25); Morgan State OL Joshua Miles (66); James Madison CB Jimmy Moreland (15); Elon OT Oli Udoh (57)
FCS Players on West Roster (coach Adam Zimmer): McNeese LB B.J. Blunt (18); Sam Houston State DE Derick Roberson (49); North Dakota State QB Easton Stick (12); Stephen F. Austin LS Chris Wilkerson (51)
8th NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
When: Sat., Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)
FCS Players on American Team (coach Chuck Pagano): Duquesne WR Nehari Crawford (82); The Citadel MLB Noah Dawkins (58); Columbia LS Patrick Eby (64); Idaho State OT Brian Fineanganofo (67); North Dakota CB Deion Harris (24); Youngstown State C Vitas Hrynkiewicz (70); Rhode Island QB JaJuan Lawson (15); North Dakota RB John Santiago (22); Maine LB Sterling Sheffield (56); Dayton P Sean Smith (18); Incarnate Word LB Silas Stewart (54)
FCS Players on National Team (coach Mike Tice): Northern Arizona WR Emmanuel Butler (81); San Diego OT Daniel Cooney (75); Northwestern State LB Obinna Iheoma (51); Nicholls WR Damion Jeanpiere (88); Eastern Washington CB Josh Lewis (31); Chattanooga DT Isaiah Mack (98); Weber State OG Iosua Opeta (65); Eastern Washington DT Jay-Tee Tiuli (99); Southern Utah OT Marquez Tucker (76); Murray State LB Quincy Williams (54)
— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Photo courtesy of North Dakota State Athletics)