By Marlys Kruger
It appears Colfax graduate Ricky Hagen will have a championship ring for each hand to balance himself out as Hagen and his teammates from North Dakota State University won their second straight FCS National Football title Jan. 5 in Frisco, TX. The Bison turned a 10-10 halftime score against Sam Houston State into a rout as they finished off the game 39-13 against the same team they defeated last year for the title.
Hagen, a senior defensive end for the Division I Bison, picked up two solo tackles in his final game, one in the third quarter for a five yard loss on a second down and one play. That led to a pair of incomplete passes by the SHS quarterback and after the Bison took over on downs on their own 35 yard line they drove the length of the field for a touchdown and a two point conversion to go up 25-10.
NDSU recruited 20 players, including Hagen in 2008, and for various reasons, Hagen and center Joe Lund are the only two who played their last game of the season in Texas with the team. Hagen rotated at the end position with another player for the past three years and although he wasn’t considered to be a “superstar” he was consistent and resilient during his playing career.
“Ricky has been a great contributor during his years with NDSU,” said his defensive ends coach Andrew Cooper. “He’s persevered through some tough times here but his leadership and work ethic were instrumental in our success this past season. On a personal level, coaching Ricky for the last four years has been a pleasure. He has matured and developed into a good football player, but more importantly, he has become a good student and an even better man who will graduate this spring,” he added.
Hagen played in all but one game this year and finished with 16 tackles, two quarterback sacks and was tied for second on the team with five quarterback hurries. In his four years of action, he accounted for 56 solo and/or assisted tackles including six for loss of yardage with seven quarterback sacks.
“Winning back to back championships with my team is just a great feeling,” Hagen said in a phone interview. “My teammates and I discussed which one was better, the one last year which was the first one for our school since the late 90s or this one. We thought last year’s win was really big because we didn’t know what to expect as we moved through the playoffs and playing in front of such big crowds was a little over whelming. But this year we had to come from behind late in the game against Georgia State just to get to the championship game. I think the experience we gained last season helped us and allowed us to stay calm and win another national title,” he added.
Asked about his overall experience playing at the Division I level, Hagen answered very enthusiastically.
“I’ve had a great experience here at NDSU,” he said. “There were some tough times when I had to deal with an injury or seeing kids I played with as a freshman leave the team, (and a little homesickness his freshman year), but my main goals when I came here were not about individual statistics. I wanted to represent my hometown of Colfax and my family in a positive manner. One thing I want kids back home to know is that if you work hard enough and stick with something, you can achieve a lot of things. Although, I am done playing football now, I will always look back on my college years as a positive experience.”
Hagen will graduate in May with a degree in Criminal Justice and Psychology and will begin looking for a job wherever he can find one. He does not plan on continuing a career on the gridiron.
“I want to thank all of my family members and friends from the Colfax area for the support they have given me while I was at NDSU. That meant a lot to a small town boy to have so many people follow me and my team,” he concluded.