Retracing Carson Wentz’s North Dakota football roots

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Even before Frank Reich’s first call to Carson Wentz, connecting the Philadelphia Eagles to their 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft, two personalities clicked.

“Coach (Frank) Reich, I’ll never forget when I was working out up in Fargo, North Dakota, before the draft and he, Coach (Doug) Pederson and everyone kind of came out and it was just instant,” Wentz said. “It was instant that we had this connection. We are both obviously men of faith and we were able to talk about our values and different things. It was natural.”

Wentz’ reunion with Reich is billed as a fresh start for both sides.

For the first time since Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement in August of 2019, the Colts believe the starting quarterback spot is anchored down for the long term.

With a number change (No. 2), a move back to the Midwest, and one of the league’s top rushing attacks, the Wentz revitalization campaign appears underway.

The 28-year-old is certainly ready to prove the Eagles’ collapse had little to do with their former franchise arm. 

For Reich, this is a chance to take Wentz, a former three sport high school athlete, back to a place where football simply meant fun.

That place? Bismark, North Dakota. 

“The top ticket in town is high school sports, people love their high school sports in Bismark,” Century High School Athletic Director Ben Lervick said. “They love to have pride in their schools and see them do well.”

Wentz’s high school athletic career for Bismark’s Century High School Patriots was decorated, and it went well beyond football. 

“His senior year we were the state basketball champions at the highest level,” Wentz’s former high school football coach Ron Wingenbach said. “He was a banger, let’s put it that way…He was very talented in baseball too, playing first baseman and pitcher.”

“But, I think his heart was always a little more set on seeing what the experience in football could bring him,” Wingenbach said.

Due to an injury as a junior, Wentz only played nine varsity football games as a starting quarterback. The lone NCAA DI FBS program to pursue Wentz out of high school? 

Central Michigan.  

Instead of leaving home for the MAC, Wentz’ joined on with a FCS dynasty in the making.

North Dakota State was making noise, picking off opponents from Power 5 conferences, and paving a path toward a historic NCAA run. 

Wentz’ collegiate arrival however was quiet, even for Fargo. 

But, as Reich’s former Buffalo Bills teammate Phil Hansen saw firsthand in the Bison radio booth, this story was about to change.

“Well, even I was kind of a naysayer at the beginning,” Hansen said. “I don’t think many people were believers, probably myself included, but he opened that door wide open.”  

What Hansen and the Bison soon realized, is a perfect storm of size, smarts, and an elite work ethic inside of the Bismarck native.

Wentz departed Fargo as a member of five NCAA FCS National Championship teams. 

After redshirting, and spending an additional two seasons as a backup quarterback, Wentz took the reins and never looked back. 

So what is in store in Indianapolis, following a rocky exit in Philadelphia? 

Folks the Wentz won over in North Dakota believe they know the answer. 

“He’s a leader of men and what I think he’s going to bring to Indianapolis is what any NFL quarterback should bring to a team,” Wingenbach said.

“No more than good luck and we’ll certainly be watching, that would be the message,” Hansen said. “I think the best is yet to come.”

North Dakota, come on down. This story started with you.