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Lance setting history as first MHS athlete to reach the NFL

FILE - North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance smiles as he is interviewed at the school's football NFL Pro Day in Fargo, N.D., in this Friday, March, 12, 2021, file photo. Lance will likely be one of the first two players drafted from non-Football Bowl Subdivision programs next week. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton- King, File)

By Sam Thiel

Marshall Independent

MARSHALL — Trey Lance has done a little of everything on the football field. He started at the youth level at running back, weaving around defenders. In high school, he transitioned to quarterback where he became a dual threat on offense with both his arm and his legs. When the Marshall football team was on defense, Lance anchored the safety position, applying hard hits or leaping through the air to haul in an interception. He even spent time on special teams, returning kickoffs and once blocked a field goal attempt, which he then recovered and ran the other way for the score.All of those skills have translated into a winning formula for Lance, who, after a record-breaking freshman season at North Dakota State University, put his name into the 2021 NFL Draft. Lance is projected to be one of the top quarterbacks taken in this year’s draft, which begins tonight in Cleveland, Ohio and is setting history and paving the way for future athletes in Marshall by becoming the first Marshall High School athlete to go to the NFL.Marshall football coach Terry Bahlmann, who had Lance play for him for three seasons, said he’s extremely proud of Trey and what he’s been able to accomplish on and off the field.“This is the first time for a Marshall High School athlete to be in the NFL. Way back, there was a young man named Greg Lens from the Catholic School in the 60s that went to the NFL for a little bit. I’ve coached kids in All-Star games that have gone on to the NFL before but this is the first one from our program that’s going to the NFL,” Bahlmann said. “It’s just an honor and we’re proud of Trey and everything he’s accomplished both on the field and off the field and with the type of person he is, he’s very deserving of everything he gets.”Before Lance made his way to NDSU, he started his dream of making it to the NFL where most athletes do: in their own backyard. After playing youth and middle school football, Lance’s first opportunity at the high school level came late in the 2015 season as a sophomore when senior starting quarterback Thomas Fischer broke his arm. Lance would get his first career start under center on Oct. 20, 2015 against Faribault in the opening round of the Section 2AAAA tournament and completed four of his five pass attempts for 64 yards while adding 10 carries and 112 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 53-13 victory. He then helped Marshall reach its first state tournament since 1991 with a 31-28 victory against Hutchinson before MHS fell to Stewartville in the first round of the Class AAAA tournament.The following season, Lance would throw for 1,344 yards while adding 275 on the ground and combined for 22 touchdowns along with 13 total tackles as a junior and lead Marshall to another trip to state, with MHS reaching the semifinal round before coming up short against Benilde-St. Margaret’s at U.S. Bank Stadium.In his senior season, Lance completed nearly 53 percent of his passes for 1,386 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air while adding 641 rushing yards and 10 more scores in addition to 54 total tackles and three interceptions. He finished his prep career with 3,026 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns (a school-record), 1,177 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns.Bahlmann said as Lance went through his career at MHS, his strong work ethic and dedication to the game carried over to his play on the field and that not much has changed over the years.“His play on the field carries over from his personality. Trey’s a hard worker, he’s always very prepared, he’s a great student of the game and watches game film a lot. When Trey was here he was the first one in the building and last one to leave and when one of your best athletes works that hard, good things are going to happen,” Bahlmann said. “Obviously it carried over to the field and the things you see him do now are a lot of the same things he did in high school; quarterback run game, power read, quarterback counters and bootleg off play action is all stuff he did in high school. He’s just taking his game to another level and has matured and grown both physically and mentally.”Off the field, Bahlmann added Lance has always shown great leadership skills despite being more quiet.“Trey’s always been a quiet, confident leader; when he was here, he was the regional representative for southwest Minnesota for Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), so his leadership skills have always been there,” Bahlmann said. “He’s a guy people gravitate towards in the locker room and when he’s talking and want to be around him. His hard work, he’ll back up everything he expects from everybody else with his own hard work and people tend to follow that.”In Dec. of 2017, Lance made his college choice official and headed to Fargo to play at NDSU, who was on the verge of winning their sixth NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) National Championship in the last seven years.“When he was looking at schools, I told him that North Dakota State was going to be one of the top programs for quarterbacks with Brock Jensen, Carson Wentz and Easton Stick all going there,” Trey’s father, Carlton, said. “Once we saw Easton get drafted, we knew if he played well he would have an opportunity to play at the next level.”In Fargo, Lance redshirted his first season and played in two games, completing a pass and scoring two touchdowns on the ground. After Stick graduated and got drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers, Lance became the full-time starter and reeled off one of the most outstanding seasons in college football. Lance led the Bison to the first 16-0 season in college football since 1894 and its third consecutive National Championship and eighth in nine years, but his individual stats set numerous school records. He completed 66.9% of his passes (including setting a NCAA record for pass attempts without an interception at 287) while throwing for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns and added 169 carries on the ground for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also set the single-season school record for passing efficiency (180.6) and total offense (3,886). Lance also was named the most outstanding player in their 28-20 victory over James Madison during the FCS title game in January of 2020 was named the top offensive player in the FCS (Walter Payton Award) and the top freshman (Jerry Rice Award).NDSU would have its 2020 fall season postponed to this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but played in an exhibition game on Oct. 3, 2020 against Central Arkansas. In what ended up being his final game in a Bison uniform, Lance completed 15 of his 30 passes for 149 yards and tossed two touchdowns and threw his only career interception after 307 consecutive pass attempts. On the ground, he used 15 carries to record 143 rushing yards and two more scores.A few days later, Lance declared for the draft, something that Bahlmann figured was on the horizon after his record-breaking season.“We sort of figured it was coming with the way COVID was going to play this year and then see where he was at but with the 28 touchdowns, zero interceptions and at the time people were talking about him being a first-rounder and if you’re a first-rounder in the NFL it’s not a surprise you’re coming out of college,” Bahlmann said.Bahlmann added they didn’t know during Trey’s time at MHS of how far his journey would take him but felt NDSU was a perfect fit for him with his talent and pedigree of success of those who played before him at quarterback.“We didn’t know in high school if he was going to be an NFL guy. He’s a great athlete and we were a little baffled by the fact that the Power Fives didn’t think he was quarterback for the Big Ten or Big 12 because we didn’t know what else he could do with his size, strength and speed,” Bahlmann said. “We thought he was that kind of athlete but NDSU was a great fit for him and the previous two quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Easton Stick both went to the NFL so that was a goal for him. When he got there he went right to work on the whiteboards studying NFL defenses and when he got his chance he took it to a new level.”To honor its alum, Marshall High School is celebrating “Trey Day”, encouraging students to wear their favorite Marshall, NDSU or NFL apparel and will have “Trey Trivia” for students all day with chances to win prizes.Bahlmann said he’s looking forward to watching Lance take the next step in his career and knows he’ll be ready to work right from the start.“Just to see Trey take the next step, we’re so proud of him and his family for all they’ve accomplished and for him it’s a chance to set his next step for his goals,” Bahlmann said. “Wherever he ends up, I know he’s going to fly out Friday morning and get to work at being an NFL quarterback. It should be a lot of fun for a kid from Marshall, Minnesota getting selected in the NFL Draft.”

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