De Pere’s Rowland signs with Northern State football
Center coveted by Division II school
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – When the Northern State University football coaches started recruiting De Pere’s Ross Rowland, he quickly became the program’s top target on the offensive line.
After talks with coaches and an on-campus visit to the Division II school in Aberdeen, S.D., Rowland’s interest in the school magnified.
On Feb. 1, he signed a national letter of intent to play at Northern State.
“The recruiter and I really connected and then their program was really nice to me and everything kind of fit well,” Rowland said. “It was a good experience and I think I fit.”
Rowland started at center as a sophomore, and he showed colleges his worth as a powerful big man.
He was named first-team Fox River Classic Conference all three years he started. As a senior, Rowland was a nominee for the Joe Thomas Award as the best offensive lineman in the state.
Northern State is mostly a run-oriented program, which is right up Rowland’s alley.
“Their saying is, ‘Win the A gap,’ so obviously that’s what they want me to come in and do,” Rowland said.
De Pere offensive line coach Matt Kincade is excited Rowland gets a shot at playing college football.
“I think the program fits exactly the kind of player he is,” Kincade said. “He’s one of the best that I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching. He’s going to flourish in that environment. They have a solid program, doing some really great things up there and Ross is going to be a big part of that. I’m looking forward to being able to watch him.”
Throughout the recruiting process, De Pere coach Ben Strickland was in touch with Northern State coach Mike Schmidt, who was thrilled to sign Rowland.
“In talking with coach Schmidt, he’s their top guy on the offensive line all the way through and through,”
Strickland said. “He did a great job of maintaining contact with him and developing a relationship, so just happy that he found a place that’s the right fit for him.
“As far as off the field, he’s going to be a young man that takes care of his business in the classroom and community. He’s the type of young man you want representing your program off the field. On the field, he’s an O-lineman through and through, so he breeds a level of toughness and aggressiveness and attitude that when he puts the helmet on, he flips a switch. He’ll bring that to the table.”
Northern State, which went 6-5 overall a season ago, inked seven offensive linemen during the latest signing period.
Rowland is being brought in to play center, but he is skilled enough to play either guard spots. Rowland’s been trying at guard, but he’s been a center for seven years, and it’s the position where he’s most comfortable.
But having that versatility on the line will allow Rowland to see the field sooner.
“From a football-smart standpoint, he’s one of the most intelligent guys I’ve ever coached,” Kincade said. “He really understands the game, understands what the defenses are trying to do. He plays fast, so the game slows down for him because he is so smart.”
Rowland had an offer from Minnesota State Mankato and was talking with Bemidji State as well as a few Division III colleges. He had also been in touch with Division I Northern Illinois and Division I FCS Presbyterian.
One reason Rowland picked Northern State was the chance to earn some playing time sooner than later.
“I think they want me to step in and play right away, but I’m going to obviously have to prove that I can do that,” Rowland said. “I don’t think they want to redshirt me.”
Rowland believes he offers Northern State a lot on the football field.
“I don’t usually like to talk up my game or anything, but I think I’m a good player and I fit well in their offensive scheme,” Rowland said. “I’m ready. I’m ready to go.”