By Rich Palzewic
FARGO, North Dakota – It may have taken a while, but former Pulaski football star Dylan Hendricks is back to doing what he loves – playing at a high level.
Hendricks, a 2019 Pulaski graduate now playing at North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo, recorded three tackles in the Bison’s opening game victory over Eastern Washington and recorded another tackle in a Week 2 win against Maine.
“I’m happy with how things are going,” Hendricks said. “It’s been a long road to recovery, but it’s been worth it. I’m back to 100% healthy.”
The road to get back has been anything but easy for Hendricks – the 2018 Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Large School Offensive Player of the Year.
After a phenomenal senior season at Pulaski where Hendricks carried the ball an astounding 404 times for 2,833 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns, he tore his ACL later his senior year playing rugby.
“I was really into rugby at that point in my life,” he said. “I was out in California playing with the All-American team and ended up tearing my ACL. The thought with rugby was maybe coming back to it later in life after I was done playing football.”
The coaches at NDSU still had faith in Hendricks after the injury.
“I was extremely grateful for that,” he said. “I then tore the meniscus in my knee while trying to come back from the ACL injury my first year at NDSU. I was going to redshirt (my freshman season anyway).”
Then, in December 2020 while back home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hendricks got in a car accident and injured his neck.
“I got a fusion in my neck,” he said. “I basically lost two years from that – it was just trying to fight back and get healthy. After the accident when I started talking to the doctors, they told me I’d never play football again – that crushed me at the time. It was a huge part of my identity. Quitting was something I never considered.”
On Oct. 8 of last season, Hendricks finally saw some game action against Indiana State – a span of 46 games from his freshman season in 2019 until he took the field against the Sycamores.
“It’s not easy being injured,” he said. “It’s the worst place you can be – on the sidelines. Mentally, it’s tough, but when I was finally able to get out there and play, it was all worth it.”
Coming to NDSU
During his senior season at Pulaski, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Hendricks also threw for 776 yards with eight touchdown passes.
“When I came to camp at NDSU, I was doing a little linebacker, tight end and fullback work,” he said. “I ended up meeting with the offensive coordinator – that went well, and I was offered (a scholarship), so I just assumed I was going to be a tight end or fullback. When I got here (my freshman year), they said, ‘You’re going to play linebacker.’”
Now at 245 pounds, Hendricks has found a home as a defensive end.
Hendricks’ high school coach, Jerad Marsh, had nothing but praise for his former star player.
“Dylan was an excellent teammate,” Marsh said. “He was a well-liked young man and loved to see other teammates succeed. He could do whatever he wanted to do with the ball, but he wasn’t afraid to lead block for others. As a football player, there weren’t many guys tougher. He had a great feel for the game.”
Marsh said Hendricks’ legacy is still being felt at Pulaski – five years after he played.
“The kids playing now still remember watching Dylan play – they were in the stands as middle schoolers,” he said. “He’d stay after practice and play catch with kids. Anything nice written about Dylan is all good – he deserves it all.”
After this season, Hendricks said he still has a year of eligibility remaining.
“I still haven’t decided yet about that,” he said.
What about rugby?
“For right now, I’m focused on helping NDSU win games and not focused on rugby,” Hendricks said.