Finally, Kyle Emanuel doesn’t have to let up.
For years at North Dakota State, the linebacker would have Carson Wentz dead to rights, only to ease up at the last second. After all, it’s cardinal rule number one that the quarterback is off limits in practice.
“Every time beforehand I was in a red jersey, and he couldn’t tackle me,” Wentz said. “Now we finally get to go at it.”
The former Bison teammates square off as foes on Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles come to town. Emanuel, for one, is licking his chops to finally lay into the quarterback.
“It’s not like I’m dying to hit him (as a) ‘I don’t like him type of thing,’ but yeah (I can’t wait),” Emanuel said. “He was in a red jersey obviously my whole career!... We were pretty close. I’m not going to say we were best friends, but we were definitely close. We remain pretty close.”
It will be a special reunion for the two players, who were part of four FCS Championship teams over their careers together at North Dakota State. However, it wasn’t until Emanuel’s senior season that Wentz, then a junior, took over at quarterback.
The linebacker knew the future Eagle was a star, but he had no idea he’d be a number two overall selection.
It wasn’t until Emanuel entered the NFL that he realized Wentz was every bit as talented as the elite level passers.
“We always knew Carson was good, even from a young age before he was ever playing, but I didn’t know what a number two overall pick looked like,” he admitted. “I just didn’t know. You only see NFL quarterbacks on TV, but once I got into the NFL, and once you started hearing all the hype about it, it was like, OK, this makes sense.”
So, what does Wentz remember about Emanuel back then?
“I love Kyle,” he simply said. “I just texted him the other day. Kyle and I were around each other a lot in college. He was a heck of a football player in college. No one could block him at that level. I remember going up against him in practice and training camps all the time. He was annoying! He was annoying because he was always in the backfield.”
Wentz isn’t exaggerating when he calls Emanuel unblockable at that level.
The outside linebacker joined the Bolts as a fifth-round draft pick in 2014 after winning the Buck Buchanan Award as the FCS’ top defensive player, leading the league with 19.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss.
While most talk about the AFC Defensive Player of the Month Melvin Ingram and reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa, Wentz knows he also must account for his former Bison teammate.
“He’s an excellent football player, and now getting the chance to play against him on Sunday is really cool for us both personally. I think a lot of Bison fans back home will be tuned into this game in support of both he and I. It will be fun.”
“It’s just special,” Emanuel added. “We talked about it. It’s just special to be able to play against a guy that we’ve gone through so much together in college and accomplished so much together. I’m just really proud of the way he’s handled himself, and the things he’s already accomplished so young in his career. He’s a great competitor (and) a great guy overall. I’m just excited to play against him. He’s a special type of competitor and I saw that in college. It’ll be fun to go against him.”