In five seasons as the head coach of North Dakota State, Chris Klieman went 69-6, won four FCS National Championships and had two quarterbacks.
Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and Easton Stick, the Chargers’ fifth round selection in 2019 (No. 166 overall), both won big for the Bison. On Thursday’s episode of Chargers Weekly, Klieman explained the 164-selection gap between where his former quarterbacks were drafted is much closer than imagined.
“[Easton Stick is] probably the smartest guy I’ve ever been around and I coached Carson Wentz as well,” said Klieman, the new head coach at Kansas State. “And so, that’s a big thing to say.”
Stick (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) went 49-3 as the starting quarterback at NDSU, a school record. He was under center for three of the school’s last four championships.
He’s also a dual threat. In addition to owning the school’s passing yards (8,693) and passing touchdowns (88) records, Stick left NDSU as the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s all-time leader in rushing yards (2,523) and rushing touchdowns (41) by a quarterback.
Like Wentz, Klieman noted Stick's ability to extend plays and his experience running a pro-style offense as things that will serve him well at the next level. However, team success and personal accolades piled up because of Stick's intangibles, according to his former head coach.
“I’ve never seen a guy prepare for practices, prepare for games, prepare on a game-plan sheet and a call sheet as well as Easton Stick,” said Klieman. “And once again, he learned all that stuff from Carson when he was Carson’s understudy, but he took it to another level.”
Klieman used the 2015 season as an example of the type of player and teammate Stick has shown himself to be. When Wentz went down with a thumb injury six games into the year, Stick, a redshirt freshman, lead the Bison to a perfect 8-0 record and a spot in the national championship game.
When Wentz got cleared to play in the biggest game of the season, Stick voluntarily took a backseat.
According to Klieman, “Easton was the one that came to us and said, ‘This is Carson’s football team. He deserves to play in this national championship game. I’ll have [another] opportunity.’”
Wentz won the game, and Stick added three more titles to the trophy case in Fargo.
The two friends are now in the NFL. Wentz, who was an MVP candidate for much of the 2017 season, is firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Stick is set to join a quarterbacks room with Philip Rivers, a rare opportunity to learn from a future Hall of Famer who’s still playing at an elite level.
It’s uncertain what the future holds, but the Chargers wanted Stick in their locker room. Klieman knows why.
“He’s not 6-foot-6 like Carson is, but somebody was going to take a chance on him,” Klieman said. “You’re getting a guy that’s going to be an unbelievable competitor, a great winner and make everybody around him better.”