QB Prospect Carson Wentz's North Dakota Roots Run Deep

Carson Wentz thought he finally had them. He thought he was finally going to make it to the state championship game. 


"That was a tough one," Wentz's high school football coach, Ron Wingenbach, said to CSNPhilly.com this week, remembering the 2010 North Dakota Class 3A football semifinal.

By that time, Wentz had grown from a 5-8, 125-pound freshman into a 6-5 senior starting quarterback for Century HS in Bismarck. He was on his way to play college football and eventually be drafted into the NFL. 

But back on Nov. 6, 2010, with just six seconds left in that semifinal, Wentz's final high school game, Fargo South quarterback Griffen Neal, who recently signed with the Saints, sneaked into the end zone on a two-yard run that lifted his team to a 22-21 win.

And it crushed a young Wentz.

Wentz, whom the Eagles are expected to take with the No. 2 overall pick Thursday night to become their franchise quarterback, recently said in The Players' Tribune that the loss was the "most heartbreaking" of his life.  

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Fargo South ended up winning the state title the next week, while Wentz went on to play college ball at North Dakota State, before eventually becoming a top pick in the 2016 NFL draft. 

But Wentz didn't leave his senior year of high school without a state championship. 

Century basketball coach Darin Mattern remembers the football team's loss in that semifinal game quite well - in fact, his brother, Troy Mattern, was and is the head coach at Fargo South. 

Not long after Wentz's crushing defeat, Darin Mattern was holding the first basketball practice of the season, when he stepped out of the gym and into the hallway to get a drink of water. That's when he saw Wentz, who elected to not play basketball as a junior to focus on football, working out. Mattern joked to Wentz that he missed the first day of practice, before eventually convincing him to at least think about re-joining the team. 

That night, Mattern called Wentz on the phone and the two talked for nearly an hour about the possibility of Wentz's playing basketball. At the end of the call, Mattern left the decision up to Wentz, telling him to talk it over with his parents.

"Next thing you know we had him on the practice floor on Day 2," Mattern said. "And he ended up being one of our best players and we ended up winning the state high school championship his senior year, which was the first time in 27 years the school had won one."

At 6-5, Wentz could play every position for Century on the basketball floor. He often played the role of point-forward, and it was his job to cover the opposition's best player. 

Really, though, Wentz added something to that state championship team that it was lacking: leadership and a physical presence. 

"He's one of the best leaders I've ever been around," Mattern said. "And when you talk about in all my years in coaching, and that's been 20-plus, I'm not sure I've had a kid that has been as competitive as this kid."

Midway through his senior high school basketball season, Wentz committed to North Dakota State to play football. 

Wentz, as the story goes, showed up to the first day of high school as a 5-8 freshman who weighed around 125 pounds. His brother, Zach, who was three years older, starred at Century as a quarterback and grew into his body much earlier than Carson. 

So Wingenbach and the rest of the coaches just had to wait for Carson Wentz's growth spurt. By his junior year, Wentz was about 6-3, and he was 6-5 by the time senior year rolled around. 

But even when he was a small freshman, there was something special about Wentz. 

"I think the one thing that was probably special about him at that point was just kind of the fire and desire to play every play to its fullest," Wingenbach said. "If we wanted him to play offensive line, he would have played offensive line for us. He was that type of competitor."

Because of injuries as a junior, Wentz didn't become the full-time starting quarterback for the Patriots until his senior year, which helps explain why the FBS schools didn't come knocking. 

But in his senior year, Wentz took over as quarterback. Wingenbach said Wentz wasn't the "rah-rah type" of leader, but "when he spoke, his teammates listened." 

The city of Bismarck has really rallied around Wentz over the last few months. Heck, the entire state of North Dakota is behind him. 

On Thursday night, the town is hosting a draft viewing party at MDU Resources Community Bowl (pending weather) in Bismarck to watch on the big screen as their hometown hero gets drafted. 

"It should be a lot of fun," Wingenbach said. 

While it's a coincidence, Century High School is closed on Friday for a pre-scheduled built-in storm day. But the timing worked out well. The entire city is celebrating. 

It's been like this for a few months, Mattern said. The extra hype surrounding Wentz really began to pick up after this year's FCS national title game, in which Wentz led the Bison to the championship. 

Mattern said for the last few months it had been impossible to go into the grocery store or walk down the street without hearing folks chatter about where Wentz would end up. 

"Well, if you scroll on your Facebook account, that's all you're going to see is articles or something relating to Carson," Wingenbach said. "It's been phenomenal, as far as the level of support the city of Bismarck has generated and the well-wishers throughout the state, and of course Bison Nation is behind him 100 percent. It's just a big culmination of different entities and we're all hoping for the best."

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