Mike McFeely: Larson wonít let go of his NFL dreams
Fargo Forum
Give Lance Larson credit for honesty. Ask him why heís playing football at Concordia this fall at age 26 and six years removed from his previous collegiate experience and he wonít sling any bull at you.

Thereís little reference to things most Cobbers talk about, like beating Moorhead State, winning a Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship or putting the hurt on St. Johnís. Those things might very well matter to Larson, but they are not why he is playing for the Cobbers.

Larson is in this for the exposure. He wants game film of himself to give to scouts from the National Football League. He is still chasing the dream.

"I donít really intend to come back here next year," said Larson, a junior defensive end. "Iím going to make myself eligible for the draft next spring."

Before you start laughing uncontrollably at what seems like a fantasy Larson should let go of Ė a player in his mid-20s going to Concordia in order to get taken in Aprilís NFL draft Ė you should know that several scouts have already talked with him. Bird dogs from the likes of Indianapolis, Oakland, St. Louis, New England and Green Bay have been in Moorhead.

One look at Larsonís physique would be enough to tell you why. As a defensive end who measures in at 6-foot-5 and 275 chiseled pounds, he is a specimen.

Add to the mix speed in the 4.7-second range for the 40-yard dash and itís enough to draw the interest of the pros.

"I match up with any college player in the country with my size and speed," Larson said. "The scouts have told me they are going to watch me closely and I have a good chance of getting drafted with my size and speed."

Larson has been getting attention from big-time football coaches ever since he played at Moorhead High School. After helping the Spuds win the Minnesota Class AA state title in 1987 and graduating in 1989, he received a scholarship to play at Nebraska. He spent a year and a half with the Big Red before deciding to take a semester off Ė and never returned.

"That was a mistake," Larson said. "I should have went back to Nebraska."

The next stop was North Dakota State, where he participated in spring practice in 1991 and began the season that fall before leaving the team in midseason.

From there it was on to the U.S. Air Force, where Larson spent three years installing fiber-optic communication systems.

"You know when that guy cut the telephone lines in Moorhead? Thatís the type of stuff I worked on," said Larson, who was based in Rome, N.Y., but also spent time in Texas, Germany and Ohio. "It was a good experience. I learned a lot and got to see the world, as they say."

After his hitch in the military was up, Larson worked as a salesman for F-M Water Systems of Fargo, a water softener business his father owns, before enrolling at Concordia in the fall of 1996.

His re-entry into football was spurred by conversations he had with former Bison players Doug Van Meter and Todd Wash. A pass rusher, Wash went to training camp with the Houston Oilers in 1991.

"They told me with my size and speed Iíd be crazy not to try and play again. When people who have been there say that, you just donít forget those things," Larson said. "Thatís when I made the decision to get back in it. I didnít want to be asking myself ĎWhat if?í for the rest of my life."

With the blessing of Cobbers coach Jim Christopherson, Larson strapped on the pads again in hopes of catching somebodyís eye in the NFL.

After making one tackle in the season opener against Moorhead State, Larson made his first start last week against Gustavus Adolphus. He made one of the gameís biggest plays when he returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of a 28-7 victory. He also had a tackle and was credited with half a sack.

Playing against NCAA Division III competition, those are hardly the stats of a future NFLer. But that isnít deterring Larson. He believes more scouts will be in contact as the season progresses and he has more game film of himself to pass out.

"Iíll know more when the season is over. Right now itís pretty much a day-to-day thing," Larson said. "A lot of what happens is going to depend on the season, of course. I just want a chance to play somewhere. Right now my focus is on Concordia College and trying to help us win football games."

1997 Cobber Football