SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Austin Sumner wasn’t going to miss out on the Jackrabbit party in Texas.
The former Brandon Valley and South Dakota State standout quarterback will be one of many former Jackrabbit football players flying into Frisco, Texas — the host city for the FCS National Championship. At 1 p.m. Sunday, top-seeded SDSU (8-1) and second-seeded Sam Houston (9-0) will play for the national title.
“There’s a lot that’s gone into this. Stig’s (SDSU head coach John Stigelmeier) been there forever,” Sumner told KELOLAND News. “It’s been a goal for a lot of us that have decided to go play football at South Dakota State. We’ve all had a hand at elevating this program. It’s a monumental weekend for us.”
Sumner, who starred at SDSU from 2011 to 2014, is currently living and working in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his wife, Bailey, and 5-month-old baby boy, Beau. He said he’s enjoyed following the spring season when all he usually watches on TV is golf.
“It’s been fun to watch them handle this odd year,” Sumner said. “It’s been a long time coming. Over the last 10 or so years, the Jacks have continued to raise the bar year-in and year-out. Now here we are heading to Frisco.”
Like many former SDSU players, Sumner said he’s reconnected with many of his former teammates this week in anticipation of Sunday’s first championship appearance.
“It sounds like it’s going to be one big reunion down there,” Sumner said. “The Jackrabbit Former Players Association has done a good job of keeping us involved. It’s been nice being able to reconnect and it should be a really good turnout for all of us old, washed-up guys.”
A quarterback’s perspective
Sumner is one of only five Jackrabbit players to be selected as a finalist for the FCS Jerry Rice Award, created in 2011 to honor the top freshman player. Current SDSU quarterback Mark Gronowski finished runner-up for this year’s Jerry Rice Award.
After throwing for 9,458 yards and 65 touchdowns in 44 games played for SDSU, Sumner can relate to Gronowski. Both players took over the starting QB job as freshmen.
“You are drinking from a fire hose for that first year,” said Sumner, who added the spring season start has likely helped Gronowski. “It takes time to build relationships and he’s utilized his time really well.”
Sumner said he’s spoken with former SDSU QB and current quarterbacks coach/recruiting coordinator Zach Lujan a few times this season about this year’s team.
“He’s just got that ‘it’ thing that nobody knows what it is, but kind of do know what it is. He’s won over the team and that’s super important at that position,” Sumner said.
KELOLAND News will team coverage of the FCS championship game this weekend. Sports Director Sean Bower will have interviews with players, coaches and fans from Frisco. Watch Saturday’s Sportszone for more coverage before the big game kicks off Sunday.