SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The roughly 99-player roster for the South Dakota State University Jackrabbit football team has at least 24 players from high schools in the state.
One of those players is Tucker Kraft, a redshirt freshman tight end from Timber Lake.
Kraft graduated from a high school that today has about the same number of students (94) that his football team does.
The fall 2020 enrollment at SDSU (11,405) is more than 19 times larger than the population of Timber Lake (598). Timber Lake plays nine-man football and is in Class B for all other sports.
Kraft, along with 23 other players from South Dakota, has found a spot on the roster.
When SDSU plays Sam Houston Sunday in the FCS national championship, Kraft’s high school football coach Ryan Gimbel and a whole lot of other people from Timber Lake will be watching, Gimbel said.
“Our community is highly involved in watching the Jackrabbits,” Gimbel said.
The SDSU team is dotted with players from similar small towns in the state. From Winner to Parkston, many of the in-state players came from high schools and towns smaller than the SDSU enrollment.
The program also has players from all three public high schools and one private high school in Sioux Falls. Click on the map below to learn more about the high schools attended by players on the Jackrabbit roster.
SDSU also dipped heavily in the Midwest to recruit players from nearby states.
Seventeen players are from Minnesota including players from the Twin Cities area cities of Lakeville, Brooklyn Park and Oakdale.
Another 13 are from Nebraska with most of those from the Omaha area. Twelve are from Iowa, with a chunk from just across the border in Rock Valley and Sioux Center.
Another 11 are from Illinois.
The 2020 football roster on the University of South Dakota’s website lists far fewer South Dakota players than SDSU.
Another rival, North Dakota State University in Fargo, had at least 15 North Dakota players on its roster, according to its website.
SDSU’s championship opponent, Sam Houston, is a university based in Huntsville, Texas. It’s easier to count the number of out-of-state players at Sam Houston. The roster has fewer than 15 players from outside of Texas. The 2020 estimated population of Texas is 29.1 million.
This will be SDSU’s first FCS football championship game.
Gimbel said it’s been fun watching Kraft be a part of the history-making team.
The Timber Lake player earned a spot on the Jackrabbit roster in part because of two particular characteristics, Gimbel said.
“…he’s highly athletic,” Gimbel said.
Kraft played quarterback as a high school sophomore and running back in his junior and senior years. He also ran track and hurdles in high school. “I could put him in the 200 meters and he’d get ninth,” Gimbel said of the 6’5” 240-pound athlete.
And, “He’s just one of the hardest working kids I have every been around,” Gimbel said.
Kraft would hound Gimbel for weight and strength skill drills and conditioning, Gimbel said.
The high school and the community have been excited about Kraft and SDSU’s success, Gimbel said.
KELOLAND Sports Director Sean Bower will also be in Frisco, Texas for the FCS Championship game. He’ll introduce you to SDSU fans who make the trip to cheer on the Jackrabbits and also show you what the team is doing starting Friday evening on KELOLAND News.
Then on Sunday, he’ll bring you a closer look at the National Title game on his KELOBower Twitter account, KELOLAND.com and KELOLAND Weekend News.