Spring 2021 Magazine

Matt Entz seeks Christ as he leads North Dakota State football dynasty

Matt Entz’s players were getting impatient. The first-year head coach had just led North Dakota State to its eighth FCS national championship in nine years. As Entz did his obligatory press conference after the game, the rest of the team was waiting for him.

Finally, a couple of players told him he needed to come back to the locker room. Only then did the celebration commence.

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Entz sees that moment as a symbol of the transformation that’s occurred in his 22-year coaching career.

“I started out as what I would call a transactional coach,” Entz wrote in a recent Athletes For God article. “I would try to put players in positions to succeed, and they would then put me in a position to succeed. To move up. To jump to the FBS level. To be a head coach. At a certain point I realized that coaching was so much more than that. It’s about relationships. And loving your players. And enjoying where you’re at in life. I had to be okay with knowing that becoming a head coach might never happen.”

Entz spent time as an assistant at Illinois College, Wayne State College, Winona State, Northern Iowa and Western Illinois before Chris Klieman asked him to be North Dakota State’s defensive coordinator in 2014. When Klieman took the Kansas State job at the end of the 2018 season, Entz was named as his replacement.

All the while, God has been part of Entz’s life. His grandfather and great-grandfather have doctorates in theology. Three of his uncles are pastors. He grew up going to Sunday school and youth group.

“Those experiences laid the foundation for the person I am today, but when I got to college my faith hit a speed bump,” Entz said. “It wasn’t that I stopped believing, but I didn’t make my faith my top priority, and I paid the price. I made a few poor decisions and ruined some relationships, so I had to learn things the hard way.”

Making Wednesday morning chapel part of his weekly routine was instrumental to Entz getting over that bump in college. He has Matthew 7:7 in his Twitter bio, which says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

“That verse refers specifically to seeking Jesus, not just any desire we have,” Entz said. “If simply asking God meant that He would give us what we wanted, my journey toward becoming a head coach would have been a lot easier.”

If the college football season proceeds as originally planned, Entz and the Bison will kick off their quest for a fourth straight national title by traveling to face PAC-12 power Oregon on Sept. 5.

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