Rongstad excels on the field, on the court and in the classroom
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Rongstad excels on the field, on the court and in the classroom

The age of dual sport athletes at the professional level is dead and even in the NCAA is becoming a rarity. That is what makes junior Lance Rongstad so special. Not just because he plays two sports in college, but what he brings to the table as a starting quarterback and starting guard/forward. Oh yeah, and that ‘student’ part in student-athlete? He does that pretty well too, holding down a 3.6 GPA in biology with minors in business administration and chemistry.    

“A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do two sports and I feel very fortunate that not only am I capable of doing it, but I am around the people that support me,” Rongstad said. “If it weren’t for the guys on either team I wouldn’t have the confidence to play both sports. Athletics in college is a remarkable experience for anyone who ever gets a chance to do it.”
Rongstad said he had always dreamed of playing collegiate basketball, but it was head football coach Jeff Tesch’s determination in recruiting Rongstad that brought him to Bemidji State. Tesch had to drive more than 300 miles in a blizzard from Bemidji to Rongstad’s hometown of Eleva, Wisconsin to meet with him and his family.
“It was quite the trip to recruit Lance, but obviously worth it,” Tesch said.
“That meant a lot to me,” Rongstad said. “He also told me if I ever got the itch to play basketball he would be more than willing to give me the chance to try it. He is a great guy and recruited me well. He seems like a guy that does everything right and that is what I would like to be some day.”
Knowing Rongstad’s abilities and passion, the football coaches knew they would have to give him the opportunity to play basketball at BSU, as long as he could handle the work load of two sports and maintain a good standing academically.
“He’s got the ‘it’ factor,” Tesch said. “You can test a guy on his vertical jump and his 40, but that ‘it’ factor allows Lance to do two sports and still do well in academics. It’s a lot of work and sometimes academics can suffer. He is disciplined enough to study and to go from one sport to another and learn. He balances his day, his time, his free time, still has fun and he seems to make it work.”
Rongstad suffered a thumb injury at the end of his redshirt year on the football team, inhibiting any opportunity to play basketball that winter, but that didn’t deter Rongstad from approaching head basketball coach Matt Bowen in late February to let him know he was ready to play some basketball.
“Great! You are on the team and we will see you next year,” Bowen said, knowing his success on the court in high school. “From there he went into his fall freshman football season, completed that and then joined our team. He was a little rough around the edges, but in his second or third game he came out with an explosion and the rest has been history.”
Now Rongstad is a proven success on the gridiron and on the hardwood and has been rewarded as the starting quarterback on a football team that has posted a record of at least .500 in 11 of the last 12 seasons and is a starter on a basketball squad on the rise. Studying film, hours of practice, traveling and playing in a league that demands perfection day-in and day-out is hard enough, but multiply that by two and then add a class schedule that includes courses like medical microbiology, applied statistics, physics and business management.
“Lance is a very gifted and determined student,” Bowen said. “His studying and learning habits come easy to him, but that’s not to say he doesn’t work hard at it. He certainly is a fun, charismatic guy that is well respected amongst his teammates for how physical he is, how hard he plays and how successful he’s been in both the classroom and on the field or court.”
Rongstad has earned academic honors from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, and national coach’s associations since stepping onto campus three years ago. So what does the two-sport student-athlete want to do with his talents? He wants to be an orthodontist. Rongstad’s uncle has been his biggest influence when it comes to a career path and his academics, especially after working with him for two summers as an intern.
“My uncle was an orthodontist and that is where I got my urge to become that one day. His drive as a student has always been there to push me academically more so than athletically. He is a very successful man and everyone respects him.
“It’s worth it to me to see someone coming in just getting braces and a little nervous and then seeing them walking out at the end of their term smiling. That has always driven me to serve people and make them feel better about themselves.” 
In two years when Rongstad hangs up the cleats, puts the basketball in the garage and earns his undergraduate degree he will be closing a chapter in his life, but the story won’t be over. He can expect four years of graduate work at a dental school, THEN another two or three years of orthodontist school before he will be able to practice the profession he has aspired to. But that is the driving factor to who he is today.
“I don’t want to just go through college being known as an athlete, I want to be known as someone who succeeded in the classroom and went on to be become something greater than just a college football or basketball player.”