by MATTHEW DAVIS
AJ Van Voorhis, a 2009 Champlin Park graduate, played many more games than the average college football player in his collegiate career.
He took part in North Dakota State’s three consecutive national championship games, in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision. He joined 23 other seniors in becoming only the second FCS program, Appalachian State, to achieve that feat. They also became the first FCS team to go unbeaten (15-0) since 1996.
“To end our careers that way was pretty special,” Van Voorhis said.
That also means he played in 58 games in four seasons since the FCS playoffs tacks on up to five more games to a team’s 11-game schedule. Van Voorhis played on special teams and subbed in on the defense’s secondary. He recorded 58 tackles in his career at strong safety.
“Our bodies are beat up,” Van Voorhis said. “We had guys playing with torn ligaments in their shoulder and two guys playing with torn ACLs. That just goes to show what type of guys we had.”
While Van Voorhis and company certainly went through the ringer to win 15 games and a national title, his senior season had many magical moments. It started with a bang as the Bison beat defending Big 12 champion Kansas State 24-21 on Aug. 30 in a nationally-televised game.
“We got down 21-7 at one point, but we never panicked, and deep down we knew we would get it rolling eventually,” Van Voorhis said.
It caught ESPN’s attention, and College Game Day, ESPN’s college football preview show, came to Fargo. Van Voorhis and his teammates had the opportunity to meet the Game Day cast and crew in addition to being featured on ESPN.
“That was a really special moment College Game Day coming to town,” Van Voorhis said.
He and his teammates got down to business following the early-season excitement. They ran the table and made their third-straight trip to Frisco, Texas, for the title game. Van Voorhis had 22 tackle during the season and playoffs, and he had another pair in the title game against Towson.
“We had our minds set on one goal at that was to win our third and go out with a bang,” Van Voorhis said.
In beating Towson 35-7 on Jan. 4 for the third-straight title, completed their perfect season dominantly. They only had two wins with a margin of victory under 15 points. The apparent distraction of their coach, Craig Bohl, accepting a coaching position at Wyoming, didn’t even phase them.
“One of the things our coach, Craig Bohl, described our team as is that we were ‘obsessed, possessed with perfection,’” Van Voorhis said. “The last two champion runs that we had, we had that one loss that kind of put a blemish on our season.”
Van Voorhis’ father, Tom, also played for the Bison from 1981-1985 during their Division II dynasty. He won national titles with the Bison in 1983 and 1985. Ironically, the Bison beat also Towson on their way to the 1983 crown. Both AJ and Tom have three rings from the Bison since Tom serve as a graduate assistant coach during the Bison’s 1986 title run. Both also wore the No. 29 when playing for the Bison.
Van Voorhis will graduate in the spring with a degree in social science education and a history minor. He plans to go into teaching.
Van Voorhis had made a winning impact at Champlin Park prior to his collegiate career. He helped the Rebels goal 9-2 in his senior year of 2008 and reach the section finals before losing to Wayzata. The Rebels took the Northwest Suburban Conference crown that year, and Van Voorhis earned the NWSC Special Teams and co-Defensive Player of the Year.