College football: Folkert is the envy of the Bulldogs' offensive line

Minnesota Duluth offensive lineman Nolan Folkert thought he was dreaming when he was approached by coach Curt Wiese last season and asked to run the football.

Photo courtesy of Brett Groehler / Minnesota DuluthMinnesota Duluth's Nolan Folkert plunges into the end zone in a game against Northern State on Oct. 15, 2016.
Minnesota Duluth's Nolan Folkert plunges into the end zone in a game against Northern State on Oct. 15, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Brett Groehler / Minnesota Duluth)

Minnesota Duluth offensive lineman Nolan Folkert thought he was dreaming when he was approached by coach Curt Wiese last season and asked to run the football.

As a general rule, 300-pound offensive linemen don't run the football.

"It was the shock of a lifetime," Folkert said.

Folkert, a senior captain, has since become the envy of the O-line, rushing two times for two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 41-0 NSIC victory at Northern State last week, including a career-long 2-yarder (hey, what did you expect, Adrian Peterson?).

Folkert has rushed seven times for 7 yards and four touchdowns for UMD (5-2) going into the Bulldogs' homecoming game against Minot State (1-6) at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Malosky Stadium.


When Folkert hears "248 Wedge," that's the 6-foot-4, 285-pounder's cue he's getting the ball.

"It's always a blast being behind the offensive line," Folkert said. "You get to run behind the guys you normally block with."

Folkert's running isn't a stunt relative to the Chicago Bears' use of William "The Refrigerator" Perry during their 1985 Super Bowl season.

UMD has found it highly effective, starting with defensive lineman Jonathan Harden in 2015, Folkert in 2016 and 2017 and the heir apparent, defensive lineman Dre Greer, who capped the scoring last week with a 2-yard touchdown run.

"We're big men, but we're quick," Folkert said. "We're some of the fastest guys on the team for 5 to 10 yards, but then it slows down pretty quick."

Folkert admits he doesn't have flawless form. He sounded like former Minnesota Vikings running back Leroy Hoard in describing their running style (Hoard reportedly once said, "Coach, if you need one yard, I'll get you three yards. If you need five yards, I'll get you three yards.")

"We just put our heads down and run hard," Folkert said. "If coach needs two yards, we get two yards. If coach needs one yard, we give him one yard. We get what he needs us to get."

Folkert is also pretty good at his day job: blocking for the Bulldogs. After UMD graduated All-American Peter Bateman, the Bulldogs moved their most experienced tackle, Matt Juneau, from the right side to the left. Then they moved Folkert from left guard to right tackle to take advantage of his athleticism, and after a difficult adjustment, he settled in.


"Every game I've gotten better," Folkert said. "I'm a lot more comfortable, and it's brought back the fun of the game. It's a lot less stress learning the new position and a lot more just playing. I feel like I'm back at home."

Home to Folkert is Elgin, Minn., in the southeastern part of the state. While the lineman never ran the ball, he handled the football as a kicker. He was also recruited by Winona State but chose UMD because he said he wanted to experience something new while liking the family vibe he felt here. He is in his third year as a starter.

Folkert will graduate this spring with a degree in environment and sustainability, with a minor in geography, and he would like pursue a master's degree in environmental health and safety. He already is an entrepreneur, having formed Superior Boat Works LLC with former UMD teammate Ryan Radzak, buffing, waxing and cleaning yachts the past three springs.

Folkert has had quite the experience in the Twin Ports, but nothing has topped running the football. It's like something from an offensive lineman's dream. For his career, he has rushed 14 times for 14 yards, 10 touchdowns and two first downs, short-yardage efficiency even "Touchdown" Tommy Vardell would be proud of.

"Personally, I don't care if I'm getting touchdowns every time. I just love running the ball," Folkert said. "You do what you have to do for the team, and if the team needs one yard, I try my best and hold onto the football as hard as I can. I didn't think I was ever going to touch the football in college, so this has been an awesome opportunity, and I've made the most of it."

MINOT STATE (1-6) AT UMD (5-2)

What: NSIC North Division football game

When: 1:05 p.m. Saturday


Where: Malosky Stadium

Forecast: Thunderstorms late with a high of 65 and 15 mph wind

TV: My9


Radio: KDAL 610 AM and 103.9 FM,

Fast fact: This is UMD's homecoming

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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