Déjà Vu: Carson Wentz And the Community Bowl
BISMARCK, ND — The summer before his senior year at Century High School in Bismarck, North Dakota, Kameron Wingenbach occasionally woke up a bit frustrated. One of his best friends, who doubled as his quarterback on the varsity football team, called him way too often to get extra practice in.
“Sometimes he would have to beg people to come out,” Wingenbach now says.
After rolling out of bed, Wingenbach would come out of the garage and see Carson Wentz sitting in his driveway in his 2004 gold Nissan Frontier. They often drove to the MDU Resources Community Bowl, while Wentz would try to cajole three or four other guys into joining them.
The drive wasn’t much more than a mile from Wingenbach’s house to the multi-use football stadium, but they made it a countless number of times.
On the drive over, the teammates passed the local YMCA and Bismarck State College, but when they approached the stadium, instead of entering the parking lot above the field, they took a left turn to travel down the hill with the Missouri River to their left, and a back entrance to their right.
“We would go sneak into the Community Bowl when we weren’t supposed to be in there, and we would throw balls and play catch for hours and hours and hours,” Wingenbach said. “Pretty much any time we got a chance, we’d be throwing the football around.”
Before the road starts to level out and curve, Wentz would turn right just before they passed the white sign with red lettering warning them to keep out. Now, the chain-linked fences are higher, but before, they could easily jump over them.
They stayed mostly to the near side of the field next to the back entrance, while Wentz and Wingenbach tried to perfect the back-shoulder fade.
“If you run that against high school corners in North Dakota, they can’t stop that,” Wingenbach said.
They never used it in a game, but their hours together improved Wentz’s chemistry with his leading receiver. More importantly, Wingenbach remembers it as yet another example of Wentz’s extreme competitiveness, which may be the biggest reason why Wentz is one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft.
“There were so many days that we did that. I just remember a lot of guys being kind of worn out,” Wingenbach said. “They were like, ‘No, we just want to hang out today.’ But he could never sit down, he always had to be doing something. Playing catch, playing football and getting better.”
Now, six years later, in the same place Wentz put in all of that work, Bismarck will celebrate the result of those extra throwing sessions as the Eagles are expected to select him with the second overall pick.
Hours before the NFL Draft officially starts, thousands of people will cram into the Community Bowl. Event organizers had to move the watch party because Wentz’s high school isn’t big enough to fit up to 15,000 people, which some peg as the crowd estimate.
“It’s just surreal. I don’t know if a North Dakota kid will ever become as hyped up as this,” Wingenbach said. “Being the number one or two pick in the NFL Draft from Bismarck, North Dakota, that’s just surreal. That’s not even a realistic thing growing up. When he went up to NDSU, I was thinking — if everything went right — maybe he’d be drafted third, fourth, fifth round. And now all of a sudden…
“It’s just an exciting thing for the community to be able to come together for this one moment and be proud of Carson and his accomplishments. He’s such a good kid. I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about him. He was such a vocal leader for all of our high school, and all the way through college. The teachers, in the classroom, everything. It’s a pretty special moment for Bismarck, and for North Dakota.”