Hall of Fame Friday: Whetstone remembered at NDSU for inspirational speech

Mike Whetstone Hall of Fame Friday

Mike Whetstone, Class of 1979, won a national championship at North Dakota State in 1983.

This week’s #HallofFameFriday remembers Mike Whetstone, a 1979 WSHS graduate who went on to play football at North Dakota State University and won a Division II national championship in 1983. 

The Bison, with former Winhawk Terrell Hall on the roster, are playing for another national title this weekend. Now in Divison I FCS, the Bison are going for their eighth national title in nine years when they play James Madison at 11 a.m. Saturday. You can watch the game on ABC.

In addition to being named an All-American, Whetstone is remembered in NDSU history for an inspirational message on the meaning of Bison Pride. Whetstone was diagnosed with cancer in March of 1988 and was hospitalized as the Bison were in the middle of the playoffs later that year. The head coach at the time went to Whetstone’s hospital room and brought along a tape recorder.

“The things he talked about were the importance of being part of a team, about not being cocky, and about having respect for your opponents,” then-coach Rocky Hager said. “The first time I listened to it, I cried my eyes out. The second, third and fourth time I played it, I cried my eyes out. Mike was getting down there. It was one of the last things he could do.”

Hager played it to the team the night before the national championship game. NDSU then crushed Portland State 35-21.

Whetstone died three days after that game. 

The speech, along with a photo of Whetstone, hangs from the wall on a plaque in the Bison locker room. 

At Winona High, Whetstone was a five-time all-conference performer (two in football, two in basketball and one in baseball). He graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer in basketball until Matt Reeck broke the record in the early 1990s, and he led the baseball team in hits and RBI as a senior.

“What Mike taught us is you don’t have to be noisy,” former Winona High football coach Bob Urness said in a 2007 Winona Daily News article. “Mike had a real quiet confidence in himself. That’s what sticks out to me. He loved what he was doing. That’s really important.”