Players scratch their itch to play football at Invaders’ combine

Written By: Brady Drake / The Forum | 6:58 pm, Jan. 27, 2018

Head coach Brent Lundgren addresses players on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, during tryouts for the Fargo Invaders semi-pro football team at the Sanford Power Center in Fargo.David Samson / The Forum

Head coach Brent Lundgren addresses players on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, during tryouts for the Fargo Invaders semi-pro football team at the Sanford Power Center in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — Very few football players play after college. However, a number of semi-professional teams around the country offer an opportunity to those that can’t help but scratch their itch to play.

In the local football landscape that is covered in North Dakota State Bison green and spotted with both Concordia Cobber maroon and Minnesota State Moorhead Dragon red exists a small patch of creamy orange for the Fargo Invaders — a semi-professional football team that plays in the Northern Elite Football League.

The Invaders are the back scratcher for those that feel the need to play. Saturday at the Sanford Power Center in south Fargo, the Invaders offered a group of 22 players the chance to show that they still have what it takes to play by testing them at their combine.

The combine was the second of the year for the Invaders. Invaders head coach Brent Lundgren and his assistant coaches ran the players through most of drills that fans would see at the NFL level — including the 40-yard dash, the broad jump, the vertical jump and the bench press.

The Invaders practice just once a week during the season, so the combine is just about the only time coaches get to evaluate players.

“The main thing we do at the combine is get their 40 time, their bench, things of that nature so that we have something to look at,” Lundgren said.

The combine didn’t just consist of new players, there were also a number of returning players who wanted to be there to compete.

Chad McQuade, a 42-year-old offensive lineman who graduated from Fargo South, is one of those returning players. He didn’t work out Saturday, but posted the highest number of reps on the 185-pound bench press with 33.

Hoping to play at NDSU after high school, McQuade had to wait 20 years for the next level after becoming a father during his senior year of high school.

“I always knew I could play (after high school), I just never got the chance to do it,” McQuade said. “So, this was kind of my second chance at it.”

Rochenel Jeanbaptiste, a 36-year-old from Naples, Fla., played two years at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton and two years at Valley City State before joining the Invaders as a linebacker. Originally, Jeanbaptiste was hoping to play for the Florida Gators out of high school, but his SAT scores prevented him from doing so.

Though Jeanbaptiste maintains that this is his last year playing football, it’s “the love of the game,” that made him come back after saying the same thing last year.

“I love going to the gym,” Jeanbaptiste said. “I love football activities.”

Nobody on the team is paid — including Matt Franco, one of two responsible for the Invaders’ media production.

“These are players that love football,” Frenco said. “They deserve to be seen in the community.”

The Invaders will play their first game of the 2018 season at the defending league champion Minneapolis Warriors on May 12. Their first home game will be played at Fargo Shanley High School’s Sid Cichy Stadium on June 2.