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Wesleyan leaves lasting impression on quarterback

The Dakota Wesleyan University football team achieved a rare level of success in 2013, and the man under center for the Tigers was a key reason.

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Jon Bane, a four-year starting quarterback at DWU, ended his playing days as the most prolific passer in the school’s history, but it was a career that almost never happened.

During Bane’s senior year at Temple High School in Temple, Texas, the Tiger star was in a car accident that paralyzed him from the waist down. He was told that he may never walk again and his football playing days were likely over.

Through rehab, Bane recovered and wanted a fresh start and a chance to play football once again.

“After everything I wanted to get away and have a fresh start,” Bane said. “I wanted to find a place that would take me in and give me a shot.”

Bane found his opportunity at DWU and has made the most of it.

After winning the starting job as a freshman, Bane spent four years setting school records and helping turn around a program that had a culture of losing.

On the field, Bane threw for a school-record 9,224 yards while wearing the black and blue, with his best year coming in 2011 when he compiled 2,817 yards. He has also received all-GPAC honors each of the last three years, earning an honorable mention for his performance in 2013.

Beyond all of the stats, Bane has matured as a quarterback and teammate, but mostly as a person, according to DWU coach Ross Cimpl.

“When he came in as a freshman he was a young man that only cared about football,” Cimpl said. “As his career started to wind down we saw him understand what it takes to be a successful person going forward off the field.”

The relationship between Cimpl and Bane has impacted the quarterback’s future beyond football.

“Coach Cimpl has been there with me through it all and it has been an honor to play under a guy like that, who at any time could have thrown in the towel on me,” Bane said.

“Whether it was grades or being away from home, coach was there to help me open my eyes to the big picture beyond football.”

In his senior season in 2013, Bane was a part of one of the most successful teams in DWU’s 115-year football history. Bane helped guide the Tigers to an 8-3 record, which marked only the third time the school saw a team with eight or more wins.

“It has been a tremendous honor to be a part of the culture change here,” Bane said. “It’s amazing to think about where we were when I got here and where we are now.”

After bursting on to the scene in 2010 and becoming the face of Tiger football, the reliance on Bane in the DWU offense has dwindled over the last two seasons, as the Tigers have had a more well-rounded attack.

Junior Francois Barnaud emerged in 2013 as one of the best running backs in the country, which limited the times Bane would be forced to make a play on his own.

“In the past there may have been some pressure on Jon to make a perfect throw, but knowing he could hand the ball off to Fran really took the pressure off,” Cimpl said.

Having All-American wide receiver Anthony Muilenburg back in the fold for 2013, also aided relieving the pressure put on Bane.

Bane saw his average yards per game drop each of the last two seasons, but with more offense options the team is winning. The Tigers’ 14 wins over the last two seasons are the most in 20 years.

With his career at DWU over, Bane has no intention of leaving the gridiron behind. The sports, exercise and wellness major plans to pursue a career in coaching football at the high school level, and hopes to continue to be able to learn from coach Cimpl.

“My ultimate goal is coach high school football someday and help try to change kids’ lives the best I can,” Bane said.

Cimpl now has the task of replacing a quarterback that has been a fixture for Tiger football for four years. Freshman Nick Kinder backed up Bane in 2013, but has thrown only two passes as a college quarterback.

“One of our biggest priorities in recruiting is bring in guys that will provide competition and have a high football I.Q, because that’s what Jon had,” Cimpl said, adding that Kinder is the frontrunner for the starting job in 2014.