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South Dakota State football enjoys 'championship feeling' with welcome-home celebration

“The national championship puts into the spotlight everything that’s right about college athletics and everything that’s right about being a Jackrabbit,” SDSU Athletic Director Justin Sell said.

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South Dakota State University Athletic Director Justin Sell (right) embraces head football coach John Stiegelmeier (left) during SDSU's celebration of its Division I football national championship on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex in Brookings.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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BROOKINGS — Coach John Stiegelmeier started this meeting like he started every other meeting with members of the South Dakota State football program.

He called out the birthdays of the players on the team.

As Jharett Bloomenrader ran over, he handed him a piece of candy and joked that, “it doesn’t take much to get a big guy to run and get a candy bar.”

He then handed Saiveon Williamson a KitKat and noted he celebrated his birthday with 18,000 fans Sunday.

But other than the birthdays, this meeting was different.

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This meeting was with roughly 1,000 fans looking on, and unlike other meetings where he makes them take their hats off, the players got to keep them on this time because, as Stieglemeier put it, they're “special hats,” that read 2022 national champions.

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South Dakota State University fans get their photo taken with the NCAA Division I football national championship trophy on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex in Brookings.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

South Dakota State football celebrated its 45-21 defeat of North Dakota State for the program's first national championship Tuesday inside the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex.

“I’ve been quoted many times about winning the national championship and I said it the same way every time: ‘When you’re on that (championship) podium, that feeling should last 10 seconds,’” Stiegelmeier said. “I didn’t know what it was going to feel like. It lasted more than 10 seconds.”

Stiegelmeier was honored as 2022 recipient of the Stats Perform Eddie Robinson Award, which honors the national coach of the year in the Football Championship Subdivision, and on Monday, he was named the FCS’s coach of the year for the American Football Coaches Association.

The season featured a program-record 14 wins, all of which were in a row. The Jacks were the only FCS team in the country to not lose to another FCS school and they won all four playoff games by at least 21 points.

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South Dakota State University head coach John Stiegelmeier places the NCAA Division I football national championship trophy in front of a podium prior to the program on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex in Brookings.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Those were some of the stats read off by SDSU radio broadcaster Tyler Merriam before Athletic Director Justin Sell took the podium.

“The national championship puts into the spotlight everything that’s right about college athletics and everything that’s right about being a Jackrabbit,” Sell said.

SDSU President Barry Dunn also spoke to the crowd. As he stood at the podium, he was flanked on both sides by the team, all wearing gray tracksuits with the SDSU logo on the shirt and pants, and with some players unzipping the top to reveal a white SDSU national champions t-shirt.

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SDSU defeats NDSU 45-21 in NCAA Division I championship game on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023 in Frisco, TX.

“Everyday is a great day to be a Jackrabbit,” Dunn said as he was met with applause. “But Jan. 8, 2023, was one for the record books, don’t you think? That was a fantastic day.”

Zech Lambert is a sports reporter for the Mitchell Republic. He graduated from Penn State University in May 2022 and began at the Mitchell Republic in July 2022. He can be reached at zlambert@mitchellrepublic.com or on Twitter @Zech_Lambert.
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