South Dakota State football notebook: Pierre Strong Jr. declares for NFL Draft

Strong finishes third in career rushing for Jackrabbits

South Dakota State's Pierre Strong Jr. celebrates a touchdown run in the first quarter of an FCS semifinal game on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Montana. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

South Dakota State running back Pierre Strong Jr. said Monday he’s declaring for the NFL Draft, bypassing a potential final year of eligibility in college football.

On Twitter, Strong thanked his family, teammates and SDSU fans and said he was blessed to announce that he was declaring for the draft.

Strong was a senior but had an opportunity to get another year of eligibility if he wanted it due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 fall season was his fourth year of playing on the field for the Jackrabbits and the Little Rock, Arkansas, product redshirted when he first got on campus in 2017.

Strong led the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision with 1,686 rushing yards — an average of 112.4 yards per game — during the 2021 season. He topped the 100-yard mark nine times and also scored 18 touchdowns.

Strong finished third on the SDSU career rushing charts with 4,527 yards, only behind SDSU running back legends Josh Ranek and Zach Zenner.


If he’s picked, Strong would be the first rusher from SDSU to be selected in the NFL Draft since fullback Joe Thorne was selected by the Green Bay Packers in 1962.

South Dakota State offensive coordinator Jason Eck directs players during warmups prior to the FCS semifinals on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021 at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Montana. Eck was introduced Monday as the University of Idaho's new football coach. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Eck introduced as Idaho’s coach

Former South Dakota State University offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jason Eck was introduced Monday as the University of Idaho’s new football coach. The hire was announced Saturday after SDSU’s 31-17 loss in the FCS semifinals at Montana State.

Eck spent six seasons at South Dakota State, serving as the offensive coordinator for the last three seasons. A former offensive lineman at the University of Wisconsin, Eck returns to Moscow, Idaho, where he started his full-time coaching career in 2004 as an offensive line coach for three seasons.

In his introductory press conference Monday, Eck called the job “a sleeping giant in FCS football.” The Vandals were 4-7 this year playing in the Big Sky Conference. But Eck pointed out that the Jackrabbits just played three Big Sky teams in the FCS playoffs and noted that Idaho played two of those same teams — UC Davis and Montana State — and lost both games by seven points.

“I don’t think we’re that far off,” Eck said. “I think we’re going to be able to get this thing going.”

Idaho was an FCS playoff regular in the 1980s and 1990s until moving to the FBS in 1996. After just three bowl games in 20-plus years of FBS football and without a conference to play in, the Vandals moved back to FCS in 2018.


Eck was the American Football Coaches Association's FCS assistant coach of the year in 2019. In three years as the offensive coordinator at SDSU, Eck's teams have averaged 32.5 points per game, including 37.5 this season. The 2021 Jackrabbits are eighth in scoring offense, seventh in team passing efficiency and eighth in rushing offense with Strong leading the way.

Eck thanked SDSU’s players, coaches and administrators for supporting him while coaching the Jacks. In particular, he thanked John Stiegelmeier for giving Eck his first chance to be a coordinator.

South Dakota State's Pierre Strong Jr. rushes for a 75-yard touchdown during a Missouri Valley Football Conference football game Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 against North Dakota State at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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