By all accounts, Chris Klieman is the world’s nicest guy. You might meet him some day away from work and never see that football coach on the sideline fighting-for-his-guys fire, and if you do get to see him in action, even when he’s screaming at a ref, you imagine his harshest words are something like “gosh darn it my guys are working their tails off and you’re making that bum call?” Watch one halftime interview and you quickly know he’s a family man, not the sort of guy who ever complains or tries to place blame on anyone else. He’s from Iowa, and he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Northern Iowa, but he seems to be enjoying life in Fargo, North Dakota, just fine.
It hasn’t sunk in. I know I will look back 5, 10, 15, 20 years, whatever it may be and say, “Holy cow. Look at what we have done.” Especially with the adversity that we faced this year when most people counted these guys out, you couldn’t tell anybody in that locker room that we weren’t still going to have an opportunity.
I have been here five years and we have never had a Christmas break yet, and I hope that never changes. The likelihood of us continuing to do this probably is not very good but you can’t tell the guys in the locker room that.
This job is never the same. We have won five championships in a row. I was an assistant for one, I was a defensive coordinator for two, and I am the head coach for two and every year is different.
Family is my number one thing and always will be. I have a wonderful wife and three great kids at home. I think it is important for all these young athletes to see how we, as coaches, interact and treat our spouse, how we interact and love our kids.
I love parenting a girl. She is the love of my life and my sweetheart. She will always have a protective dad and about 105 guys on a football team that would always protect her if need be.
I will always battle for my guys. I love our football players and I have no problem telling them I love them.
We have unbelievable fans and we have high expectations. I would rather have high expectations where they expect winning records, to conference championships, to playoff runs to ultimately competing for national championships. I would much rather have that than to be at a place where “Boy, if we can get to be .500, what an unbelievable season we’ve had.”
I knew full well what I was getting into when I took this job and the expectations for what had been accomplished previously, and not just by what Craig Bohl did. Craig did phenomenal things but dating back all the way into the ’60s.
I have the Monday night radio show that I go on with Scotty Miller and we have had like four or five weeks where we have had just an abundance of calls. After Montana, we lost, after South Dakota, and then after Richmond, because they did not know what the Carson Wentz situation was. Those three were, because the fans want to know, what did I do here, what did we do here, and they were frustrated, and I would rather have that than to just sit on there on open air and not visit with anybody. I appreciate their passion and I appreciate the fact that they do get frustrated.
We’ve lost three games since I have been the head coach and all three times they have stormed the field. That is a testament to what we have built here. We lost our first game, my first game as head coach, in week nine or ten in 2014 at Northern Iowa. When they beat us, everybody rushed the field, and I was like “Ok. We’ve created a monster here.” When we lost to Montana, it was a bigger zoo of people trying to rush the field and us just trying to get off the field because there were 25,000 people there and it was a big win for them, and I told the guys in the locker room, “Guys this is what we created, don’t let one game define you. It is not the end of the season. You don’t win championships in August. You win them in December and January.”
Something that I have tried to instill in these guys ever since I took over is, “guys, just stay humble and stay hungry.” We are going to continue to attack the process every day to give ourselves a chance to have success on Saturday. We have talked about the complacency card here for five years and we will talk about it again next year and my feeling on that is, if somebody beats us they beat us. Don’t put it on the kids to say that they were complacent. I promise you our guys are not complacent. If somebody beats us, they are better than us, and if they beat us that year or are better than us that year, I’ll tip my hat to them. That’s a great thing, but can somebody sustain it like we have sustained it for as long as we have? That’s the sign of a program, not just a team. This is the sign that where we are at as a program, we have sustained this for quite a while now at the Division I level. There is no question that somebody is going to catch us one year, but can they sustain that year after year.
It is an easy sell for me on weekends, especially to the people who don’t know much about us, because they come to Fargo thinking they are going to see nothing but dirt roads and open fields and they are just amazed by not only the vibrancy of our community but how much NDSU is a part of our community.
We are so fortunate at NDSU to be able to work, and work with, because he would never say work “for,” to work with Dean Bresciani.
I have a number of parents that visit here on Saturday and I talk to them for 20 minutes to a half hour and the one thing that they say about all of our coaching staff is that it is genuine. It is not a used car salesman. A lot of times that’s what recruiting can be. They look at us and say we can tell this is a genuine place and these people are genuinely good people.