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August 31, 2011It is hard to find a player on NC State's football roster in 2011 who experienced a longer journey to NC State than starting right tackle Mikel Overgaard.
Freshman long snapper Scott Thompson can make a case that he has traveled further from his home in Rancho Santa Margarita, Cal. than Overgaard has from his hometown of Weiser, Idaho but it was a fairly direct route from Trabuco Hills High School to Raleigh for the rookie.
McKay Frandsen, a junior defensive end from American Fork, Utah, is the only one with a shot to top his former junior college teammate's journey, especially when you include his LDS mission to Anchorage, Alaska; but it has been exclusively football that has taken Overgaard across the country over the past five years.
The redshirt senior graduated from Weiser (Idaho) High and walked on at Washington State in 2007 as a tight end. That is where his winding journey of college stops begins, although he is able to sum it up pretty quickly.
"I guess I've been around," he said. "I graduated from high school in Idaho, I was born and raised there. Then, I went to Washington State for a year, there was a coaching change there and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do so I went down to Snow College in Utah. I played in Junior College for two seasons then NC State offered so I made my way out this way.
"They all have their good parts but I've loved it out here since I've gotten here. It's been a good experience out here for me."
The 6-foot-6, 289-pounder joined the Pack from Snow College, where he earned all-conference honors during the 2009 campaign, in January of 2010. Although he played just one year of offensive line at the collegiate level before arriving on campus, Overgaard opened last season as the starter at right tackle for the Pack.
Despite his inexperience as a full-time protector, Overgaard performed admirably. He logged 62 snaps against Western Carolina then was on the field for 25 plays at Central Florida before succumbing to an elbow injury. He missed the next three games and didn't play much in the final eight contests, but he also didn't allow a sack in his six appearances. The big man also learned a ton and has reclaimed his starting spot at right tackle.
"Last year was a great experience," he said. "I was still learning the position and everything. Then, I had a setback with the injury but I stuck with it. I know twice as much now about playing offensive line then I did last season so I'm hoping that I can transition into a good season this year. I know more about the position and what's expected of the offensive line this year."
Before Overgaard's experience as a left tackle at Snow College, he had played almost exclusively at tight end. He estimates that he logged about half of his senior season playing tackle on the prep level because his team abandoned an offense with a tight end at the season's midpoint, but he was a 220-pound freshman tight end at Washington State and stayed at the position during his first year at Snow.
"Some roster changes and stuff happened there, the coaches called me and said, 'we think we're going to need you to play offensive line if you're OK with that,'" he remembered. "I put on a little weight over the summer and switched. I think that first season I was playing on the line at about 260. Now, I'm up to about 280-285. It's been a transition, it's different playing all inside with the defensive linemen and getting on linebackers instead of running routes. It's different, but it's been a good transition for me."
Overgaard admitted that he occasionally misses the chance to soak up the spotlight catching passes and scoring touchdowns, but he is enjoying his new home on the front line.
"Everyone wants their time in the spotlight once in a while, but I like the offensive line," he said. "It's different but I do like it. It's probably a better position for me, I was never the fastest tight end. It's a better fit for me."
Overgaard said the transition from left tackle at Snow College to the opposite side in Raleigh wasn't a big deal for him because he was still learning the finer details of becoming an offensive lineman last fall. That education continued through the spring and summer, but he said he is as comfortable at tackle as he ever was at tight end now.
He also gives credit to what many may think is an unlikely source for his fast development: highly-touted sophomore tackle Rob Crisp, who is backing up Overgaard after playing on the left side last year.
"It's been a friendly competition between us," he said. "We try and watch film together, try to help each other out with what we're doing. He used to play left tackle and they just switched him to the right side, so we're both learning it. I think it's been good for both of us to have that competition to push each other but also, at the same time, we help each other really learn the position and what we're supposed to be doing."
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