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SDSU's John Stiegelmeier shares farm values after winning national football championship

Katie Pinke recounts the quote from a coach that stuck with her following South Dakota State University's victory in the national football championship.

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South Dakota State head football coach John Stiegelmeier addresses the media at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.
David Samson/ The Forum
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“My dad taught me on the farm: Work hard, be a good person and you will have success,” John Stiegelmeier, South Dakota State University head football coach, said in an on-field interview immediately following SDSU winning their first-ever Division I national championship of any sport. They beat the nine-time champion North Dakota State University Bison last Sunday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Frisco, Texas, in the Football Championship Subdivision championship game.

Hearing a quote directed back to a farm, I said, “Wait! Pause. Play that back please,” to my daughter with the remote. We listened to Stiegelmeier’s quote three more times.

After the quote replay, I added, “And that is what this game really is about: living out your values, on and off the field, girls.” I put the quote into notes on my phone and said it a few times at breakfast this week with our girls, too.

Work hard.

Be a good person.

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You will have success.

These are farm values, rural roots we rely on, live by, and teach the next generation. Farm-raised or not, if all of us followed the simple insight and advice, the world would thrive.

Stiegelmeier has been SDSU’s head coach for 26 years. His work has been long and his perseverance in building up a program while being a good person brought him the success that was a part of the goal of his work.

Last Sunday when I walked into our local church an area farmer teased me about if more Agweek readers were cheering for NDSU or SDSU in the football championship game that day. Both land grant universities, both with strong agriculture schools. I said it didn’t matter who won, and NDSU better be ready to take turns and share with SDSU.

Of course, the outcome mattered to many. I love football, more than the average American. And of course, our son played for the University of North Dakota, rivals to both NDSU and SDSU. I boldly cheer for my favorite team and players at games, but I think what Stiegelmeier said weighs in on my true belief in why I follow specific teams or players. Even more, the values taught on a farm transcend into any career or field of work.

Farm values build character in people who stay on the farm, stay close in agriculture or work far from the farm. Or become a head football coach at a rural state's land-grant university.

When I see the value of hard work bringing success to good people, I often become a fan.

And full fan disclosure, I always want my favorite teams to beat their rival teams. In the spring of 2021, when we had a 2020 makeup FCS football season, SDSU came to Grand Forks, North Dakota, to play UND. I cried as Hunter rolled onto the field in his wheelchair, a captain of UND’s team but no longer playing. I looked down at my phone with a message from a woman I had never met — a rural, farm mom of an SDSU player — who was across the way in the same building hoping to meet up as she and her family, including her SDSU football player son, prayed for my son. We met at halftime and shared our own stories together, connecting more in person. And again, this past 2022 fall season, we met up at a game.

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Win or lose, near the farm or far from it, values connect us in American farm country.

Thank you to a farm-raised, national championship-winning football coach for the reminder and for sharing his insight.

Now it’s time to get back to work on the farm or far from it.

Be a good person. Success will find you wherever you are planted. The values you’re teaching and living out matter to those you’re raising up for the future or who are watching and listening to the insight you share.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

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