Friends Off the Field


A couple of summers ago, Carson Wentz found himself inside a barn at a dairy farm trying not to throw up.

The former North Dakota State quarterback was with two of his best friends, Justin Ledger and Tate Leapaldt, when he experienced a live animal birth.

“I wanted to show Carson the farm because he (had) never seen a dairy farm,” Ledger, a senior in physical education said. “We get to a part of the farm where we keep the mother cows that are about to give birth.

“My aunt and I are getting our hands dirty and assisting the mother cow. Tate is in the background recording it for Snapchat, and Carson is trying not to throw up.”

It was one of the many fun memories for Wentz, Ledger and Leapaldt.

Ledger and Wentz have been great friends for the past eight years or so. They grew up competing against each other in a few sports and were on the same summer baseball team.

“Carson was ‘that guy’ who could beat me,” Ledger said, “so as a young kid, Carson was somewhat threatening to me.”

But as the years went on, Ledger knew Wentz was a good person and a man who made everyone else around him better people.

College life

When Wentz was a senior at Bismarck Century High School, Ledger and Leapaldt were attending the University of Mary in Bismarck. The three of them still got to have their bro time, but when Wentz graduated high school in 2011, Leapaldt thought this might be the end of the brotherhood.

“When he decided to go to NDSU, I was a little worried about growing apart, but at the same time I had my own athletic goals to pursue, so it wasn’t a huge concern,” said Leapaldt, who will graduate from NDSU this spring with a major in agriculture economics.

The friendship stayed in tact.

Leapaldt transferred to NDSU the spring of his sophomore year to try out Division I baseball. That following fall Ledger transferred to NDSU, too, keeping the squad together.


Ledger and Leapaldt said they like to think they were the ones who were able to reel Wentz into the hunting community.

“We took him pheasant hunting over a Christmas break, and he kind of fell in love with it,” Leapaldt said. “I know for a fact that watching the dogs hunt that day was part of why he decided to get Henley. Justin and I also like to give him a hard time about not being quite as good with a shotgun as we are.”

The three friends each have a hunting dog. Leapaldt has a black lab named Jimmer, Ledger has a yellow lab named Gramm and Wentz has a golden retriever named Henley.

‘The brother I never had’

Thomas Keller and Wentz have known each other since kindergarten. They attended the same daycare, elementary, middle and high schools.

“Aside from playing sports, we pretty much did everything else together,” said Keller, who will graduate from NDSU in May with degrees in accounting and finance. “He was basically the brother I never had growing up, and I will always consider him to be one of my closest friends.”

Keller and Wentz were roommates their freshmen year at NDSU and dueled their friendship out playing against each other in almost every sports video game.

Keller would beat Wentz at MLB, NBA and NHL video games but Wentz couldn’t be stopped in Madden.

“He’d get annoyed when I would throw questionable touchdown passes by throwing to receivers who weren’t really open but they would catch them anyway; he could read the defenses, I couldn’t,” Keller said. “We were always overly competitive, so controllers would be thrown and mini-fights would take place during the games.”

Wentz’s three friends know him as a winner and have seen him win at every level so far. It didn’t matter if it was in the backyard, basement or even at recess. He wanted to be first.

“(Carson) always strived to be the best one out there,” Keller said. “If you look at the recent success and history that he had at NDSU, it all makes sense.

“There hasn’t been a time in his life where he hasn’t been the best out there on the field, regardless of what it was for.”

A week from now, Wentz will be sitting at a table waiting for his name to be called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Will he be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft? Or will he find himself being drafted by the City of Brotherly Love known as Philadelphia with the No. 2 pick?

It’s anyone’s guess, though Keller has his own opinions.

“I hope he doesn’t get drafted one and go to Los Angeles,” Keller said. “He sunburns so badly — actually maybe I do want him to go there. I could be his sunscreen guy.”

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