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Mechanical engineering grad signs three-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys

Jacob Ohnesorge and Dakota Marker
Jackrabbits Football alum Jacob Ohnesorge holds up the Dakota Marker after defeating North Dakota State University Bison at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium Nov. 4, 2017.

Former Jackrabbits football center Jacob Ohnesorge could be getting a shot in the National Football League.

The South Dakota State University alumnus was recently released by the Dallas Cowboys. Ohnesorge was listed on the roster as a center, at 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 294 pounds. He had signed a three-year contract in August.

He was invited to Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons training camps, but was not signed.

The mechanical engineering graduate was featured in the Spring 2018 edition of the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering magazine, Impulse. Read more about Ohnesorge during his time at SDState and his journey to the NFL below.


Jacob Ohnesorge has been called “tenacious.”

That description not only describes his play as a center on the Jackrabbits’ football team but also his approach in the classroom.

The 2017 FCS winner of the Rimington Award, which is presented annually to the most outstanding center in all divisions of college football, Ohnesorge earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and also completed 15 of 30 required credits of coursework toward a master of engineering degree. Now, he is looking to use that approach to earn a shot to play in the National Football League.

“It’s [playing in the NFL] always been a dream of mine,” he said. “I started thinking about it more seriously after the past couple of years.”

The Waunakee, Wisconsin, native came to South Dakota State after being recruited to play football. After stepping on campus for unofficial visits, he knew SDState would be a good fit.

“I really liked the campus and the coaching staff … also liked the well-known engineering program,” he said.

Engineering piqued Ohnesorge’s interest after an introduction class in high school. That direction didn’t change when he enrolled at SDState.

Professor Kurt Bassett served as Ohnesorge’s academic advisor.  “When he takes on something, he is committed to see it through,” Bassett said. “Football is sort of a mathematical game. There’s a lot of strategy and quick thinking required… it fits well with problem-solving processes we concentrate on in mechanical engineering.”

Most student-athletes schedule their undergraduate studies over five years to help alleviate the demands of being a student-athlete. Ohnesorge, a three-time member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference Honor Roll, didn’t want to do that.

“When I first picked what I wanted to do, I wanted to graduate in four years,” he said.

In fall 2014, Ohnesorge became an advisee to Bassett, who oversees all student-athletes in the department of mechanical engineering. He said some student-athletes in his department work to earn their master’s degree during their years of eligibility, but not very often. He said this track has worked great for Ohnesorge so far.

“It worked out pretty well because he had a semester of eligibility left and by taking some graduate courses as a senior, he was able to get a head-start on the master’s degree.”

Ohnesorge said he planned to take a minimum of 12 credits in the fall during football season. For the spring semesters, he took 15 to 16 credits with anywhere from two to eight in the summer. Not only did he have to balance his coursework and football, but he also completed internships with Daktronics during the summer, working on project management for its engineers. He said the required study time as a student-athlete helped teach him how to prioritize.

“It takes a lot of balance especially with engineering, it’s a time-consuming major,” he said. “They [academic advisors] taught us some good time-management skills.”

Bassett said that like other mechanical engineering student-athletes, Ohnesorge not only could balance his time, but also was an outstanding student.

“It’s really amazing to me how well they [student-athletes] manage all their commitments … and do well to really excel … doing it right is really important,” Bassett said.

Now, Ohnesorge has taken his first semester off from engineering academics since 2013 to concentrate on football. He went to TEST Football Academy in Martinsville, New Jersey, in January to train for about two months.

“It [training] was kind of a full-time job,” he said, noting he completed running, muscle and positional drills along with weightlifting and offensive line exercises. “It’s not as much as participating in teams, but more individualized. [This is] to get yourself in the best shape, to perform the best in front of the scouts.”

Ohnesorge participated in the pro day at SDState, working for a possible shot with the NFL.

He reflects on his Jackrabbits career with great pride. The Jacks qualified for the Football Championship Subdivision postseason every year and he started a program-record 53 consecutive games.

“It’s hard to figure out one highlight with football,” he said. “The program has come a long ways since I started here.”

Winning the Dakota Marker and advancing to the FCS playoff semifinals were just two of the memories that stuck out. But football wasn’t the only thing he enjoyed during his time at State.

“The [engineering] professors really made my experience great,” Ohnesorge said. “A lot of them are very helpful if you need help answering things and they care about you.”

Now, Ohnesorge waits to see which path life will steer him next, whether that future is football or engineering.

“You never know with football. I can control what I can control, but I can’t control whether or not if a team gives me a shot,” he said.“I know that if football doesn’t work out I’m in a great situation already having my undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and being half way done with my Masters of Engineering degree.”

Bassett said a student can work on a master’s degree for up to six years before course credits begin to expire. The master of engineering program is designed to be offered online. Online course offerings are being phased in over the next year or so. However, Ohnesorge is not tied down to Brookings to complete his degree if he were to continue with his football career. In the end, Ohnesorge’s choice of SDState to continue with engineering and football, was a great decision.

“Choosing to come to SDSU has been the best decision of my life so far,” he said. “Being a part of the football team and the engineering program, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”