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Craig Dahl

Height: 6-2 | Weight: 216 | College: North Dakota State
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A two-sport standout for the Bison in football and track, Dahl also excelled in the classroom. A Draddy Award semifinalist, as selected by the National Football Foundation/College Football Hall of Fame, he became only the second player in school history to earn CoSIDA Academic All-American honors in 2006.

On the field, the two-time team captain led the Bison to a fifth-place ranking in Division 1-AA in 2006, despite playing most of his final season with a cast to protect his broken right hand and had two broken fingers on the left.

Dahl was a first-team All-State, All-Conference and All-City selection for Mankato East High School. He ran for 3,398 yards and passed for 1,769 yards as a quarterback over his final two years and scored 57 touchdowns. He also competed in basketball and track-and-field, performing as a high jumper and long jumper.

In 2002, Dahl joined his older brother, Brian, a defensive end, in enrolling at North Dakota State, where both spent that season as redshirts. In 2003, he appeared in 10 games, blocking one kick that led to a Bison score while gaining 75 yards on five kickoff returns and 11 yards on a blocked punt return. He also picked off a pass and collected 24 tackles (9 solos).

In 2004, Dahl earned All-Great West Football Conference first-team honors from the league's coaches and first-team All-Western Region. He was also a member of ESPN's Academic All-District VII team. On the field, he took over strong safety duties, starting all 11 games. He finished second on the team with 82 tackles (44 solos), a sack and four stops for losses. He recovered three fumbles, intercepted three passes and deflected three others.

As a junior, Dahl garnered second-team All-GWFC accolades. He again started all 11 games at strong safety, ranking second on the team with 71 tackles (49 solos) and a stop for a loss. He caused and recovered a fumble and blocked one kick. He also had two pass break-ups and one interception.

Despite having both hands heavily bandaged most of the 2006 season due to his right hand fracture and broken fingers on his left hand, Dahl finished third on the team with 61 tackles (32 solos), adding a sack and 3.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He recovered and caused a fumble, broke up four passes and intercepted two others. The team captain was also named All-GWFC first-team, in addition to garnering national academic honors.

In 43 games at North Dakota State, Dahl started 33 times. He recorded 248 tackles with a school career record 134 solo hits. He had two sacks for minus-four yards, 8.5 stops for losses of 23 yards, two forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. He deflected 11 passes and intercepted seven others for 55 yards in returns. He also blocked two kicks, returning a blocked punt 11 yards to set up a score. He gained 75 yards on five kickoff returns (15.0 avg).


Positives: Has a lean, muscular frame with good bone structure that could carry additional bulk for a potential move to a Cover-2 outside linebacker position … Has good overall body thickness with a tight waist and abdomen and tapered thighs and calves (high jumper on the school's track team) … Very active in run force, showing consistent wrap-up tackle technique … Alert to the route's progression when working in the zone and does a good job of keeping position on receivers throughout their patterns … Has the leaping ability and timing to win most jump ball battles … Best when handling tight ends and backs in the short-area passing game, but has the loose hips and crisp breaks out of his pedal to mirror his man deep into the seam … Will play with pain, evident by his ability to excel despite bone fractures on both hands throughout most of the 2006 season … Lacks explosive speed, but builds to top acceleration nicely and shows loose hips in his change of direction … Doesn't stay in his backpedal for long, but has the foot quickness and hip flexibility to not take any wasted steps in transition … Plays with good balance moving in space and has great ability to hurdle over the pile and make the play, using his track experience in that area … All-out hustler who plays until the whistle and relishes his role on special teams, where his speed and aggressive hitting sees him simply punish returners and often jar the ball loose … Also times his leaps well while attempting to block the kick (blocked two in his career) … Exceptional open-field tackler who makes proper reads and quickly diagnoses the plays … Fluid turning and running coming out of his backpedal … Very decisive playing the ball in front of him and makes quick decisions switching off in the zone … Has fluid change of direction agility, and when playing inside the box he shows an explosive closing burst and the range to easily recover when beaten … Combats receivers for the ball, timing his leaps perfectly to disrupt the opponent's vision and has the plant-and-drive agility to stay on the receiver's hip throughout the route … Has a strong forward charge in run support … Unloads bone-jarring tackles, staying low to extend his arms, wrap and secure … Effective edge rusher who takes good angles to the ball and has the speed to surprise a lethargic blocker … Shows good arm-under action and counter moves to slip past the offensive linemen … Hits with good balance, staying low in his pads and driving with his legs to clog the rush lanes … Shows an even flow as he moves laterally, quickly stepping in to fill the rush lanes … Jams well at the line and is physical with receivers in the zone, staying in position while showing good awareness to activity in the backfield.

Negatives: More of a run supporter than a deep coverage defender … Will bite some on the quarterback's pump fakes and play-action … Active at the line of scrimmage, but needs to do a better job of using his hands to protect his body from low blocks … Sometimes tries to out-battle the offensive lineman rather than slip past blocks or avoid … Best when making plays in front of him, as he has limited experience playing deep in the zone (plays in a system where he was actually more of a linebacker in pass coverage than a safety).

Compares To: REID DOUGHTY-Washington … Not just because they were from small schools, but there are striking similarities. Both compensate for a lack of great timed speed with good acceleration and the ability to make plays in front of them. Both were national academic award winners, so there is that common factor in regards to instincts and intelligence. Dahl is a better hitter than Doughty, but both are better playing inside the box than in deep zone responsibilities. Some team might even want to bulk Dahl up to play a Cover-2 linebacker position, as he was used often in that role in college.

Career Notes

Dahl's 134 solo tackles established a school career record, topping the previous mark of 123 solo stops by Jared Essler (2001-04) … His twelve solo tackles against Nicholls State in 2004 tied the Bison single-game record that was first set by defensive end Jerry Dahl (no relation) vs. South Dakota State in 1974 … Only the second player in school history to earn CoSIDA first-team Academic All-American honors (2006), joining defensive end Chris Rood (1979).

2006 Season

CoSIDA Academic All-American first-team and FCS ADA All-Academic Team selection … One of 37 FCS (I-AA) players selected as a National Football Foundation/College Football Hall of Fame 2006 Draddy Trophy semifinalist … Finalist for the FCS ADA Postgraduate Scholarship … All-Great West Football Conference first-team and Academic All-GWFC choice … Started all eleven games at strong safety, but played most of the year wearing a cast to protect a fractured bone in his right hand and a heavily bandaged left hand due to two broken fingers … Still managed to rank third on the team with 61 tackles (32 solos), a 1-yard sack and 3.5 stops for losses of 9 yards … Recovered and caused a fumble … Deflected four passes and intercepted two others for 3 yards in returns … Served as team captain for the second consecutive year.

2006 Game Analysis

Concordia-St. Paul … Opened the season with five tackles (3 solos), including one that stopped Aaron Cawthorn for no gain after the tailback recovered his own fumble in the second quarter and later in that frame, Dahl caused a fumble when he stripped the ball from QB Kole Goodchild on a bootleg. Goodchild recovered the ball, but on the next play, Dahl pressured the passer, who threw a ball that was intercepted by the Bison's Mike Maresh, setting up a Steve Walker to Travis White 20-yard touchdown.

Northeastern … Limited to a pair of assisted tackles.

Ball State … Had eleven tackles (4 solos) and a stop for a loss.

Stephen F. Austin … Posted eight tackles with a pass break-up and sacked QB Danny Southall for a 1-yard loss in the third quarter.

Georgia Southern … Collected nine tackles (5 solos) and broke up one pass.

Mississippi Valley State … Added three tackles with a stop of Tyrone Timmons for a 4-yard loss on a screen pass during the game's opening series.

Minnesota … Credited with three tackles and a pass break-up.

Southern Utah … Followed with four solo tackles.

Cal-Davis … Made four tackles with a pass deflection and intercepted a third-&-2 Jon Grant pass at the NDSU 21, returning it 2 yards to set up QB Steve Walker's 10-yard game-winning touchdown toss to John Majeski late in the fourth quarter … Earned conference Player of the Week honors for his performance.

Cal Poly … Managed just three tackles (2 solos).

South Dakota State … Closed out his career with nine tackles (4 solos) and intercepted a third-&-8 pass thrown by Andy Kardoes with 2:10 left to play, as the Bison then ran out the clock for a 41-28 triumph.

2005 Season

All-Great West Football Conference second-team choice … Started all eleven games at strong safety … Served as team captain, finishing second on the squad with 71 tackles (49 solos), including a stop for a 3-yard loss … Recovered and caused one fumble … Deflected two passes and intercepted another … Also blocked a kick.

2005 Game Analysis

Blocked a punt an registered eight tackles vs. South Dakota State, as the Bison reclaimed the Dakota Marker … Had a season-high ten tackles vs. Weber State, adding another ten stops in the Southern Illinois clash … Posted nine solo tackles vs. Montana State and had another nine hits (8 solos) with an interception vs. Northwestern State … Credited with eight tackles vs. Nicholls State and posted six solo tackles vs. Cal Poly … Had another six solo tackles vs. Cal-Davis.

2004 Season

Third-team Football Gazette All-West Region pick … Named to the All-Great West Football Conference first-team by the league's coaches and the GWFC second-team by the media … Two-time GWFC Defensive Player of the Week choice and also earned Full Impact Network and Football Gazette defensive weekly honors … ESPN Academic All-District VII second- team and Academic All-GWFC first-team pick … Started all eleven games at strong safety, ranking second on the squad with a career-high 82 tackles (44 solos) … Had a 3-yard sack and four stops for losses of 11 yards … Recovered three fumbles and deflected five passes … Gained 52 yards on three interception returns.

2004 Game Analysis

Tied a NDSU single-game record with 17 tackles vs. Nicholls State, including 12 solos, one tackle for loss and one fumble recovery … Followed that up with 12 tackles in the 24-21 loss at South Dakota State … Finished the season with three interceptions including a pair of picks in the 27-21 win over Southern Utah and also had three pass break-ups in that game.

2003 Season

Played in ten games as a reserve strong safety … Finished with 24 tackles (9 solos) … Picked off a pass vs. South Dakota and blocked a kick that led to a 29-yard scoring drive in that game … Also returned five kickoffs for 75 yards (15.0 avg).

2002 Season

Redshirted as a freshman.

Injury Report

2006: Played most of the year with a cast on his right hand to protect a bone fracture, and had his left hand taped to protect two broken fingers.

Agility Tests

Campus: 4.48 in the 40-yard dash … 320-pound bench press … 330-pound power clean … 34-inch vertical jump … 4.1 20-yard shuttle … 31-inch arm length … 9 3/8-inch hands … Right-handed … 22/38 Wonderlic score.

Combine: 4.59 in the 40-yard dash … 1.6 10-yard dash … 2.65 20-yard dash … 4.26 20-yard shuttle … 11.03 60-yard shuttle … 6.69 three-cone drill … 35-inch vertical jump … 10'2" broad jump … Bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times.


Competed in the hurdles during the 2005 indoor season for North Dakota State … Had personal bests of 7.25 in the 60-meters at the Bison Classic … Clocked 8.41 in the 60-meter hurdles at the Washington Invite … Ran a 23.74 in the 200 meters at the Panther Classic … Had a long jump of 20'9" at the Bison Open.

High School

Attended Mankato (Minn.) East High School, playing football for head coach Gary Dierks …

First-team All-State, All-Conference and All-City selection … Ran for 3,398 yards and passed for 1,769 yards as a quarterback over his final two years and scored 57 touchdowns … Also competed in basketball and track-and-field, performing as a high jumper and long jumper.


Mechanical Engineering major … Brother, Brian, was a teammate and defensive end at North Dakota State (2003-05) … Son of Terry and Laurie Dahl … Born 6/17/85 … Resides in Madison Lake, Minnesota.


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