FARGO, N.D. - In the past, there have been just two football teams celebrated in Fargo, North Dakota - the North Dakota State Bison and the Minnesota Vikings. For most of the year, the city is draped in green and yellow for the Bison. On Sundays, purple pops up in honor of the Minnesota Vikings.
That changed on April 28, when the golden boy of the Bison, Carson Wentz, was taken second overall in the NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.
All of a sudden, the Bison green and yellow morphed into Eagles midnight green. Number 11 jerseys were everywhere seven days a week as Bison fans climbed on board the now famous Wentz Wagon.
At the start of Training Camp, the North Dakota Eagles fans were not expecting too much from the rookie quarterback. Like most fans, they were prepared to wait a year while Wentz learned and adapted to the professional level. And then the Teddy Bridgewater injury happened and Sam Bradford was traded to Minnesota.
No one saw that coming, even in North Dakota where the view stretches for miles in any direction.
Don't get it wrong. Saturday is still the biggest day when it comes to football in Fargo. But the Eagles are now a bonafide attraction in this small Midwestern city.
"Prior to this year, we never had the sound on for the Eagles, so it has been quite the impact," said Brent Tehven, manager of Herd and Horns, a bar located just off the edge of the campus of North Dakota State.
And there are conflicts in this relationship.
Week 5 offered one for fans in Fargo. The Vikings squared off against Houston at the same time as the Eagles battled Detroit. To compensate for the drama, Herd and Horns was split in half - one half featured the Eagles game, the Vikings game was on for fans on the other side.
"These guys are Carson Wentz fans who happen to be Eagles fans," Tehven said. On this chilly Sunday morning, Adam Gibson was one of the fans boasting an Eagles jersey. Like a lot of folks around Fargo, he told a familiar story about his fandom.
"I have been a fan since he got drafted. I was a Mike Vick fan back in the day, but not really until Carson got drafted," said the 21-year old.
Back on campus, there has been a steady rise in Eagles fans since the beginning of the fall. When the Bison took on the Illinois State Redbirds for homecoming in early October, the gold rush of the crowd was speckled with midnight green.
Fans knew that Wentz was back in Fargo for his bye week recently. Part of downtown even had been shut down for a commercial shoot he did the day before the big Bison game that Saturday. Fans searched for him on the sideline. But no such luck, Wentz was up in the coach's box. Before the game, Wentz had spent time on the turf of the Fargodome visiting with Cameron Winkler, an 8-year-old who utilizes a wheelchair.
As for longtime Eagles fans in Fargo, Wentz's move to Philadelphia has offered something new: a chance to boast about the team. Brent Neuhardt, 20, has been following the Eagles for the past seven years. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Wentz was the No. 2 overall pick, Neuhardt "let out a very loud scream."
But now, he gets to do something he couldn't always do before: watch Eagles games on TV.
"I would always listen to the game on the Eagles app on the radio, but now I get to watch all the games," Neuhardt said. That is, until the game is decidedly a blowout and CBS switches the game, as it did in Week 3 during the Eagles' 34-3 dismantling of Pittsburgh.
"I was super mad about that, I still wanted to watch the end," said Neuhardt.
It is safe to say the folks of Fargo were perhaps the quickest to pick up Wentz for fantasy football rosters. Peter Wells' brother, John, benefited in a roundabout way thanks to the Bison connection.
John Wells graduated from North Dakota State last year and is an avid Wentz fan. He lives now in Missouri with a spotty internet connection, so his Fargo-based league members decided to draft his team. When the last round came, Wentz was still on the board.
Peter Wells said, "We picked Carson for John as a joke, since he was a diehard Bison fan who loved Carson. He is stomping the rest of us right now."
Throughout Fargo, it is easy to say that a vast majority of folks cheer for the man from the small school. The common feeling in town before the season was one of waiting, accepting the fact that the big redhead from North Dakota would spend the year learning. Now, the Fargo community is dreaming big.
Fargo would love to see Wentz guide the Eagles into the playoffs as a rookie. They want to see Philadelphia, led by their college hero, win as much as he can. But no matter what, Sundays have a different feel in Fargo these days.
Photos courtesy of NBC10/CSN Philadelphia