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From Watertown to the Bay Area, Spencer Waege now eyes chance in NFL

Jacob Reiner
North Dakota State University

Watertown native and North Dakota State alum Spencer Waege will report to rookie minicamp this week in Santa Clara, California to begin his journey with the San Francisco 49ers.

A week and a half ago, Waege was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the 49ers following the conclusion of the 2023 National Football League draft.

“I was just sit sitting around at home with some friends and family, watching the draft. We expected all along that undrafted was the route that was going to happen for me, but there had been some talk from some teams that a late round pick might have come into the picture,” explained Waege. “I got a UDFA deal done with the 49ers there during the seventh round of the draft. I knew where I was going before the draft officially was over, and then told friends and family, and they were all really excited for me. It didn't quite really set in yet until probably these last couple days now, when we've been doing some meetings and stuff with the 49ers already.”

The 49ers will hold their rookie minicamp this coming weekend, May 12-15. Organized Team Activities, also known as OTA’s, will follow and extend into June. The middle part of June will consist of Mandatory Minicamp, and then Training Camp begins for San Francisco in mid-July.

“The 49ers by far were the team that showed the most interest in me from before pro day, during and after my pro day. I had Zooms with their assistant D-line coach,” stated Waege. “They had by far shown the most interest, and that's part of the reason why me and my agent wanted to do the deal with them.”

Waege was a three-year starter in high school for the Arrows. He graduated from Watertown in the spring of 2017. From there, he went on to North Dakota State University. He spent six seasons with the Bison. Waege redshirted for the fall season of 2017 and got an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic.

Throughout his college career, he was a two-time All-American in three years as a starter. Waege was a part of four FCS National Championship teams at NDSU.

“Trying to play college and professional has always been the dream of mine. I always wanted to play football as long as I could. When I was in high school, it probably wasn't really until after my junior season had got done, when I started getting some college coaches in touch with me, and started the recruiting process then,” Waege told. “When I got to college, obviously everyone comes into college, and they think they're going to the NFL. It was probably not until, I'm going to say after my sophomore season when my weight started really getting up there, and I started realizing that I had some pretty good size and ability. It was at that point that I was like, "Well, regardless, I'm at least going to try and give it a shot and try and see what happens." Each year after that in college, I realized that the NFL was more and more of a possibility.”

Waege will join former Bison teammate Tray Lance, a native of Marshall, Minnesota, in the Bay Area. Lance, who plays quarterback, was selected by the 49ers with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He played just 19 college games for NDSU before leaving college for the NFL.

“It's going to be kind of weird because Trey, obviously, when he came to Fargo, he was one of the rookies, and I was one of the old guys that I could tell what to do and make him go get me things or whatever,” Waege chuckled. “And now it's kind of funny how the roll's kind of reversed there where I'm going to be his rookie and I'm sure he's going to get a little payback for some of those days up in Fargo.”

Another local connection within the 49ers organization is their head athletic director Dustin Little. Little grew up in Castlewood, which is roughly ten miles south of Watertown where Waege grew up.

“It's funny because Dustin, his sister was actually just in my brother's wedding a couple weeks ago now. And then Dustin, I had cousins that grew up in Castlewood and we've known them forever too,” exclaimed Waege. “So it's kind of got a lot of connections out there.”

The 49ers, and every NFL team to be exact, are building a roster of 90 players to bring through the offseason programs. By Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season, every roster will have to be cut down to just 53 players. With 32 teams, that means nearly 1,200 players between now and the start of the season will lose their positions with teams. But for Waege, he plans to work hard, stay positive, and give it his best shot. He believes that his Midwest roots give him an extra layer of grit.

“I think it's a different style of toughness up here. I mean, there's a lot of kids that it seems like that make a professional career out of their sports usually have some type of [agriculture] background it seems like for the most part,” Waege said. “And then I think that teams just know too that if you live up here, you got to deal with the harsh winters and everything else that gets thrown your way. So I think they realize that's a different style of toughness and a different way of life up here.”

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.