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'The Fortier Years: a Coach’s Story’ chronicles Bemidji native Ross Fortier’s career as the MSU Moorhead head football coach.

Ross Fortier: Book preserves history by telling story of Bemidji native

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Ross Fortier: Book preserves history by telling story of Bemidji native
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

MOORHEAD -- Larry Scott remembers a time when the Minnesota State Moorhead football team won games at places like South Dakota State and regularly made the playoffs.

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The former MSU Moorhead sports information director wanted to make sure those glory days weren't forgotten.

"I kind of felt this need to chronicle those years and kind of preserve them if I could," said Scott. "We had a nice run and we really had a quality football program for a couple decades there."

That's why Scott decided to write a book about Ross Fortier — the former Dragons head coach and Bemidji native who guided the program during that run of success.

The recently released book is titled "The Fortier Years: A Coach's Story."

"It began as a tribute to coach Fortier," Scott said. "Those of us that worked with him or played for him felt very strongly about him."

Fortier, the son of legendary Bemidji High School coach Bun Fortier, was Dragons head coach for 23 seasons, posting a 152-80-4 record. His teams made seven postseason appearances and won nine conference championships.

"I think the nice thing is through 'Scotty's' efforts it is a way to preserve some history better than has been done," said Fortier, now retired and splitting his time between Florida and Minnesota.

Scott said Ann Fortier, Ross' wife, encouraged him to write a book many years ago, but not necessarily about her husband.

"She had always liked my writing," Scott said.

Writing a book about Fortier seemed natural for Scott, who was at all 236 games Fortier coached for the Dragons.

Fortier was also the longtime athletic director at the university, so he was Scott's boss.

"In some small way, I felt I owed him something," Scott said. "He was a guy without much of an ego. ... I enjoyed working for him a lot."

Scott interviewed around 60 people, he estimated, to help fill the book's 272 pages. Fortier said reading the final product stirred up memories that he had forgotten. He particularly enjoyed the inclusion of many of his former players in the book.

"A lot of things came back," Fortier said. "(Scott) did a great job of trying to include a lot of players."

Some of the notable players who played for Fortier were Ed Schultz, a well-known liberal political commentator, and Marc Trestman, the head coach of the Chicago Bears.

Schultz and Trestman both played quarterback for the Dragons in the 1970s. Schultz wrote the foreword for the book.

Fortier thinks former players and people who were close to the program will enjoy the book the most. Scott sensed that Fortier liked reading through parts of the book that Scott sent the former head coach during the writing process.

"He would see some of the comments from former players and I think that was kind of moving for him," said Scott, who was the SID at MSUM from 1969-2009. "He normally was a pretty stoic guy when he coached. That was kind of his nature."

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Eric Peterson
Peterson covers small college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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