MOORHEAD -- A playbook, a whiteboard and three weeks to prepare. That’s all Ryan Bieberdorf needed.
“I got a whiteboard in my dorm room and drew up plays just so I could remember the playbook,” he explained.
That’s how Bieberdorf, a 2019 Bemidji High School graduate, spent about an hour each day during the Minnesota State Moorhead football team’s fall camp. On the advice of the program’s upperclassmen, Bieberdorf memorized the playbook by writing it out.
Over and over and over again.
“When practice time came, I could do the plays faster. And that caught coaches’ eyes,” Bieberdorf said. “So I was able to get some playing time this season, which was awesome.”
Playing time wasn't a guarantee, though. Through his recruiting process and coming into the 2019 season, MSUM coaches bluntly told Bieberdorf that they weren’t quite sure how he would figure into the offense. So the freshman wide receiver helped make the decision easier on them.
“You’ve definitely just got to put in the time if you want to get out there,” he said. “I grew more as a football player, I believe, knowing more things. Instead of just basic concepts, I knew details. I became better that way.”
It’s @ryan_bieberdorf with the catch, tuck and run helps @msum_football rack up 20 in the first half against number 13 Duluth. That’s what makes this tonight’s #msumheroshot from @msum_goteam’s @sean_rice24 pic.twitter.com/UPYRU01Muh— MSUMDragons (@MSUMDragons) September 15, 2019
And it worked, too. Bieberdorf finished the season as the Dragons’ second-leading receiver with 44 catches for 451 yards and two touchdowns. And yet, was he satisfied with the team’s 6-5 record?
“Not at all,” he said. “We dropped a bunch of close games. We should’ve beat Bemidji (State). That would have been nice. … We could have won a couple others that we just felt like we dropped.”
Three of Minnesota State Moorhead’s losses were by a single possession, two of which came with a chance for a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. That’s been a driving force heading into year two.
“I just want to be better than last year personally,” Bieberdorf said. “I want to be able to see things and be a better receiver than I was a year before. I think that’s everyone’s mindset here: Get better every day, and don’t get complacent. If we do that, as a team, we’re going to be better.”
In 2020, Bieberdorf said the goal is to help the team to another postseason appearance. The Dragons earned a bid to the Mineral Water Bowl in 2018, the program’s first postseason game since 1994 and the first in its Division II era, but the ensuing 51-16 loss to Missouri S&T wasn't a satisfying end to the season.
Bieberdorf still wants his first taste of postseason football, too, and he’s determined to seize the opportunity.
“My mindset coming in was, ‘Whatever they need me to do, whatever gets me on the field, I’m happy to do,’” he said. “The big thing for me is just that I want to play.”
Bieberdorf wrapped up the academic year last week, which came shortly after his head coach, Steve Laqua, named him the football team’s nominee for MSUM’s Male Newcomer of the Year award. The honor eventually went to Shyrone Kemp, a sophomore transfer on the men’s track and field team, but Bieberdorf was still humbled by the recognition.
“Getting recognized for my hard work really meant a lot,” he said. “Especially because my head coach and all the other coaches saw that I was putting in the work. It was just a good feeling to know that they saw that.”