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Small Running Back Puts Small Town On The Map

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(credit: CBS) David McCoy
David McCoy joined the WCCO-TV sports team in March 2013 as a report...
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UNDERWOOD, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s a tiny town in northwestern Minnesota, but the people of Underwood love their football.

“We have no stop lights,” said resident Christel Samuelson. “Everybody knows everybody’s name.”

“Just a lot of good people here,” adds fellow resident Lew Obright.

Friday nights is when the town gets buzzing, thanks to high school football, said coach Chuck Ross.

“With small towns there isn’t a lot to do otherwise,” Samuelson said.

Somewhere between Alexandria and Fargo, sits a quiet little town with big bragging rights.

“We have an insurance agency, a bank, two gas stations,” Samuelson said.

And one outstanding running back.

Noah Thompson leads the state with 1,681 rushing yards, and nobody else is even within 200 yards of him. It’s pretty incredible when you consider that the entire population of Underwood is 341. It’s one of the smallest towns in all of Minnesota.

“If you’ve got talent, it doesn’t matter what size the school is,” Ross said. “But I think it does surprise me in a way, because you know, there’s a lot of good running backs out there.”

“I have a really good big line,” Thompson said. “And they can easily make blocks and push people around. So I just like get the ball, see a humungous hole and just run right through it.”

He averages more than 200 yards a game. His highest this season was 328 — just 13 shy of the town’s entire population.

“I never thought of that, that’s interesting,” Ross said with a laugh. “Yeah, he had two back-to-back games in a row where he broke the school record.”

At 5-6, 155 pounds, Thompson is the smallest kid on the varsity team, which is kind of fitting. Like Underwood itself, it’s proof that sometimes smaller really is better.

“I had a coach tell me last week that they were yelling at their safeties to fill faster and pick him up,” Ross said. “And they said ‘Well, we can’t see him.’ Our offensive line is pretty big, and he hides well behind them.”

“A lot of people have been commenting how good I’ve been doing,” Thompson said. “But I’ve never really thought about it.”

A lot of people is, of course, a relative term in Underwood. But what there certainly is a lot of is pride.

“You’re always proud of someone who has that much success, and we’re very proud of him,” Obright said.

“It’s fun just to see him and to kind of put a dot on the state of Minnesota,” Samuelson said. “And to say, hey, we’re still here.”

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