Semi-pro football begins ‘Stampede’Dewey Dupuis Jr. hasn’t played a game of organized football for more than two years, but the 19-year-old hasn’t lost his touch. “It’s my favorite sport,” said Dupuis, a 2011 graduate of Fond du Lac Ojibwe School and now starting free safety for the inaugural Carlton County Stampede semi-professional football team this summer.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CARLTON — Dewey Dupuis Jr. hasn’t played a game of organized football for more than two years, but the 19-year-old hasn’t lost his touch.
“It’s my favorite sport,” said Dupuis, a 2011 graduate of Fond du Lac Ojibwe School and now starting free safety for the inaugural Carlton County Stampede semi-professional football team this summer. “It’s been a couple of years since I’ve last played, but I’m anxious to get back out on the football field.”
Semi-professional football is an offseason organization that fields non-paid players and gives athletes, like the 5-foot-10, 155-pound Dupuis, an opportunity to put a helmet on again. The first-year Stampede —formerly the Superior Stampede — is a member of the eight-team Midwest Premier Football League. Games run from May to August and home games for the Stampede will be played at Jim Erickson Field in Carlton, said Coach Chad Olson.
Olson, a 1989 Carlton graduate and prep football player, began coaching as a teenager and headed the Fond du Lac Ojibwe nine-man football program several seasons in the 1990s. Now at 42, Olson decided to reconstruct Superior’s prior program and bring the semi-professional game to the hometown communities where he grew up.
“This is just a wonderful area to be in,” said Olson, who said the organization looks to develop football players, while hopefully creating additional revenue and activity opportunities for families. “My whole vision was to recreate the Stampede right here, from the southern part of the county to the north. I took the bull by the horns.”
Olson said his team of about 50 players — the smallest in the league, he noted — has been practicing once a week since December indoors at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, the Cloquet Armory and at the Heritage Sports Center in Duluth.
With players from across Minnesota, Florida, Ohio and the Dakotas, the Stampede has an array of talent, including their five captains in Dupuis, Esko’s Richard Jubie, Kevin Gregory, Nathan Orsburne and Antonio O’Neil, a former arena football member.
The season opener is Saturday at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minn., with the defending MPFL champion Minnesota Sting.
“They’re going to suit 65 guys and have 35 more on their sideline,” Olson said, “but we’re going to let them know we’re there to play. We want people to realize that the north has talent, too.”
General Manager Christopher King, 45, of Cloquet has been involved with semi-professional football for 21 years and coached teams to national championships in 2000 and 2005. Also head of the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School football program in the fall, King is one of seven Stampede coaches who have been impressed thus far.
“I started 1993, and honestly, this is the best chemistry I’ve seen since I’ve been around this,” said King, adding that athletes must be 18 years old to play, although he recalled a player who was 59. “This is a double-sided coin. You have guys in this who want to get back to the pros, and you have guys in this who haven’t played a down since high school, but still have those hopes and dreams.”
“I’m trying my hardest to make something of myself, right now,” added Dupuis. “Hopefully this all opens up a big door for me.”