The legacy that will be left behind by South Dakota State’s seniors is immense, with many in the group trying to end their careers on Sunday by winning a second consecutive FCS national championship.

First-year coach Jimmy Rogers has unique perspective, hoping the legacy’s effect winds up being subtle amid his Jackrabbits instead of the way it’s viewed outside the program.

“I talk about this all the time with the guys, just leaving your legacy,” said Rogers, whose 14-0 squad will face Montana (13-1) in the title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas (2 p.m. ET, ABC).

“And for me that has nothing to do with wins and losses, that has everything to do with your individual approach to impacting the people around you. I don’t know if we will see their legacy. Hopefully, we don’t; hopefully, nothing changes in the next several years. And that’s how you know they’ve left their mark because our team will remember the experiences, that connection. What made those players great, (the underclassmen) will mimic that to have the same type of success.”

Photo Credit: Dave Eggen/Inertia

It’s easy to expect South Dakota State to remain an FCS national power even after losing the best senior class in program history. There are 34 seniors on the roster, with some in their sixth season of eligibility since arriving in Brookings in 2018, and a part of teams with a combined 65-15 record as well as three Missouri Valley Football Conference titles.

The Jackrabbits are returning to Frisco for the third time in the last four seasons, having lost to Sam Houston 23-21 on a late touchdown in the spring 2021 title game and routing rival North Dakota State 45-21 last January under former coach John Stiegelmeier. In Rogers’ first season, the Jackrabbits have extended to a 28-game winning streak – the third-longest in FCS history.  

As Rogers, a former SDSU linebacker, points out, his team plays with an edge, as though it hasn’t arrived to the top yet.

“They have talent,” he said. “There’s a lot of people with talent. Talent is a myth. It’s about how you work day in and day out to be at your best to conquer the moments in your life, to not surrender to complacency to be average. This group has it.”

Unlike other FCS programs, South Dakota State has not been picked apart by the loss of transfers, with its nucleus remaining together despite much-greater amounts of NIL money elsewhere. Tight end Tucker Kraft resisted it before the 2022 national championship season and wound up being a second-round pick in last year’s NFL Draft. Running back Isaiah Davis did the same last offseason to remain as the team’s leading offensive weapon.  

The Jackrabbits have as many seniors who are NFL prospects as any recent FCS team, from Davis to offensive linemen Garret Greenfield and Mason McCormick to tight end Zach Heins to wide receiver twins Jadon and Jaxon Janke to linebacker Isaiah Stalbird and beyond.

Most, but not all of the seniors are playing their final game. For example, linebacker Adam Bock, who arrived in 2019, but has lost time to injuries, will return for a final season in the fall.

“It’s been years in the making, it’s not just this one team because a team year-to-year is made up of an accumulation of years in which they’ve put into it already,” Rogers said. “This senior class is special because of the years of work that has gone into this. It means the world to me to lead this senior class out to this one last game. We need to finish on this one right note.”