Like Father, Like Son: Kliemans Keep Coaching in the Family…and the Herd

The Bison Football program preaches how important family is to its success.

Now, that family approach spans two generations on the NDSU sideline.

KVRR Sports Director Mike McCann tells us how one student manager is learning all he can while spending a little bit more with his dad.

The days of college football as just a “Fall Sport” are long gone.

For the most part, it is a 365 day a year job, which can make it difficult to see your family.

But for at least part of one Bison family, they have solved that problem on the field.

A lot of high school seniors dream of getting away from mom and dad and living a life of freedom as a college freshman.

For one NDSU Student Manager, the opposite is true.

“Being at home with Mom, Haley, and Colby, I didn’t see him much during the football season,” said Devin Kliman. “And now it’s a privilege to see him every day. It makes my Mom a little jealous, but I’ve really enjoyed it.”

“Him” is Devin Klieman’s dad, 3rd Year NDSU Football Coach Chris Klieman, and now…Devin’s boss.

“For me it’s great,” said Coach Klieman. “I didn’t get a great opportunity to see him a bunch his senior year. I’d go to the football games, but in the evenings, I didn’t get an opportunity to see him much.”

The younger Klieman was a standout defensive back at Shanley.

But when not a lot of schools showed interest in Devin as a player, he made the choice to stay around the game…and to hang out with Dad.

“I thought I was really close with my dad already,” said Devin. “And I kind of understand what he goes through on a daily basis now. I thought I knew, but seeing it every day, I learn more about what he does.”

Now, the real work is underway.

“A normal day?” Asked Devin, when Mike asked him to walk us through a typical day. “I of course go to class,” he laughed, giving his father a sidelong glance. Coach returned the laugh with a knowing smile and nod. “I show up probably around three. I work for (equipment manager) Nate (Bjorlat). I usually listen to whatever we have going on that day, get ready for practice, throw a couple balls to the defensive backs and help out during team.”

So in other words, Devin is busy all the time, but it doesn’t go unnoticed.

“They’re spotting balls, they’re helping out with drills, they’re setting drills up, they’re taking things down,” confirmed Coach. “Things that sometimes as coaches we take for granted. I know how hard these guys are working.”

It’s not like the Student Managers just stand on the sideline and get a free trip to Frisco, but they are college kids.

And like any college kid should, Devin is thinking about his future.

A future that he hopes ends like his dad, as a coach.

“In my opinion,” he said, without hesitation. “It might be a little biased. I think this is the best coaching staff in America. And with the success they’ve had, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”

“He’s got a jump start on a lot of people,” said Coach. “Whether you’re playing the game, or just being around the game and being around the great mentors we have on our staff-and our staff treats Devin so well.  And they challenge him, and that’s what Devin needs.”

And that’s not just Dad’s opinion.

“It’s kind of in his blood,” said Robbie Grimsley, who is a sophomore Safety for the Bison. “Coach Klieman’s just such a good coach, and he’s out there with the guys every day. He sees what it’s like. Once he’s out there a little more, I think he’d definitely have it in him (Devin).

Just because they share the father-son bond, that doesn’t mean there’s preferential treatment.

“For me, Tre Dempsey’s a great example,” explained Coach. “I give Tre grief about ‘Hey, are you going to class, are you getting your grades up? Tre I’ve got another kid here, I don’t need to  have a second.’ You know? And Devin is that, and Devin will laugh, and say ‘you treat me just like you do the other players.’ I hold him accountable just like I’m holding Tre Dempsey accountable.”

Yet at the end of the day, the Klieman boys are like any other father-son combo.

“It’s neat every time you have the opportunity to spend a little more time with your son while you’re at work,” said Coach. “‘Cause in our job, it is a 24/7 job, and the opportunities we have to spend with our Bison family or with our immediate personal family, it’s so gratifying.”

A family atmosphere…something Devin says he wouldn’t change.

“I love it,” he said, with a nod and a smile. “There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing right now.”

Devin said he does want to stay around the program all four years and he’d love to get even more involved in the coaching aspect during that time.

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