The coach with the most NBA championships and the MLB player who once held the record for the most home runs in a season join three others who were multi-sport stars to highlight the top five athletes from North Dakota.
Five most dominant high school athletes in North Dakota history Roger Maris, Shanley (Fargo), 1952
For many years, Roger Maris was listed in national high school football record books for returning four kickoffs for touchdowns in one game. It later turned out that the four touchdowns were on "returns," not necessarily kickoff returns. Nonetheless, it showed the type of all-around athlete he was at Shanley in the early 1950s. While also in high school, he led the Fargo American Legion baseball team to a state title. Instead of attending college, Maris joined the Indians organization in Fargo. He eventually made the big leagues, first with Cleveland, then Kansas City and the New York Yankees. With the Yankees, he famously broke Babe Ruth's record with 61 home runs in a single season. He finished his career with the Cardinals. He was a seven-time All-Star, two-time league MVP and three-time World Series champion.Phil Jackson, Williston, 1963
Known more for his NBA coaching career, where he won 11 championships, Jackson was also a four-sport athlete in high school. He played football, baseball and ran track, but he excelled at basketball where he led his team to a pair of state championships. In college at North Dakota, Jackson was a two-time All-American before joining the New York Knicks in 1967 as a second-round draft pick. Although never an All-Star, Jackson was a member of two NBA championship teams.Darin Erstad, Jamestown, 1992
A three-sport star at Jamestown, Erstad was the kicker and punter on the football team, a member of the hockey team and a state-title winning hurdler in track and field. He also played American Legion and hit 18 home runs in his final season of Legion ball. Erstad played football and baseball in college. He was the punter on Nebraska's 1994 National Championship team. He also set school records in baseball including most career his with 261. He played 14 years in the Major Leagues and was a two-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner.Carson Wentz, Century (Bismarck), 2011
Wentz played three sports in high school, but only one year as a starter at quarterback on the football team. He was named Class AAA senior Athlete of the Year after throwing for 1,383 yards as a senior. Wentz was also All-Region in basketball after helping Century win a state championship. He was also the leading hitter on the baseball team with a .470 batting average. In college, he started at North Dakota State as a junior, throwing for 3,111 yards. He was drafted No. 2 overall the following year by the Eagles and was named second team All-Pro his second season and earned the Bert Bell Award.Palmer "Pete" Retzlaff, Ellendale, 1950
A three-sport athlete, Retzlaff was a running back on the football team, a forward on the basketball team and a shot put and discus man on the track team. He played all three sports at South Dakota State as well and was eventually drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1953. He went to the Army for two years instead of playing in the NFL and he joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1955. There he excelled as one of the top tight ends in the NFL for the next 10 years. He made the Pro Bowl five times, was first team All-Pro twice and second team twice. He also was named the NFL MVP in 1965. He retired with 452 catches and 7,412 yards receiving, which ranked among the top 10 in NFL history at that time.
Travis Hafner, Sykeston, baseball; Jim Kleinsasser, Carrington, football; Lute Olsen, Grand Forks, basketball; Dale Brown, Minot, basketball; Dave Osborn, Cando, football; Steve Blehm, Devil's Lake, basketball.