Moorhead - Larry Scott remembers a time when the Minnesota State Moorhead football team won games at places like South Dakota State and regularly made the playoffs.
The former MSUM sports information director wanted to make sure those glory days weren’t forgotten.
“I kind of felt this need to chronicle those years and kind of preserve them if I could,” said Scott, who still works part-time at the university. “We had a nice run and we really had a quality football program for a couple decades there.”
That’s why Scott decided to write a book about Ross Fortier – the legendary former Dragons head coach who guided the program during that run of success. The recently released book is titled “The Fortier Years: A Coach’s Story.”
“It began as a tribute to coach Fortier,” Scott said. “Those of us that worked with him or played for him felt very strongly about him.”
Fortier was Dragons head coach for 23 seasons, posting a 152-80-4 record. His teams made seven postseason appearances and won nine conference championships.
“I think the nice thing is through ‘Scotty’s’ efforts it is a way to preserve some history better than has been done,” said Fortier, now retired and splitting his time between Florida and Minnesota.
Scott said Ann Fortier, Ross’ wife, encouraged him to write a book many years ago, but not necessarily about her husband.
“She had always liked my writing,” Scott said.
Writing a book about Fortier seemed natural for Scott, who was at all 236 games Fortier coached for the Dragons. Fortier was also the longtime athletic director at the university, so he was Scott’s boss.
“In some small way, I felt I owed him something,” Scott said. “He was a guy without much of an ego. … I enjoyed working for him a lot.”
Scott interviewed around 60 people, he estimated, to help fill the book’s 272 pages. Fortier said reading the final product stirred up memories that he had forgotten. He particularly enjoyed the inclusion of many of his former players in the book.
“A lot of things came back,” Fortier said. “(Scott) did a great job of trying to include a lot of players.”
One of the chapters in the books focuses on the 1981 Dragons football team that finished the regular season with a 10-0-1 record and ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division I. That team played at Pittsburg (Kan.) State in the first round of the playoffs, which marked the first postseason berth in program history.
The Gorillas rallied for a 14-13 victory. Pittsburg State would advance to the national championship game that season.
Gregg Veldman – the dad of former North Dakota State star tight end Matt Veldman – was a “great” tight end for the Dragons, Scott said. Gregg Veldman was one of the many key players on that 1981 team.
“That was a loss that kind of haunted him and his teammates and a lot of us for a long time,” Scott said.
Scott Simpson also played on that 1981 squad, and went on to become a pro wrestler. He was better known as “The Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff.
Some of the other notable players who played for Fortier include – Ed Schultz, a well-known liberal political commentator, and Marc Trestman, the head coach of the Chicago Bears.
Schultz and Trestman both played quarterback for the Dragons in the 1970s. Schultz wrote the foreword for the book.
“I was really impressed with Ed’s foreword,” said Fortier. “That was really nice.”
Fortier thinks former players and people who were close to the program will enjoy the book the most. Scott sensed that Fortier liked reading through parts of the book that Scott sent the former head coach during the writing process.
“He would see some of the comments from former players and I think that was kind of moving for him,” said Scott, who was the SID at MSUM from 1969-2009. “He normally was a pretty stoic guy when he coached. That was kind of his nature.”