JACKSONVILLE – Chris Klieman knew the themes and the message.
The North Dakota State football players and coaches did, too, but the Bison and Klieman – the Bison's second-year head coach – heard them from a familiar, popular source Thursday evening.
That source was Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, and when Bradley – a former NDSU player and an assistant there for two separate stints in the 1990s and 2000s – delivers a theme it can be a moment to remember.
Thursday was full of such moments in Fargo, North Dakota.
"It was a great event," Klieman said Friday. "It was everything I hoped it would be and everything I know our community hoped it would be."
Bradley spoke to media Thursday shortly after arriving in Fargo.
"To get back on campus and see familiar faces, it just felt really good," Bradley told Bison.com.
Bradley spoke at a dinner Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo that benefited NDSU athletic scholarships and drew a crowd of nearly 500. Klieman said highlights included Bradley speaking beforehand to players and coaches for about an hour.
Bradley delivered a message familiar to Jaguars coaches, players and fans, speaking about servant leadership, daily improvement, competition and humility.
"We've been preaching some of the things that Gus talked about, but to hear it from somebody who has been a Bison and that understands Bison Pride because he was a player was great for us," Klieman said.
The crowd at the dinner included people who knew Bradley from his days as a player at NDSU from 1984-1988 and later as an assistant at the school from 1990-1991 and 1996-2005.
"He was tremendously received," Klieman said. "I was at the table with him for dinner, and I don't know if he ever got a chance to eat. There were people constantly coming up to him, guys he played with, guys he recruited and he'd built great relationships with … it was an unbelievable event with great energy.
"Then Gus – as he always does – stole the show when he went through his presentation."
The Bison, winners of the past four Football Championship Subdivision national championships, have won 12 national titles. They won the Division II national title in Bradley's senior season of 1988 and also won in 1985 and 1986.
"There's tremendous tradition here, and Gus has been a part of that tradition," Klieman said. "We always bring back the former players. We play for those alums. We play for the guys who have done it before us, and although Gus is the head football coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and he's had success, in reality he's a Bison. For us to bring a Bison back and have him express his views on what Bison Pride means to him and what it's like to put the green and gold on … knowing Gus' status, it was neat for our guys to see."
Klieman said the impact Bradley had on players also was memorable. Klieman said Bradley's message was "nothing's going to be handed to you."
"You have to go through the process and the process is difficult, but if you buy into the coaches and have a genuine appreciation for all of the people around you and all of the people part of the program and have great humility you can continue to have success," Klieman said. "And what is success? It's getting better every day.
"It's not ultimately the wins and losses. The process will take care of the wins and losses. It's more, 'How do you go about that daily process? How do you create that culture?' It was really impactful for guys. Our guys were locked in. They really enjoyed the presentation."
Klieman said despite significant recent success, the message was heard.
"We've had tremendous success here – there's no question," he said. "But we are always preaching to say have humility and have humility. For Gus to speak about the same thing helps us so much. We don't believe we've arrived because we've won four straight national championships. Gus helped us realize that as well, that, 'We're just trying to get better. What's done is done. It was great. We reveled in being successful, but now we've got to turn the page and go on to next year.'''
Bradley told the gathered media Thursday that the information exchange between him and Bison coaches was a two-way street, and Klieman said Bradley joked during the meeting that the Bison had won more games than he had in recent seasons.
But Klieman said the experience was invaluable for not only him and his staff, but the entire Bison program.
"What an incredible thing for our staff to be able to do," he said. "There aren't many staffs that can sit down with a great head football coach and just bounce some ideas. There was great dialogue and our guys were writing notes as fast as they could."