In South Dakota, there are two things that connect people from every generation, county, and walk of life: farming and football. Soybeans grown in South Dakota went from the farm field to the football field at South Dakota State University. The SDSU Dana J. Dykhouse stadium utilizes sustainable soy-backed turf. The agricultural connection doesn’t stop there, there are a few members of the SDSU football team that are pursuing goals athletically and agriculturally.
Michael Drotzmann, an SDSU punter and Animal Science major, is one of these men. We spoke with Michael about the interlacings of farming and football, what they have in common, and how each of these areas of his life has impacted the other. Here’s what he had to say.
Did you grow up around agriculture and farming?
I grew up on a small family farm north of Yankton, SD. We raised corn, oats, and alfalfa. I also grew up with a cow/calf operation raising Hereford cattle.
What made you want to pursue agriculture through your studies?
Family is something very special to me and I will be the 6th generation farmer in my family. Seeing my family rooted in agriculture inspired me to carry on the legacy.
What do you hope to do after graduating?
After graduation, I would like to grow a cowherd while being some sort of ag salesman or possibly pursue auctioneering.
How has growing up on a farm helped you in your football career?
Like farming, football takes a lot of hard work, communication, and teamwork. With that, I believe that I gained a head start on football because of the work ethic I was taught growing up.
How have your passions in football and agriculture impacted your everyday life?
My passion for football and agriculture really revolves around family and faith. Being able to reach out to new people and trying to be a good example for others. I see my life being impacted every day through the new people I get to work with every day.
How do you feel about playing for a football team that is so rooted in agriculture and playing on a field that is made from soy-backed turf?
I have dreamed of playing for SDSU football since I was a little boy, so having this opportunity is nothing short of a blessing. With the University so rooted in agriculture and playing on a soy-backed turf to me is the most awesome experience and gives me another reminder of who I am representing while wearing the Yellow and Blue.
What has been your favorite experience playing football at SDSU?
My favorite experience from being on the SDSU football team has got to be all the new people I have met. Friends, alumni, coaches/staff, and all the supporters. SDSU is lucky to have this amount of support on so many levels outside of just athletics and anyway I can let these people know that I will!
What lessons have you learned from playing football that you will take into your future career?
Football is such a long, tough, and performance-driven sport, which has taught me to put my best foot forward, keep a positive mind, and have a driving attitude to succeed at anything I choose to do. Football teaches you about life as much as life teaches you about football. You need to be able to work together and get your job done at a high quality to be successful as a team, which is what I want to take into my chosen career.
What are you most looking forward to in your future career in agriculture?
I am such a people person, I want to be able to connect with as many people as I can in my future career. I want to keep being a student of agriculture, trying to learn new tricks or recommendations that are given by other producers in agriculture. A gentleman once told me, “When you quit learning, you quit growing” and that is a quote I will never forget that touched me in a positive and encouraging way.
I started making TikToks when COVID hit, the gyms were closed and I was told by our lifting coach at the time (Nate Moe) to make some workout videos from home to share with people. I made some videos throwing small square bales around, carrying feed pails, and squatting baby calves.
I didn’t expect to get many views or likes on anything but the video exploded and I thought to myself that maybe people should have the chance to see the kinds of things I do on a regular basis on the farm. It seemed people started to get some good laughs from my videos so I try to make them fun and educational.
I grew up seeing operations of many different kinds. My cousin, Marcel Kathol, had a huge impact on me growing up. He raises black Angus cattle near Volin, SD. He was always so welcoming and wanted to talk about cattle.
This was my passion from a young age, I quickly found out and I ran with it buying my first cow/calf pairs in 2015, from there I grew quickly to 30 head of mama cows. My Dad was my number one supporter in anything I was involved in.
He was also my biggest critic which made me a better person from the start. His patience to teach me about all aspects in agriculture is something I hope I get to pass on someday, and I don’t think I can repay him for that.
Growing up, I was involved in many different activities like baseball, football, band, chorus, and FFA. I was pretty tied down to activities and schoolwork, but the farm was my escape and my rock where I could always go to clear my head and just be free.
To hear more from young, next-generation farmers, read South Dakota State Student Brings Tech Home to the Farm, NextGen Farmer Shares Steps For Sustainable Planting, or How One Young Farmer Preserves the Land for the Next Generation by Hungry for Truth.