He came to Northern State on a basketball scholarship, but before he was done, Tom Wensmann found himself on the doorstep of the National Football League.
The multisport athlete from Burnsville, Minn., was invited to the Cleveland Browns' training camp in 1984 before deciding to walk away from the game.
When Wensmann left the Browns on his own will, it capped a remarkable journey from gridiron to hardwood and back again.
The tight end had drawn interest from the likes of Dartmouth, Montana, Arizona State and Wyoming before his high school experienced a teacher strike during his senior year of football. By the time the strike was settled, his team had lost its form and Wensmann had lost his suitors.
Finding out that Wensmann’s football options had dwindled, his coach asked if he was interested in playing college basketball.
“I said, ‘I just want to get to college somehow,’ ” Wensmann recalled.
Legendary NSU basketball coach Bob Wachs offered Wensmann a partial scholarship despite never watching him play.
Wensmann soon found himself playing basketball for the Wolves and started nine games his freshman year.
As a sophomore, he became a reserve behind standout Kevin King. That spring, new NSU football coach Doug Ekmark talked Wensmann into coming out for spring football and soon he was hooked. He eventually gave up basketball and became a fixture with the Wolves in football.
“It was just a blast,” Wensmann said.
While Wensmann was having a blast, pro scouts began to take notice.
“The letters started showing up after that second year of football,” Wensmann said. “I got letters from Dallas, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Seattle, Atlanta. Of course, I’m shaking my head going, ‘Are you guys kidding? I have no stats' because we were a running team. I wasn’t fast. I wasn’t big.”
The Cowboys showed the strongest interest and called Wensmann almost daily leading up to the 1984 draft. In fact, Wensmann got a call from the Dallas scout while the draft was in progress.
“The first night of the draft the phone rings about 10:30 at night. Of course, the heart started beating.
'Who’s calling me at 10:30 at night?' ” Wensmann wondered. “It was the same scout from the Dallas Cowboys. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness. Is this really it? There’s no way. They’re like in the sixth round by now.’ ”
Wensmann knew there was no way he should be taken that high in the draft.
The voice on the other end of the line said, “We’re really looking at you for the 10th or 11th round. Are you still interested in the Cowboys?”
Wensmann did not hesitate.
“I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ”
However, the phone never rang again.