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North Dakota State's Nash Jensen feels like he "belongs" at Carolina

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SPARTANBURG – Nash Jensen's bond with his teammates along the North Dakota State offensive line was so strong, they all got the same acronym tattooed – one that embodied their group's mentality, intensity, and history.

But there's only so much he can say about it.

Jensen's proud of the Bison's offensive line tradition, how a group nicknamed "the Rams" since the 1950s has kept his college team's offense held at a high standard. North Dakota State won four NCAA Division I FCS national championships during Jensen's time there, after all.

But, just like the intensity those letters symbolize, they also represent some not-at-all-delicate language.

"I definitely cannot say what it stands for and have it be put on a website. … If you know, you know," Jensen said, smiling. "But it's just a mentality that we've got to come out with every single day. And it's a tradition we want to uphold – you know, NDSU, the offensive line.

"Much like here, as we say, the team's going to go where the offensive line goes, as far as we can carry them. It's just a standard there."

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Jensen, a 6-foot-4, 328-pound guard, is familiar with the kind of standard offensive line coach James Campen has set here, building a strong offensive line base behind a steady group of starters established last season.

Jensen has enjoyed working with Campen, a coach known for developing linemen, largely because he likes how he instructs, and that he's not afraid to be blunt at times.

"I love him," Jensen said. "I think he's the biggest character for an O-line coach I've ever had. But I love him. I remember my first talks with him during the draft process. I knew as soon as I talked to him, especially during draft day, that I wanted to come be a Panther and play for him. So I hope I get to stay here for a long time with him."

There's plenty of depth at Carolina, too, and some competition for Austin Corbett's right guard spot while he recovers from an ACL tear. Enter Jensen, an undrafted free agent pickup after the draft, who has found a way to earn some reps alongside starters at training camp, as he's been swapping his space with versatile second-year offensive lineman Cade Mays. He's able to do so because of his physical style. Coaches have been waiting for months to get him in pads, and he looks natural in the run game when his job is to move people around.

"I think it started in the meeting rooms," Jensen said. "I think NDSU's offense definitely prepared me for this level. Obviously, it's just (a) difference in terminology, names of combos in the line and stuff, but we ran a pro-style offense at NDSU, so that definitely prepared me. …

"Now, I've just got to come out there and execute. I was able to do that in OTAs and show that I belong. Coach Campen's definitely giving me a lot of chances out here."

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Jensen's getting his shot in Spartanburg, a city far from home, and he's found community – and an opportunity – here.

Jensen's a Minneapolis native who spent six years at North Dakota State. He played in 70 collegiate games, believed to be an NCAA all-divisions record, with 55 starts at left guard over his final four seasons. He's played with Bengals starting guard Cordell Volson and Cody Mauch, a second-round pick in this year's draft, who went over to the rival Buccaneers.

Much like Mauch, Jensen said he's adjusting to the heat of Panthers training camp, stating that it's "definitely a little bit different" going through camp in Spartanburg compared to Fargo.

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But he's getting comfortable with the conditions and his new teammates, including Cameron Erving and Bradley Bozeman, who he often lines up beside at practice, he said.

Jensen said he knows he's competing for a role here, which ups his intensity naturally. But at the same time, the offensive line meeting has fun in meetings and gets along well.

"Everybody's trying to win a job, trying to put food on the table for their families," Jensen said. "I'm here to take somebody's job. So (I've) just got to come out here and compete every day."

Moving from six years spent hundreds of miles up north to a hot, humid place down south full of people you haven't met – and some you're trying to win jobs over – wouldn't be the easiest transition.

But for Jensen, there's something right about it. And he's hoping to continue to carve out a role for himself.

"I feel like it's been really hard but easy at the same time, just with transitioning into a completely new team, meeting new guys," Jensen said. "It's been fun getting to know everybody. And I feel like I've been able to play good enough and gel with the guys. (I) feel like I belong here."

View photos from Saturday's practice at Wofford.

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