Admir Mujakovic is invariably described as a fun-loving, goofy guy by teammates and coaches.
But the circumstances that brought Mujakovic to the United States - and eventually, Minot State University - belie the all-conference offensive lineman's sunny disposition.
In 2001, 9-year-old Admir and his mother, Maida, moved from his native Bosnia to St. Petersburg, Fla. Admir's father had recently been killed in a territory war between Bosnia and Serbia, so Maida decided to settle near family members in America.
Minot State University senior Admir Mujakovic practices a blocking technique on Aug. 18 at Herb Parker Stadium.
"There was nothing in Bosnia for me," Admir Mujakovic said. "She thought it was the best idea to get me out of there."
Mujakovic blossomed into a football standout at Northeast High School and signed to play at Merced College (Calif.), where he earned all-conference honors in each of his two seasons. He originally signed with FCS Western Carolina University (N.C.), but when that fell through, former MSU assistant coach Joe Ford's two-year recruitment of the 6-foot-3, 310-pounder paid off.
Mujakovic made an immediate impact with the Beavers, appearing in all 11 games in 2012 and earning all-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference second-team honors. This season, the right guard is one of two returning starters tasked with bringing along an otherwise inexperienced unit.
MSU Depth Chart
1. Ryan Rauhauser Jr. 6-4 331
2. Kyle Stein Sr. 6-5 265
1. Kyle Stein Sr. 6-5 265
2. Kris Merrill Jr. 6-4 305
1. Ethan Hall Sr. 6-1 222
2. Thomas Armstrong So. 6-3 265
1. Admir Mujakovic Sr. 6-3 310
2. Chad Sickles So. 6-1 265
1. Zach Boettjer R-Fr. 6-5 295
2. Aaron Arauco Jr. 6-5 310
"I'm just trying to give them more pointers - how to learn the plays easier and teaching them from all the mistakes I've made," Mujakovic said. "Just little by little, assuming the role of a leader."
MSU sophomore quarterback Zac Cunha said Mujakovic can "flip a switch" from relaxed jokester to competitive athlete.
"Admir has kind of two different personalities," he said. "He'll be the goofball off the field a little bit, but then he can turn into a nasty offensive lineman real quick. He definitely keeps meetings lively and interesting, that's for sure."
MSU coach Paul Rudolph said the former youth soccer player's footwork is one of his best assets.
"He's usually a one-time learner," Rudolph said. "He picks things up pretty quickly and he's got very good feet. He's got above-average strength and he moves around pretty well for a big dude."
The Beavers are counting on steady production from Mujakovic and Kyle Stein, the only other returning starter. The 6-5, 265-pound Stein has spent time at both tackle and guard, but is slated to play left guard this season.
A couple of defensive transplants switched to the offensive line this season in an effort to replace four graduated seniors. Ryan Rauhauser, a 6-4, 331-pound junior from Turtle Lake, will play left tackle after playing on the defensive line the past two seasons. Senior Ethan Hall, undersized at 6-1, 222 pounds, will play center after joining the offense in spring practice.
"It was either gonna be, have a backup role as a defensive end or go over and have a chance to start on the offensive line if I can get it down," Hall said. "I jumped on the opportunity and I think I'm gonna enjoy more playing time."
Rudolph said at the beginning of fall camp that developing an adequate run game will be a primary focus for the unit. Last season, the Beavers ranked 15th out of 16 NSIC teams with 91.3 rushing yards per game.
"I think we've done OK," Rudolph said. "I don't know if we're a team that's gonna line up and run 45 or 50 times and win a ballgame that way, but I think we're starting to develop some confidence in a few things."
Rudolph said the line has also made a big improvement in the past week in terms of recognizing and neutralizing blitzes in pass protection.
Hall, Stein and Mujakovic all said the group's growth in the next week will determine how ready it is for the Sept. 7 opener at Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.). The Beavers start the season a full week later than they did last year, and Stein said the line can use the extra time.
"We got a lot of new players that are still learning the offense," he said. "They're getting it, but the extra week will help."
Daniel Allar reports on Minot State University athletics and assists with high school coverage. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.
Editor's note: This is part five of an eight-part series breaking down each unit of the Minot State University football team. Special teams will be featured in Tuesday's paper.