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Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Isaac Kolstad helped lead Minnesota onto the field at Blakeslee Stadim
Sitting down to blog about what happened at Blakelee Stadium during our season-opening game two weeks ago on Sept. 4, the biggest challenge the writer faces is to adequately convey the feeling of emotion that was felt that night.

How does one describe a five-hour lump in the throat that started from the moment you saw Isaac Kolstad in the parking lot adjacent to the football field?

Having not seen him since before that fateful night in May when he suffered severe head trauma in an assault that took place in downtown Mankato and although you've read the updates on his CaringBridge site, your frame of reference is skewed by the last time you saw him play football for Minnesota State.  That would have been back last December when the Mavericks hosted St. Cloud State in the second round of the NCAA play-offs. Isaac had nine tackles in what would be the last game of his college football career.

Isaac starred at Mankato East High School and after heading to Fargo to play for North Dakota State, he returned to his hometown where he was a three-year starting linebacker for Minnesota State. He completed his Maverick career with 182 tackles while becoming a leader on a team that ascended to the top of the NCAA DII heap.  The Mavericks rode an undefeated regular season and a #1-ranking into the postseason before falling to SCSU in that play-off game. He graduated last Christmas and began working for Fastenal here in town.

Given where he was initially after the incident (on life support and in a coma for three weeks), his recovery has been nothing short of unbelievable. "He wakes up every morning saying, 'I want to go home. But I know I have to get better," said Molly, his wife, who spoke at a pre-game press conference. "It's a miracle, that's all I can say," said Molly.

Isaac continues his  rehabilitation at an in-patient facility in the Twin Cities and his speech therapy is a work in progress.

As the game neared, Isaac helped lead the team toward the field, walking onto the natural-grass turf as they always do on the northwest, scoreboard end of the stadium. The team surrounded him and one of the players (I think it was senior wide receiver Keyvan Rudd, who led the chant), began getting the team fired up.  Since the team had engulfed him in the center of the group, we lost sight of Isaac.  But one of our videographers had a camera mounted on the end of a monopod and in the video you can see Isaac chanting along with everyone else.

The crowd, our largest ever for an opening game, was loud.  So loud you felt like you could reach out and touch it. It felt like a living thing. There was electricity that made the hair on your arms stand up and your heart was pounding so cartoonishly hard that you began to look for Jeff Chambers, the school's athletic trainer. Just in case.

Then the players did something they've never done.  Led by Isaac, who was arm-in-arm with his teammates, the Mavericks went to the center of the field.  They never do that. Not pre-game. This was something unplanned that just happened organically.  The crowd continued its ear-busting drone and I took a quick glance at the St. Cloud State sideline.  The Huskies, like everyone else in the stadium, were applauding. Again, impossibly, the emotion goes up another notch.

I had two thoughts at that point.  Number one....there's no way we're going to lose this game.  And number two....Isaac is with his brothers. He's home and it feels incredibly right.

The win was never in doubt, with the Mavericks rolling over SCSU 31-0. It ended when the players accepted the Travelling Training Kit as victors and headed straight to sideline where they presented it to their smiling brother.

I can't wait to see Isaac again.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vikings at Minnesota State - Taking a Stab

It's been on the back of our minds for a while. So we're taking a stab.

As you are most-likely aware, the Minnesota Vikings are back in Mankato.  For the 49th consecutive year summer.

You can get all kinds of information regarding their time here in the Key City from a variety of sources, be it via social media postings, online blogs or the multitude of traditional news and sports entities that provide daily coverage in the traditional fashion such as newspapers, television or radio.

The Vikings public relations folks have told us that they'll credential more that 400 members of the media who pass through Mankato during their 20-day stay.

So, this summer, led by Lisa James (one of our undergraduate interns), we're launching our first Minnesota Vikings Training Camp blog. 

Hope you get a chance to stop by when you get a chance.  A work in progress, our new blog is located HERE.

It's great to be a Maverick.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Proving Ground: Gretta, Brittany, Dax & Michelle

While MavBlog isn't necessarily all about the transactions agate one will see online or in the local paper, it does provide the opportunity to keep everyone aprised as to where staff affiliated with Minnesota State Athletics, both past and present, is coming and going.

This is one of those posts.

First off, Gretta Arvesen. The former Minnesota State women's soccer assistant coach, who joined Peter McGahey's staff at Central Michigan when he went there from MSU in the spring of 2013, has been named head coach of the women's soccer program at St. Cloud State. Arvesen was a member of MSU coaching staff beginning in 2008 and helped the Mavericks get to four NCAA tournaments, while winning a pair of league titles. SCSU's announcement regarding Gretta's hiring appears HERE.

There there's Brittany Henderson.  A Milwaukee, Wis., native, Henderson was named MSU’s Senior Female Athlete of the Year for 2009-10 after a track & field career that saw her rack up 14 All-America placings. The owner of three school indoor records (60m, 200m, 4x400m) and three outdoor school records (100m, 200m, 4x100m), she was a four-time indoor conference champion and won four conference outdoor crowns.

After earning a master's degree in sociology, Henderson joined the MSU athletics department when she was named Academic Coordinator in August of 2012. She recently took a position with George Washington University Athletics where the Colonials are members of NCAA Division I and the Atlantic 10 Conference.

A former undergraduate and graduate assistant with MSU Athletic Communications, Dax Larson has been named Director of Sports Information & Media Relations at Colorado State-Pueblo.

Larson, a Bloomington, Minn., native who earned a master's degree from Minnesota State in 2009, has spent the last five years as the Assistant Director of Athletic Media Relations at Bemidji State.

And Michelle Beck, who has served as MSU Athletics Director of Marketing and Special events the last year and half, has been named Assistant Commissioner for external relations and marketing with the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.  In that role she will help build the NSIC brand and work with league marketing initiatives and corporate sponsorships.

"I absolutely loved coming up through the program," said Beck, a Chaska, Minn., native who started as an intern with the department's marketing operation before becoming a graduate assistant with the Mavericks which led to a full-time marketing position at Drake. She returned to Minnesota State Athletics in 2012.  "I feel fortunate that I was able to have gained a lot of different knowledge at every step along the way in Mankato and had a great experience in all of my roles with Maverick Athletics. We work in a family-oriented and supportive environment here. The coaches are at each others games and the adminstrators are at all the events. That's not typical at a lot of places."

Beck looks at the NSIC opportunity as a natural progression in her career. "I'm very excited to be joining the NSIC office. It's certainly a new challenge, but I'm looking forward to being able to work with all 16 of the institutions in the league to help enhance the student-athlete experience."

It's great to be a Maverick!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Professional Development

Minnesota State offensive coordinator
Jason Eck is serving a guest coach at the
Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp.
In Minnesota, when we speak of going camping up north, typically we're talking about going somewhere along near Lake Superior.  Along the lines of the Gunflint Trail.  Maybe Lutsen, Grand Marais or Grand Portage.

In the case of Minnesota State offensive coordinator Jason Eck, however, we're going in a different direction.

Think of a little further west and much further north.  Think Saskatchewan.  And in terms of camping, forget the canoe, tent, trail mix and freeze-dried chicken. But be sure to bring along your whistle.

Eck, who joined the Mavericks prior to the start of the 2013 season and helped lead MSU to a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship and an 11-1 record, is serving as a guest coach at the Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp in Saskatoon.

One of five guest coaches assisting the Roughriders, Eck is making his first trip to Saskatchewan.

"I had helped out at the Montreal Alouettes' camp in 2011 when Marc Trestman (current head coach of the Chicago Bears) was there. But this is my first time in working with the Roughriders," said Eck.

The camp, which is taking place at the University of Saskatchewan, runs from June 1 to June 13th. Saskatchewan is coming off a season in which it went 11-7 and claimed the Grey Cup as the CFL champions.

"The campus is really nice," said Eck. "It's a great set-up for camp with dormitories, dining hall, turf field, etc. It's a pretty city with a a river that runs through it," said Eck. "The people are great, the team has a tremendous following and there's alot of fans attending practice."

Working with the offensive linemen at the camp, Eck sees working with the Roughriders as not only a circumstance in which he can learn new techniques and hone his coaching skill set, but also one in which provides valuable networking opportunities.

"I received an invitation from head coach Cory Chamblin to come up here and hopefully this will allow me to be a better coach for the Mavericks. You hope to immerse yourself while you're here and I'm learning a lot from Doug Malone (Saskatchewan's offensive line coach)," said the University of Wisconsin grad. "There's ten coaches and around 90 players in camp and while some of the rules are different (with the CFL), working with offensive linemen with base fundamentals is the same where ever you go. And you never know. You're hoping to develop connections that will eventually, maybe, help us place our guys. There's lots of good Division II players in the CFL and we're always looking to help our guys however we can."

Eck expects to return to Mankato this weekend where he and the rest of the Minnesota State staff will get to work preparing for the 2014 campaign.  Training camp for the Mavericks begins August 14th with the first game of the year scheduled for Sept. 4 vs. St. Cloud State in Mankato.

It's great to be a Maverick.


Thursday, June 5, 2014


Paul Mills was the 1998 North Central
Conference Pitcher of the Year
The mind does wander occasionally and it's crazy how one gets from one place to another.  Something will trigger a thought and things come racing back.

That happens this time of year, every year for me.

As we were discussing the possibility of California Chrome winning horse racing's Triple Crown with the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes taking place Saturday, I thought back to 1988.

The Maverick Baseball team that year featured a lanky blonde-headed righthanded pitcher from Coon Rapids, Minn., named Paul Mills.

Millsie, a senior who threw from the side, was in his second year with the program after transferring from Anoka-Ramsey where he was was a dominant player for the Rams, earning all-state, all-region and All-America honors as a JUCO performer.  After his first year with us in 1987, he proved to be dominant at the NCAA DII level as well. He was named the 1988 North Central Conference Pitcher of the Year, All-NCC First Team and All-Region after going 6-1 with a 1.71 earned average while fanning 44 batters in 42 innings his last season with the Mavericks.

I can remember having a conversation with Paul in the dugout at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud prior to a MSU game vs. St. Cloud State that spring. The Kentucky Derby was taking place that day (May 7) and he asked me who I thought would win the race. Now I'm no horse racing afficianado, but have on occasion been called a dilettante. While the exact details of our conversation remain foggy, I do recall him initiating things by saying something like "Hey, PA, who do have in the Derby today?" and us discussing each other's picks.

A quick check on Google (like I said, I'm a dilettante) shows that Winning Colors with Gary Stevens aboard, won that day in Lexington.

In any event, our office conversation made me think of Paul Mills. The types of memories, like the one I had with him in the dugout that day in St. Cloud, are the little things that in a lot of ways makes this profession special. We're so fortunate to interact with young people on a daily basis.

A year after his senior season, I learned Paul had been in a tragic accident and lost his life, along with two other young adults, when an Amtrak passenger train rammed a van carrying five male adults late at night at a railroad crossing in Coon Rapids. The date was Nov. 12, 1989.

Paul was an engaging, personable and funny type of person. One who made a lasting and memorable impression. He would be 48 years old when this year's Triple Crown races would be taking place.

Thanks to the Kentucky Derby, I think of Paul Mills this time of year. Every year.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Eric Peterson's family - here with Will (brother), Molly (mom)
and dad (Tom) - are in Cary, N.C., for the NCAA DII
Baseball national championship tournament
  Cary, N.C. --- Back in May of 2012 we documented nearly 50 instances in which multiple members of families had played a sport for Minnesota State.

Brothers and sisters, brothers with brothers, sisters and sisters, sons and daughters, etc. Shoot, the Swanson family started with Ken playing football, basketball and baseball at Mankato State Teachers College in the late 1940's and early 1950's before his granddaughters Amy and Angie played basketball for the Mavericks in the 1990's.

The Peterson family is currently continuing on with this Maverick Legacy tradition with a father/son combo of their own.

Dad, Tom, played hockey for the Mavericks from 1982-85 where he totaled six goals and 39 assists for 45 points in 83 games played under Minnesota State puck coaching legend Don Brose

Son, Eric, is a freshman second baseman with the Maverick baseball team currently vying for a national title in Cary, N.C.  The Eagan (Minn.) High School product has enjoyed a tremendous maiden season for Minnesota State having started 52 of 55 games while hitting .315 and picking up 2014 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Freshman of the Year honors.

The Peterson family also includes mom Molly (also a MSU grad), along with a couple of additional baseball/hockey playing sons in Gavin and Will. We ran into Tom today at the ballpark and he was nice enough to spend a few moments to ponder a few questions.

MavBlog:  How did you end up coming to Mankato to play hockey for the Mavericks?
TP: I had played high school hockey at Bloomington Kennedy and played two years of junior hockey before being recruited to go to Mankato.

MavBlog: What was it like playing for Brosie and tell us a little about your time with the program.
TP: It was a great experience. Don was a terrific coach and we had good teams while I was there.  Met lots of good players and friends to this day.

MavBlog:  Do you still follow Maverick Hockey?
TP: I do. It's fun to watch.  We were Division II-III when I played and it's fun to watch a program that's Division I.

MavBlog:  When did you graduate? What is your degree in?
TP: I graduated in1985 and have a degree in marketing and management.

MavBlog: How special is it that Eric is not only playing college baseball, but playing right down the road at your alma mater?
TP: It's a lot of fun - having had the opportunity for me to have played a college sport then to have my son play a college sport at the same school. We're fortunate. It was the coaching staff here and tradition of the program that led him here. They win and it's a great program.

MavBlog:  And how about the year Eric has had and that you are here in Cary watching him play in the NCAA DII national championship tournament?
TP: It's been unbelievable, tough to beat and can't really ask for anything more than this.  We're proud of him.

It's great to be a Maverick.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Add it to the Resume: College Graduate

David Backes played for Minnesota State from 2003-06 where
he totaled 46 goals and 73 assists for 119 points in 115 games

Before he became captain of the St. Louis Blues and before he became a two-time Olympian, David Backes was a college student.

No ordinary college student, mind you, because Backes was a electrical engineering student with a 4.00 grade point average who also happened to play NCAA Division I hockey.

A forward for Minnesota State, Backes played for the Mavericks for three seasons (2003-06) where he scored 46 goals and had 73 assists for 119 points in 115 games.

Selected by St. Louis in the second round of the 2003 National Hockey League draft, the two-time Western Collegiate Hockey Association All-Academic pick was named a Third Team All-American his last year with the program in 2005-06.

After a short apprenticeship in the American Hockey League, Backes has gone on to rack up 357 points on 159 goals and 198 assists in seven and half seasons with the Blues. He has appeared in the last two Olympics with the United States men's hockey team. An accomplished pilot, Backes and his wife Kelly, are the founders of Athletes for Animals - a foundation that includes professional athletes from various sports with a "shared passion for rescuing an protecting the welfare of homeless pets nationwide."

He's accomplished a lot for such a young person, but one of the things left undone was getting his degree.

"I set out going to school to get a degree and I expected to finish.  I didn't necessarily expect pro hockey to happen and certainly not the the way it's happened"  said the Blaine, Minn., native.

And so this past Saturday, he ticked another item off the list. College graduate.

"My degree is in applied organizational studies with a non profit leadership certificate. It's pertinent to what Kelly and I are up to now."

With the sheepskin in hand, one wonders what's next for the former Maverick captain.

"Getting the degree was something that was high on the list.  Now it's sort of let's go find something else we can move forward with."

It's great to be a Maverick. 

Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/2014/02/25/3078397/backes-olympic-mission-to-russia.html#storylink=cpy