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Monday, December 22, 2014

Is it Over?

Is it over?

It's hard to believe that the 2014 NCAA Division II Football season has finally come to a close. The Mavericks fell to CSU-Pueblo in the national championship game at beautiful Sporting Park in Kansas City Saturday, 13-0, in finishing the year with a 14-1 mark.

One loss for Minnesota State and it came in the national championship game. In getting to the last game of 2014, this team took everyone on an unprecedented ride.

We've had football at this institution since 1922. This was the 89th year of varsity football for us and no team had ever won 14 games in a season before.

Who does that? Who wins 14 football games in a season?

Including three NCAA playoff games, we hosted nine games at Blakeslee in 2014. Nine. In the last three seasons the Mavericks have gone 14-1 (2014), 11-1 (2013) and 13-1 (2012).  No team in NCAA Division II has won as many games during that time. Eight NCAA play-off games in three years. Minnesota State has not lost a conference game since 2011 and will head into 2015 riding a 33-game league unbeaten streak.

Those that follow the Mavericks, and we saw a ton of them in Kansas City at the national championship game and social media tells us that many who weren't there were watching on ESPN2, witnessed something special.

There's a lot of pride amongst our alums, the parents of our players, the students and staff at Minnesota State and the folks in Mankato with what happened and there's a tremendous amount of optimism moving forward.

This year's team loses 21 seniors who unquestionably have served as the backbone to the success the program has enjoyed during this run. So as we bid adieu to Nathan Hancock, Eric Clark, Erik Ruhland, Keyvan Rudd, Dorian Buford, Andy Pfeiffer, Anthony Lewis, Jeff Burns, Darius Clare, Kris Fleigle, Shonquille Dorsey, Josh Meeker, Gary Hiatt, Barry Ballinger, Max Hoffmeister, Kaleb Wendricks, Chris Reed, Jeffrey Raymond, Bryan Keys, Austin Rieder and Darin Howell, we also offer up our gratitude.  You'll walk together as champions for the rest of your lives.

Here's hoping everyone has a safe and enjoyable Holiday Season.

It's great to be a Maverick.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rudd Chipping In Both On and Off the Field

Keyvan Rudd with Deven
For four seasons, Minnesota State senior Keyvan Rudd has roamed the gridiron for the MSU football team, but for the last two years Rudd has been  making an impact in the community as a mentor children at Garfield Elementary in the Mankato area.

“A friend of mine used to do it and asked if I would be interested in helping too,” Rudd said. “After helping out my first student, the principal asked me if I wanted to come back and help out with another student and I’m excited to do so.”

Rudd makes a couple of visits to Garfield Elementary each week. Once there, he meets with his student’s teacher who tells him about his student’s week, before discussing with Deven on what he can do to improve in his behavior.

After talking with Deven about his week, Rudd will head out to recess with Deven where they play some football. As recess ends, Rudd gathers up the kids and gives them a pep talk before heading back to class. 

“It feels great to help out,” Rudd said. “I saw me in them when I was that age, which was why I jumped at the chance to take part. They needed a positive role model and I was more than willing to help out”

Deven has also had his chance to see what Rudd does in his time at Minnesota State.

“Around the second or third week or the season, Deven got a chance to stop by our practice,” Rudd said. “He loved being out there with all of the guys.” 

Contributed by Nick Burns, assistant director of communications.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Added Weight

It takes a village to achieve success in intercollegiate athletics.  

And in the village known as Minnesota State Athletics, in which the football and women's soccer programs simultaneously own #1 national rankings and other teams are enjoying similar notariety, the coaches point to the school's strength and conditioning program as one of the primary reasons its teams rank amongst the nation's best.

Housed in the bowels of Taylor Center, the Minnesota State Athletics weight room spans more than 7,300 square feet under the west end of the building.

Under the guidance of Glandorf, Ohio native Tom Inkrott, who has run the program since the fall of 2009, Maverick Strength and Conditioning's priority is injury prevention. "Along with that," said Inkrott, who graduated from Bowling Green in 2006, "we want to improve our student-athletes' performance each and every year they are here. Thirdly, we'd feel we can have a positive impact on our student-athletes, helping them to realize what they are capable of both in the weight room and outside of it as well."

With 17 squat racks, eight platforms, five lat pull down machines, three sets of dumbells that range from five lbs to 150 lbs, 15 medicine balls, various size bands, three sets of long ropes, a power plate, stationary bikes, three big tires, seven benches, four Russian plyo boxes, three plyo boxes and a vertimax, Inkrott and his staff, have an array of equipment to work with in providing programming for the Mavericks.

"We do have a nice room," said Inkrott. "But the unique thing about exercise and lifting weights is that it helps build self confidence. An attribute our student-athletes can apply on the field, court, ice, track, water, etc. And in the classroom, in their jobs and life adventures."

In addition to Inkrott, the strength and conditioning staff also includes two graduate assistants and three interns.

Matt Margenthaler, who has constructed a 284-111 record in 13 seasons as head coach of the Minnesota State men's basketball program and led the Mavericks to a NCAA DII Elite 8 appearance in 2010-11, says that the school's strength and conditioning program have played a vital role in his team's sustained excellence.  "Tom and his staff play a big piece of the puzzle developing elite athletes. It makes them stronger, more explosive and aids is preventing injuries. We couldn't do it without them."


Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Isaac Kolstad helped lead Minnesota onto the field at Blakeslee Stadium
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.