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Monday, May 28, 2012

True Grit

In sandpaper terms, grit refers to the number of abrasive particles per inch of sandpaper. The lower the grit the rougher the sandpaper and conversely, the higher the grit number the smoother the sandpaper. You’re going to need #40 if you want to strip some paint off that chest of drawers and #600 if you want to knock the dust nibs off of your wood project.

Grit relative to sport is not as easily definable, but usually is used to describe a team’s or player’s resilience, sticktuitiveness, self-sacrifice, toughness, etc. No matter what sport, a player who is said to be “gritty” will undoubtedly have a big “want to” factor. These are the kind of heart-and-soul players every team wants and all good teams have them.

Having worked in the department since 1985, it’s relatively easy to point to several instances where we’ve seen evidence of Maverick student-athletes that were of the #40 grit variety.

John Kelling
Safety John Kelling was named to three All-America teams as a senior in 1991 and was recognized as the National Defensive Player of the Year by the Football Gazette. A player who came to MSU as a walk-on, but was starting by the end of his freshman season, Kelling was a hard-hitting, athletic player who was a part of a stifling MSU defense that helped the Mavericks to a NCAA play-off appearance in 1991. The Rochester, Minn., native, who was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2004, played the last four games of his junior season with a cast on a broken right hand. He finished that year with a team-high four interceptions.

Football defensive back Donnell Boyer, who also played outfield for the Minnesota State baseball team, cracked his sternum during a kick-off return his junior season in a game vs. Bemidji State in 2001 and continued to play. The Maverick football team of the early 1990’s threw the ball a ton and we saw wide receiver John Davis (1993-97) get up after taking an unbelievably hard hit over the middle and continue to play. As did another diminutive receiver, Jeff Spikner (1992-95). Running back Sean Treasure, who played in 2004 and 2005, was ran out of bounds on the visitor’s sideline where he dropped after smacking into the unforgiving Blakeslee Stadium cement infrastructure. He, too, stayed in the game.

Men’s hockey defenseman Tyler Elbrecht suffered a broken arm in the first game of the 2011-12 season and was said to be out for a minimum of eight weeks. Yet, less than six weeks after having surgery in which a rod and screws were inserted to piece his radius and ulna back together, Elbrecht was back on the ice, manning the blue line in a game vs. the University of Minnesota.

Third baseman Geno Glynn, who recently signed as a pitcher with the Sioux City Explorers of the American Association, was named MVP of the 2009 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament. The following weekend, the Mavericks headed to Grand Junction, Colo., where they played in the NCAA Central Region tournament. Glynn, who hit .545 (12-for-22) with nine runs scored, two home runs and 10 RBI in five games at the 2009 NSIC tourney, continued to hit at the regional, but a debilitating hamstring injury limited him to designated hitter’s duties. Glynn drilled a couple of balls into the gap, but instead of sliding into second for doubles, the line drives were just long singles as Glynn limped down to first where he would be replaced by a pinch runner.

Theresa Mackey, a second baseman, played softball for the Mavericks from 1991-94. The Boone, Iowa native stood atop nine different career statistical categories upon graduation and was named MSU’s senior female student-athlete of the year in 1994. There was a time where Mackey took a ground ball in the face during pregame at Caswell Park in North Mankato. It was a bad one, with the bad hop breaking her nose and sending her to the emergency room for repairs. She made it back in time to start MSU’s second game that day.

Amanda Umhoefer
Most recently, the MSU softball team was hosting NCAA Division II Central Region games on campus. The Mavericks were playing Concordia and second baseman Amanda Umhoefer, was batting. With the count 1-0, Umhoefer took a cut at a rising fastball which, subsequently, deflected back into her face. The Mankato native took a ride to the emergency room and the next day with a bandage covering her stitched up nose and sunglasses hiding a couple of black eyes, there she was, back out at second base. “There was no way that I wasn’t going to play,” said the fifth-year senior.

There are many other examples. Andy Mazurek, an All-North Central Conference center along the offensive line for the football Mavericks from 1993-96, started all four years and although he must have played with bumps, bruises and other infirmaries during that time, didn’t miss one game, having played in 46 straight contests. National champion wrestler Jason Rhoten, along with basketball guards Joe Williams and Tiffany Moe come to mind. Men’s hockey forward B.J. Abel and baseball catcher Matt Haefner, too, were gamers. There are countless outhers.

It’s also a tribute to our athletic trainers and team doctors that these student-athletes have always been game-ready.

It’s great to be a gritty Maverick!

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