I have long believed that Minnesota is an overlooked and underrated prep football state due to our geographic location as well as the fact that Minnesota doesn’t produce the sheer volume of potential Power5 recruits such as Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Michigan. Although lacking in number, our college football commits compensate with production. It seems that our good ol’ Minnesota boys find success when given a chance on Saturday’s-and I can’t be the only one who notices this trend. Whether its current college players such as: Minnesota’s future draft picks Tyler Johnson (Minneapolis North), Carter Coughlin (Eden Prairie), or Kamal Martin (Burnsville), Nebraska’s captain and future draft pick JD Spielman (Eden Prairie), starting Oregon dlineman Drayton Carlberg (Delasalle), 32 games played in DL Jashon Cornell of Ohio State (Cretin Derham-Hall), Northwestern’s starting WR Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman (Breck), Iowa State starting DT Jamahl Johnson (Prior Lake), Buffalo starting OT Kayode Awosika (Maple Grove), the FCS’s NDSU Bison QB1 Trey Lance (Marshall) who is the Missouri Valley Conference Offensive MVP and Newcomer of the year, or even PWO Ty Okada (East Ridge) at Montana State finding a starting DB spot, Minnesota boys just find themselves in the
I have long believed that Minnesota is an overlooked and underrated prep football state due to our geographic location as well as the fact that Minnesota doesn’t produce the sheer volume of potential Power5 recruits such as Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Michigan. Although lacking in number, our college football commits compensate with production. It seems that our good ol’ Minnesota boys find success when given a chance on Saturday’s-and I can’t be the only one who notices this trend. Whether its current college players such as: Minnesota’s future draft picks Tyler Johnson (Minneapolis North), Carter Coughlin (Eden Prairie), or Kamal Martin (Burnsville), Nebraska’s captain and future draft pick JD Spielman (Eden Prairie), starting Oregon dlineman Drayton Carlberg (Delasalle), 32 games played in DL Jashon Cornell of Ohio State (Cretin Derham-Hall), Northwestern’s starting WR Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman (Breck), Iowa State starting DT Jamahl Johnson (Prior Lake), Buffalo starting OT Kayode Awosika (Maple Grove), the FCS’s NDSU Bison QB1 Trey Lance (Marshall) who is the Missouri Valley Conference Offensive MVP and Newcomer of the year, or even PWO Ty Okada (East Ridge) at Montana State finding a starting DB spot, Minnesota boys just find themselves in the thick of things. These are just a few of the current Land of 10,000 Lakes studs currently on D1 fields, and this success has also translated to the next level as recent Minnesota kids Blake Cashman (Eden Prairie) from Minnesota and Amani Hooker (Park Center) from Iowa were just drafted last April and are starting for the Jets and Titans respectively. Even Roseville grad and former Princeton All-American Jesper Horsted got in on the action and scored a TD for the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving. However, a much less illustrious collegiate success is a more glaring reason why Minnesota prep football is under appreciated. Minnesota is home to the Division III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and this nine-man conference is historically one of the top-2 toughest conferences in all of D3. Having personally played four years of football in the MIAC, I can assure you it’s no joke and the MN boys that dominant the leagues rosters can complete with anyone in all of D3. That includes thousands of athletes and over a dozen former players in the NFL. Not only is the football competitive, the traditions and lineage of these nine teams is special in a beautiful and romantic Midwestern way. Some of the finest Minnesota prep players have recently been honored in the 2019 MIAC Football Awards, and in this special Northstar Football News feature I will examine the Minnesota preps that received awards, as well as review and celebrate their prep and college careers. I hope you enjoy this “All-Offense First Team” edition of this four-part feature!
The most prestigious conference award: the Jim Christopherson Player of the Year honor, was given to former Chisago Lakes RB and current St. Thomas Tommie Josh Parks (5’10, 202 lbs.) One of the best rushers in MIAC history, Parks rushed 142 times for 1,075 yards with 15 TDs in seven conference games in 2019 - passing the century mark in rushing every game - while catching 11 passes for 214 yards and an additional three touchdowns. The multiple time All-American finished his career as the best RB in Tommie history with 4,180 career yards on the ground and 60 total TDs, both first in UST history. His 60 TDs is also 2nd in conference history and he set new MIAC records with 19 career 100-yard conference games and 45 career TDs in MIAC play. An extremely distinguished prep RB, Parks accepted a PWO to the Minnesota Golden Gophers after rushing for 17 TDs off of 1,202 yards (9.5 YPC) in an all-state season in 2013. He also held offers from South Dakota State and North Dakota State. He set Chisago Lakes records in career rushing yards (2,809) and points (238) with 39 career TDs. Heckuva career, Josh! Senior Year HS Hudl: https://www.hudl.com/video/3/795593/5721ae95041ddc1b00327da5
2019 MIAC 1st Team Offense
QB= Jackson Erdmann (6’4, 215 lbs.) St. John’s University. Senior. Rosemount High School.
In high school at Rosemount playing for his father Jeff, Jackson was a 2014 All State First Team selection, a StarTribune All Metro First Team selection, and Pioneer Press All Metro. He was also a two time Conference Player of the Year. In 11 games for 11-1 team, completed 124 of 212 passes (59%) for 2044 yards (186 ypg) and 24 TDs. In 12 games for 6A State Runner-up, completed 102 of 185 passes for 1801 yards and 23 TDS. This success led to offers from D2 Augustana, FCS Drake, and PWO offers from Iowa State and Penn State.
Erdmann at Rosemount.
Erdmann chose to try his hand at Big10 football and joined the Nittany Lions where he was probably never really given a shot to succeed. He transferred to Collegeville and has since produced a career that has him first in the MIAC in passing yards with 10, 738 passing yards, a 3X All MIAC selection, a 2018 Gagliardi Trophy Award (D3 equivalent to the Heisman) 2018 D3 player of the year, MIAC MVP, and All-American honors. He was the MIAC leader in every statistical passing category this year and threw for 41 TDs in the regular season. He can make any throw the Johnnies need him to and has single handily kept them in games his whole career. The senior has been so impressive he was even featured in a Pro Football Network article about his pro prospects: https://www.profootballnetwork.com/2020-nfl-draft-feel-good-story-may-be-st-johns-qb-jackson-erdmann-pfn-film-room/ Make sure to keep an eye on Erdmann as he and his SJU squad enter the D3 quarterfinals as they play Wheaton (Illinois) on Saturday. He’s been one of the best Minnesota has seen on both Friday’s and Saturday’s. Senior Year Rosemount Hudl: http://www.hudl.com/v/29z4pG
QB: Michael Veldman (6’4, 200 lbs.) Gustavus Aldophus College. Senior. Becker High School.
The Golden Gusties gunslinger graduated from Becker High School in 2015 after earning 2014 St. Cloud All Area and Conference Offensive MVP. In 13 games, completed 171 of 282 passes for 2544 yards (195 ypg) and 34 TDs for the Bulldogs his senior season, and he held a full scholarship offer from Western Illinois before choosing to accept a PWO FCS offer from NDSU and join former teammate Dillon Radunz.
Veldman as a two-sport Bulldog star.
After transferring to the St. Peter institution, Veldman is a 2X 1st Team All MIAC Selection (‘18, ‘19) and threw for 39 TDs with 3,188 passing yards in 2019 and will be sorely missed by GAC next season. Becker Hudl: https://www.hudl.com/video/3/1345932/5721b80d90eead5d90b57a61
RB: Kai Barber (6’1, 220 lbs.) St. John’s University. Senior. Totino-Grace HS.
Barber may be listed on the light side at 220 lbs., and the SJU hammer of a RB has had a great career in Collegeville where he has seen RB1 snaps for four years now. A 2nd Team All-MIAC selection in 2018, Barber is also a top-10 finisher in the 2018 D3 Track & Field indoor and outdoor championships for the Johnnies and played junior hockey in the NA3HL’s Peoria Mustangs before joining the SJU football team. He was also a very successful fullback on the tough early 2010 Totino teams, and was a 2012 All Conference selection. In 10 games as a junior, has 84 carries for 579 yards (6.9 ypc) and 8 TDs. Had 16 receptions for 74 yards and 1 TD. In high school, he recorded a 4.74 40, 4.6 shuttle, 31.5" vertical, max bench is 310, and max squat is 530. He had 10 TDs and 500 yards rushing in 2019 while splitting carries in the Johnnie backfield, and 600 yards with seven TDs in 2018. SJU will also need him to step up big in their pursuit of a D3 National Championship in ‘19. Take a look at Barber’s high school hockey highlights if you get a chance as well. Totino football Hudl: https://www.hudl.com/video/3/570200/5721b1d54df6124b70ed2848
Totino hockey Hudl: https://www.hudl.com/video/3/570200/5721b759dfe23b2d689152dd
RB: Josh Parks (5’10, 202 lbs.) University of St. Thomas. Senior. Chisago Lakes High School.
WR: Josh Kirk (6’2, 205 lbs.) Gustavus Aldolphus College. Senior. Garvin, Minn. Tracy Area High School.
Kirk, a Gavin, Minnesota native and a Tracy Area graduate, was a honorable mention WR in 2018 and upped it with his best collegiate season for the Gusties this past fall. After averaging a MIAC best 113.6 yards a game receiving for 1,136 total yards while reeling in nine touchdowns on 58 receptions (19.6 per catch), Kirk deservedly received a First Team All MIAC award are having arguably the best season of any WR in the league.
Kirk running the ball.
This success should come as no surprise, as Kirk showed promise his freshman year in college as he appeared in all ten games and made five starts totaling 11 catches for 172 yards with four of those catches and 101 of those yards + two TDS came against Concordia-Moorhead. His sophomore season of ‘17 he caught 38 balls for 636 yards and 6 TDs with three more touchdowns coming from rushes. At Tracy Area high school, Kirk was a football captain and All Conference award winner as well as a 2015 Minnesota All-Star game participant. Heckuva career, Josh! Senior year Hudl: https://www.hudl.com/video/3/2376001/5721dd5c4df6124b702c2ec6
WR: Brice Panning (6’3, 200 lbs.) Gustavus Aldolphus College. Senior. Hamburg, Minn. Central High School (Norwood Young America)
Coming off a historic career for the Gusties, Panning was recently selected to the 2019 CoSIDA Academic All-District team for District 6 (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan) as well as his second consecutive First Team All MIAC selection. Panning is an exercise physiology major with a 3.70 GPA while scoring 17 TDs this season, a Gustavus single season record. He also had 1,128 yards on 70 receptions (16.1 per catch, 112.8 per game) and is third in program history with 27 touchdowns as well as ranked 4th all time in yardage with 2,443.
Panning with the leaping catch.
He’s caught 139 balls as a Gustie which is 7th most all time. Panning was a 3-sport star at Central High School (Norwood Young America), was an All Conference selectee in football, basketball, and baseball, and amassed 1,000 points in basketball as a prep. He will be missed in St. Peter but not by opposing defensive backs. Hudl: https://www.hudl.com/video/3/4455998/5721d908b019261f80dc87cb
OL: Jack Fiedler (6’3, 281). Junior. Bethel University. St. Michael, Minn. St. Michael-Albertville High School.
Continuing a long and impressive tradition of St. Michael-Albertville Knights to succeed in the MIAC, Fiedler is one of the most accomplished lineman in the conference. A Second Team MIAC honoree in 2017 and a First Team selection in ‘18, Fiedler is no stranger to success as the St. Michael native was a 2X All District award winner as a prep in one of the toughest districts in the state on a team that won two state championships, and was selected to the 2016 MN All-Star game. In 2019 he anchored an offensive line in Arden Hills that was 2nd in the conference in yards per rush (6.1) and 4th in passing yards per attempt (8.7), meaning they moved people against their will quite well in one of D3’s toughest conferences. #55 is going to be a wrecking ball next year. STMA Hudl: http://www.hudl.com/v/29DzwG
OL: Dan Greenheck (6’2, 275 lbs.) Senior. Saint John’s University. St. Paul, Minn. Cretin-Derham Hall High School.
In terms of D3 football, Greenheck should really be spelled S-T-U-D. He’s a 2017 D3football.com All-American and All-West Region honoree, as well as a 2018 consensus All-American (AFCA, AP, D3football.com) and All-West Region award winner. He’s also a First Team All MIAC selectee in ‘17, ‘18, and now 2019. As a Cretin-Derham Hall Raider, Greenheck went 7-3 his senior season on a state qualifying team that threw for almost 1,000 yards and rushed for 600+. He’s been a heckuva Johnnie and a great representation of MN football. Junior season SJU Hudl:https://www.hudl.com/video/3/7958533/5c1fad2f42071a0424721ca5 CDH Hudl: https://www.hudl.com/video/3/3179475/5721d34a041ddc1b006c33d7
OL: Nick Neumann (6’2, 300 lbs.) Junior. Saint John’s University. Inver Grove Heights, Minn. Cretin-Derham Hall High School.
Not often does a freshman come in to Collegeville and start for one of the most historic football teams in the state, but big #57 had no problem doing that for the red and white of SJU. A year younger than accomplished high school teammate Dan Greenheck, the CDH Raider was a First Team All MIAC selection last year in 2018, and is a vicious blocker with a mean streak who is more than apt at picking up stunts and blitzes and setting the line of scrimmage correctly for his linemates.
Neumann at CDH.
He also possesses surprisingly quick feet for a 300 pounder. His oline ranked first in overall offense in the conference, and first in passing as well as fourth in rush yards per game. They were efficient and ruthless and it all starts with Neumann at center. CDH Hudl: http://www.hudl.com/video/3/3641091/5833902ec124d813c823c74f
OL: Elijah Rice (6’4, 281 lbs.) Senior. University of St. Thomas. St. Michael, Minn. St. Michael-Albertville High School.
Another shining example of the STMA to MIAC success pipeline, Rice graduated from St. Michael-Albertville in 2016 after helping the Knights win three state championships and had an illustrious personal career that included an All-District selection, conference division line MVP, 2X defensive line MVP, and was selected for the MN All-Star game. In college he has become a force and has been a First Team All MIAC selection thrice, in 2017, ‘18, and now ‘19.
Rice as a Knight.
The Tommies will surely miss him, as he anchored an offensive line that averaged 466 yards of offense per game. Congratulations on the career in St. Paul, Elijah! Hudl: http://chwww.hudl.com/video/3/1700950/5721ceb4041ddc1b0066f30d
OL: Hans Solberg (6’5, 285 lbs.) Senior. Concordia College-Moorhead. Jordan, Minn. Jordan High School.
Solberg travelled from the Southern Minnesota town of Jordan, close to Gustavus Adolphus College, all the way up to Moorhead to compete for the Cobbers of Concordia. This is first MIAC distinction of any kind in his career, which means the senior definitely paid his dues and worked his butt off to achieve success against the gigantic dlineman and inhabit each MIAC team. A mathematics major, Solberg was Academic All-Conference and All District in high school, and was a two sport athlete as he participated in track and field for Jordan. He should be proud of the work he put in this season for the Cobbers, and had a great performance in Concordia’s upset of Top-5 ranked St. John’s in the regular season. Congratulations, Hans! 2015 part one Hudl: https://www.hudl.com/video/3/2871589/5721d1ccdfe23b2d68b75704
OL: Eli Wawracz (6’3, 273lbs.) Junior. University of St. Thomas. Lakeville, Minn. Lakeville North High School.
Coming from a dominant Lakeville North program, Wawracz cracked the starting lineup last year in 2018 and helped the Tommies average 466 yards of offense a game. In 2019 he definitely stepped up big time, as his First Team All MIAC selection was crucial as they need some line support now that Rice graduates. Wawracz pretty much did the same thing in high school, as he was twice selected to the all-conference team and won three section championships with the Panthers. He will be one of the baddest dudes in the conference next season. Senior Hudl: https://www.hudl.com/video/3/2843792/584051935b3cb00c0c43e54c
OL: Matt Weimann (6’3, 281 lbs.) Sophomore. University of St. Thomas. Oakdale, Minn. Hill-Murray High School.
The youngest honoree on the 2019 First Team Offense list, Weimann is a beast of a lineman and set the tone up front for the dominant Tommie oline in 2019. He’s a first time honoree that has a bright future ahead of him after being named District Lineman of the Year, All-District, and captain while playing for the Hill-Murray Pioneers. I’m looking forward to seeing his name on some more All MIAC lists going forward. Hudl: https://www.hudl.com/video/3/4177270/59f61faebed70d0dd022bd78
Stay tuned for the next feature on the MIAC First Team All-Defense award breakdown coming soon!