A new season is coming

As summer continues, many of us are eagerly anticipating a new season of St. Olaf football. The players in our homes, certainly, are getting ready with summer workouts and running.

And eating.

I am looking forward to seeing how far these young men advance on what was a trying and challenging season of change, of injury, of loss and losses. While they found many things to celebrate in a season that saw too few wins, we can admit it will all feel better with a few more victories in 2014.

I know they have a great set of captains ready to lead them. I know they have a great group of coaches, ready to teach them. I anticipate that we will be a strong and supportive group of parents and alumns, ready to support them.

It's not that far away, folks. The boys will be back on the hill in just over a month. Honestly, I can hardly wait.


A Celebration of Amazing Young Men

I should stop being surprised. Truly. The young men who comprise the St. Olaf College football team should no longer make my jaw drop and my eyes well up and my heart swell as they display intelligence, integrity, devotion to one another and maturity.

These are the reasons, these attributes that feed into this overwhelming sense of family, that my son chose St. Olaf after all. These are the things that make a 1-9 football season feel like a resounding success in so many ways. Then, I attended the 2013 Football Banquet Sunday, and I was not only reminded of why the young men of this team are extraordinary -- the sheer power of their character washed over all of us in attendance.

On a day when the team celebrated the on-field prowess of its best and most consistent performers, the pulse that ran through the proceedings was one of love for their coaches, their brothers, their families, their God and their school. All-Conference and team MVP honors were bestowed to a very deserving group of excellent players.

Senior receiver Eric Curry was named Offensive Demo Player of the Year and senior linebacker Dylan McDonough was named Defensive Demo Player of the Year for their selfless efforts, week in and week out, to help their teammates prepare and improve.

Senior receiver and captain Jake Schmiesing was named All-Conference, as well as Offensive Most Valuable Player; senior reciver Stephen Asp, a preseason All-America, earned All-Conference and led the team in receptions and yards; sophomore quarterback Nate Penz was named All-Conferece; senior offensive lineman Alex Hsu, described as the heart of the offensive line, earned All-Conference; senior safety and captain Cam Smith led the team in interceptions and earned All-Conference, Defensive MVP and Team MVP awards for his inspiring play.

Senior defensive back Derek Henle was named All-Conference Honorable Mention, as was senior linebacker and captain Erik Marigi, who led the team in tackles; junior receiver Joel Reinhardt, who had a breakout game against Carleton, also earned All-Conference Honorable Mention and senior offensive lineman Mike Yanckello, a 3-year starter, earned All-Conference Honorable Mention. Sophomore running back Connor McCormick was the team's leading rusher and won the MIAC Sportsmanship Award. Senior running back and captain Michael Thai, who has his season ended with a broken ankle on his second carry of the year, was named the Danielson Award Winner after his leadership and devotion to his teammates never wavered. 

Quarterback Nate Penz, defensive lineman Kyle Foster and receiver Magnus Schyler spoke about the welcoming warmth and leadership of the seniors, of the pervading sense of family. They spoke of memories and relationships that will last a lifetime.

But perhaps the most emotional moment of the day came near the end, when senior linebacker Jimmy Gildea rose to speak. Jimmy admitted that he thought about not playing this season, that he felt underappreciated. Then, he described how an honest and heartfelt conversation with Head Coach Craig Stern convinced him to join his Ole brothers for one last season. No, he said, it was not the season -- record-wise -- that any of them expected nor wished for. But, choking back tears, he described a year to always be remembered.

I asked Jimmy if I could share the words he spoke to his brothers. He graciously and quickly sent them along. Thank you Jimmy, and all the Oles, for continuing to amaze me with the strength of your character and the fullness of your hearts. Please read Jimmy's words. And witness the power of brotherhood, maturity and love:

Losing becomes all too easy when you allow yourself to point a finger. I believe, with everything in me, that in order to become successful you must care enough to subject yourself to the burden of taking responsibility, not only for your great plays, your resounding words, or your praise-worthy leadership but, for your mistakes as well. This takes maturity, it takes selflessness, and, most importantly, it takes a legitimate sense for one's own place within a team. Taking responsibility for your own mishaps and then making the commitment to learn from them is the most significant step in the journey to success. Without such presence of mind being adopted unanimously, along with the universal willingness to put the good of the group above all else, failure is certain. 



Jimmy Gildea







Patrick Reusse shines a light on Ole basketball... 

This blog is about Ole football, and the joys, disappointments, thrills and lessons gained from it. But I think this recent column by Patrick Reusse at the Star Tribuen, about Ole basketball, touches on many of the same ideas that so many of us share about the football team.


An easy program to sell

My wife Heidi and I, along with the high-energy Judy and Steve Reinhardt, were invited to come down to St. Olaf Saturday to talk to parents of recruits about the program, the coaches, the players, the school.

I was surprised by how easily the positive words flowed out.

Not suprised that I feel good about St. Olaf, about how this college is transforming my son from a shy teen into a confident and able young man. Certainly not surprised by how he seems to be growing as a football player (quite literally, bigger every time I see him.) No. The surprise was just how easily all these positive thoughts and feelings flowed. A surprise, perhaps, because superlatives often are not easy to find after a 1-9 season.

Not so with this team, nor with these coaches.

It is easy to gush about this wonderful place. It is easy to be confident in the future of this program, because I can see the building blocks being carefully placed. I see the joy in my son as he eats dinner with his teammates, see his self-assurance as he talks to others about what he is learning and what he is thinking about doing with his life. Chatting with Coach Craig Stern and Rob McCarthy and Eric Yuen and Vince Varpness and Tony Barnack and Andy Allison, they clearly know the big job ahead of them. They are just as easily confident in the success that will come.

So, it was easy to gush to parents from Edina and Coon Rapids and Illnois. It was easy to tell them that  there is no other school where I would want my son to go, no other team that I want him to play for, no other coaches than our "what you see is what you get" crew of smart, honest, hard-working teachers. Yeah, it's an easy program to sell. These next two seasons are going to be a blast.



Oles honored by MIAC.... some thoughts about these young men.

St. Olaf College and the MIAC announced league awards for several Oles a couple weeks ago. I wanted to repost that here... and insert a couple comments about what I have observed about these players over the two seasons I have watched St. Olaf football with a dad's passion and a fan's interest.


Oles have five second team All-MIAC selections

Mike Ludwig
November 27, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - St. Olaf had five second team All-MIAC football selections, the league announced on Tuesday. 

The Oles had four on the offensive side including a pair of senior wide recievers, Jake Schmiesing and Stephen Asp. Sophomore quarterback Nate Penz and senior offensive lineman Alex Hsu were also honored. Senior defensive back Cam Smith was the Oles' other honoree. 

Asp had a team-high 49 receptions fro 751 yards and three touchdowns. His 49 receptions ranked seventh in the league. He finished his career with 132 catches, which ranks sixth in school history. His 2,439 yards rank fourth all-time and his 24 career touchdowns are third-best. He was a first-team All-MIAC twice. 

My thoughts on Stephen: He is a dynamic, talented, game-breaking receiver who played all year on a bum hip and still was amazingly productive. Tough kid, great talent. I will miss seeing him stretch the field... and his ability to adjust to the ball in flight was just remarkable. What dedication to his team!

Schmiesing had nine receiving scores to finish in a tie for the school career record of 27, with Horace Gant '08, and one ahead of his brother Andrew '08. He had 35 receptions for 588 yards to complete his career with 111, which is ninth on the all-time list. Schmiesing's 1,655 yards rank seventh all-time. His second-team All-MIAC honor was his third straight. 

My thoughts on Jake: This young man was a leader in every sense of the word. Tall, talented, physical... in a season filled with so many disappointments, Jake helped keep his teammates pulling together and fighting for each other. Hugely talented, with impressive stats, he proved time and again that his teammates were just as, if not more, important than anything he accomplished as an individual.

Penz threw for 2,475 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. He had two 300-yard passing efforts, throwing for 382 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Carleton and 332 and three scores in the season finale, a loss to No. 16 St. Thomas.

My thoughts in Nate: What a fantastic, tough, good young man who will only get better and better as a quarterback. There were games where I was not sure Nate would be able to rise from the turf after a particularly nasty hit. But, in his first year as a starter, he exhibited the qualities that so many of these Oles possess -- fight and never-give-up. It should be a fun two more years to watch him as he grows into the job.

Hsu was a first team All-MIAC selection in 2012 and finished his career with a second-team honor in 2013. 

My thoughts on Alex: Offensive line is a too-often overlooked position. But the O line makes everything else go. Injuries along the line this year led to some struggles in some games. But Alex was a constant... leading teammates and always pushing himself to be better and keep battling. He would never give up on a play, hustling downfield to make a touchdown-saving tackle after a turnover or sprinting outside to deliver a block, he epitomizes dedictation.

Smith led the St. Olaf defense in 2013. He led the team in interceptions (3) and was second in tackles (39) and pass break-ups (8). 

My thoughts on Cam: Wow! What a player! What a strong-willed and rugged young man! Injuries could not keep him off the field. Body parts might go missing, and Cam would find a way to drag himself off the turf and thrust himself back into the action. Fearless. Tough. With a pain threshold that might be off the charts, Cam had an admirable season. He definitely made his last year in Old Gold and Black one for all of us to marvel and remember.