Minnesota State Mavericks will soon be reporting for fall season
MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — The Minnesota State Mavericks football season is quickly approaching on the horizon.
Head Coach Todd Hoffner joined KEYC’s Mary Rominger to talk about the upcoming season.
Mary Rominger: We’re just over two months away from the Division II football slate and your Minnesota State Mavericks football team will embark on an 11-game schedule starting with North Division opponent, Northern State. Where do we stand right now? Obviously, a very untraditional off-season this past year.
Todd Hoffner: Yeah. Things have been a little different, getting to this point. But, we’re really excited about the future and trying to get back to normalcy. You see professional facilities getting close to 75% and the quicker they can get to 100-percent the quicker we can fill Blakeslee Stadium. We’re right here, we love our home facility, we love our hometown, we love our fans, and we can’t wait to embrace them and get back to competition on Sept. 2 against Northern State, 6 p.m., Blakeslee Stadium.
MR: With the situation surrounding COVID-19, last year’s veteran players had an open door to return or not return. What’s the latest with some of the big names that we were kind of wondering if they would return to the roster.
TH: Yeah. What a difficult situation for young men to go through, and women, who are in other sports, just to process and digest and decide what’s best for them, personally. Whether it’s to continue their academic career and continue playing football or to actually get on with their lives and start working professionally in their profession and all the educational background that they got from Minnesota State, so tough decisions for a lot of young men on our roster. We’re really excited for J.D. Ekowa. We heard that he’s in town. We heard that he’s back. We heard that he’s here in Mankato, so that’s exciting. That’s a really good sign. He graduated after the fall semester of 2020, so he’s been out of school since the spring. He’ll be coming back to continue his education this fall at Minnesota State and play his last semester of his senior season. We’re really excited about that, along with another bunch of young men who are gifted and talented, but also great leaders that want to come back and try their hand on getting us not only to the national championship game, but winning it.
MR: In the spring season, we saw that wide range of young talent that the Mavericks roster has. So, what does J.D. coming back allow for their development as players?
TH: Well, I think his leadership is important. In his absence, I think it was great for our young men to grow and develop themselves. Especially at his position, we had a couple of younger quarterbacks that had golden opportunities to shine and to develop and to improve and they took full advantage of those. But, now when you have an elder statesman like J.D. Ekowa coming back and leading, not only a field general for say as a quarterback, but just his quality as a person, he’s a quality student, he’s going to be a medical student in 2022 in the fall, so he has deferred his medical status and we’re grateful for that. We’re excited just to have him just as a leader and as an offense and as a team, you’re only as good as the performance and play of your quarterback position. So, with J.D. coming back and all of that experience and maturity and development that he was a part of in the past, now it’s great to have those leadership skills, in addition to his physical talents. We’re really excited about the offensive side of the ball and defensively we’re excited too. We’ve been hard at work. My assistant coaches have been doing a phenomenal job of recruiting and adding some needed pieces of the puzzle, if you will, and we’re getting close to the deadline and we’re only two months away from the report date, so it’s an exciting time for Minnesota State and Maverick football.
MR: Also exciting, we heard of UFA’s (unrestricted free agents) signing with NFL teams this year, including Evan Heim, who signed with the Detroit Lions, and Shane Zylstra with the Minnesota Vikings. What does that mean to see those players get to see their dreams come true and see it all come to fruition?
TH: Yeah, wow. What a vicarious time for both of them. You know, finishing their season in 2019 and here we are in summer 2021, and they finally get their shot. They get their opportunity to be a part of an NFL roster and be a part of the professional game and wish them nothing but the best. Well deserving, definitely earned everything they’ve achieved up to this point, and you’ve got to have a little luck at that level and you’ve got to play really well and you’ve got to find your niche. We have two other young men in the league in Adam Thielen and Chris Reed who have definitely found their niche, so hopefully, they can all stick and we’ll have four young men in the NFL who are making contributions to their professional team and we’re really proud of every one of them.
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