Throughout his time at Concordia, Obarski has succeeded on the field and in the classroom. He concluded a record-setting career as the Golden Bears’ kicker and punter this fall, and was named to the Capital One Academic All-America First Team.
The Bob Stein Scholar Athlete Award is the latest in a series of honors Obarski has garnered as a senior. In December, he received the Fred Mitchell Award presented to the nation’s top non-FBS place-kicker for excellence on the field and in the community. Obarski made the AFCA, Daktronics, D2Football.com and BSN All-America First Teams as either a kicker or punter. The All-NSIC kicker (first team) and punter (second team) played in the 2015 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Obarski’s 44 career made field goals and 230 punts for 8,730 yards are the most in school history. His 250 points are the most by a Concordia kicker. In 2014, Obarski made 18 field goals, another school record, and was perfect on extra-point attempts. He had 22 touchbacks on kickoffs, and punted 64 times.
A Dean’s List student, Obarski is a finance major and marketing minor. He was tabbed as a “Top-4” student-athlete at Concordia for athletic, academic, campus and community excellence. A few of Obarski’s contributions to the community include middle school drug education mentoring, fundraising for tsunami relief and volunteer and leadership roles through church.
After spending most of his first two seasons on the sidelines, Cobb had a breakout junior season in 2013 and rushed for 1,202 yards. His career culminated in 2014 with a record-breaking performance. Cobb set the Gophers’ single-season rushing record when he carried the ball 314 times for 1,626 yards. Cobb’s yardage and team-high 13 touchdowns helped lead Minnesota to its first New Year’s Day bowl game since 1961-62.
An All-Big Ten Second Team selection, Cobb also earned the Gophers’ Bronko Nagurski Award (most valuable player) and Bruce Smith Award (outstanding offensive player), and was named the Bob McNamara Offensive Back of the Year.
Cobb had seven 100-yard rushing performances during the season, including two 200-yard games. He set a career high of three touchdowns and rushed for 145 yards to keep the Gophers in the game against eventual national champion Ohio State on Nov. 15. He passed Laurence Maroney’s season rushing mark on a 40-yard touchdown at Wisconsin on Nov. 29.
Cobb was a major reason Minnesota came within one game of a Big Ten Championship berth. He accounted for 58 percent of the Gophers’ rushing yards, 30.5 percent of their all-purpose yards and 21 percent of their scoring (second-most on the team after kicker Ryan Santoso). Cobb participated in the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine and has draft aspirations.
David and Janis Larson’s philanthropic endeavors have made a lasting impact in the state of Minnesota. Although David passed away in October 2014, his influence lives on through his generosity and through his wife, Janis. Their giving has benefited the realms of athletics, academics and the wider community.
One of the Larsons’ recent major gifts will help the University of Minnesota football program achieve its facilities goals. The university announced in January that the Larsons pledged $15 million toward the Golden Gophers’ Football Performance Center. Some of the facility’s features will include staff offices, meeting rooms, locker rooms, a sports medicine area, strength and conditioning space and a recruiting room. The Football Performance Center is part of a larger facilities campaign intended to enhance all Gopher student-athletes’ athletic and academic experiences and help them prepare to achieve greatness later in life.
The Larsons’ love for the state’s flagship university is in no way limited to athletics. David Larson, who earned a degree in political science from the University in 1966, was elected to the Board of Regents in 2005. He and Janis endowed a scholarship in 2008 because of their concern about the rising cost of education for middle class families. The U has admitted 350 Larson Scholars since the program began.
David Larson, a retired Cargill executive who spent 44 years with the company, also volunteered his time with the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Board and the boards of the Minnesota Historical Society, Admission Possible and National History Day. He served as chair of the American Feed Industry Association’s board.
Benson, a running back for Hinckley-Finlayson High School, saw his 2014 football season end before the first game even started. He and the Jaguars were in the midst of the preseason practice schedule when a four-wheeler ride on a Saturday in August changed his life.
While riding the vehicle with his girlfriend, Benson noticed something go wrong. He was able to push his girlfriend off the vehicle to safety before it crashed. Unfortunately, Benson did not have time to remove himself from danger. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down and he underwent an eight-hour surgery which placed rods and screws in his lower back. Benson has not let the injury keep him down. Through physical therapy and perseverance, he is now able to get around in a wheelchair and even walk with the assistance of braces on his legs and arms.
"Upon our first complete week of football practice and finally being able to tackle and hit, Josh was forced to tackle another obstacle in life, being paralyzed waist down,” Hinckley-Finlayson HS Head Football Coach Brad Hopkins said. “Josh sustained a broken back in an unfortunate ATV accident. I will never forget our conversation as he told me that he could not play football anymore. This award is for courage. The courage and respect he showed calling me that night, paralyzed. Josh has tackled this new obstacle in his life with full force. He has made strides being more mobile and has tried his best to do the things he loves. Courage: the desire to tackle that unknown obstacle and to deal with what life has given you. That is Josh. I don't think he knows any other way."
For his strength in facing his adversity, Benson has been named the Courage Award winner by The Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation.
Roger Casey, a former head athletic trainer at the University of St. Thomas, spent 29 years with the school. He worked with a variety of different sports programs, including the perennial MIAC power UST football team.
While working for the Tommies, he helped student-athletes get healthy and stay healthy. At points of his career, he worked with all 22 UST teams and an array of coaching personalities.
Throughout his time with the school, Casey was steady and consistent in his approach. Casey used his role with UST to influence younger colleagues, as well as help dozens of students, many of whom went on to work in athletic training or in the healthcare field.
Prior to spending his time with UST, Casey spent three years as an athletic trainer and administrator at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and mentored young men and women while helping them realize their potential as athletes on the playing field, interns in the athletic training room and/or as students in the classroom.
In ‘retirement’, Casey is an owner of Partners In Recovery, a Rule 31 licensed Substance Abuse Outpatient Treatment program in Roseville, MN. He continues to help clients struggling with addiction reach their potential; get heathy; stay healthy --- and get back in the game.
Casey earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he played as a center on the football team. In 1973, the Bulldogs beat St. Thomas for the MIAC championship and Casey was an all-conference honoree in addition to being named to the NAIA All-District 13 All-American Team.
He also obtained a Master of Education degree in sports medicine from the University Oregon and UMD and holds a National Athletic Trainers' Association certificate and Minnesota licensure in athletic training.
For 24 years from 1969 to 1993, Hanson took the Burnsville High School football program to new heights. In his time with the Blaze, he guided the team to a 192-56-2 record that yielded 11 conference championship titles, 11 sectional championships and state championships in 1972, 1980, 1985, 1989 and 1991.
A graduate of Grand Forks Central High School, where he was a member of the 1952 state championship basketball team and lettered in golf, Hanson went on to garner his bachelor of science degree in mathematics education in 1956 at the University of North Dakota before taking additional education courses at both the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas. He became the head coach at Burnsville High School after serving as an assistant coach for the team from 1960-68.
Hanson also saw success off the field when he was named the District No. 191 Teacher of the Year and the Minnesota Teacher of the Year in 1968. He was a runner-up for the National Teacher of the Year in 1969.
Later in his career, Hanson earned the Presidential Award for Mathematics Teaching, Education Minnesota’s Distinguished Educator Award and had involvement with the National Mathematics Journal Board. Hanson also became an adjunct professor at St. Thomas, St. Olaf and Bemidji State and was a consultant for NASA and Hewlett Packard.
Hanson, for whom Burnsville named its football field in 2006, was inducted into Grand Forks Central High School’s Hall of Fame in 1993, was a member of the Burnsville High School Hall of Fame’s inaugural class and was a Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee in 2012.
Defense was the story of the 1965 Saint John's football team. The Johnnies posted four shutouts to start the season, a 16-quarter shutout streak that ended on Oct. 9 against Hamline (a 34-6 SJU win). In total, the Johnnie defense allowed just 20 points in nine regular season games, including six shutouts.
In the NAIA playoffs, Saint John's defeated Fairmont State (W.Va.) 28-7 in the first round of the NAIA playoffs Dec. 4 at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington to earn a spot in the national championship game. In typical defensive fashion, Saint John's shutout Linfield (Ore.) 33-0 in the NAIA title game Dec. 11 in Augusta, Ga. Saint John's allowed just 28 yards rushing and each member of the defensive secondary intercepted an errant Wildcat pass. Senior Stan Suchta ran for three short-yardage touchdowns (2, 4, and 5 yards) to provide more than enough scoring for the dominant Johnnies.
The shutout of Linfield capped an 11-0 (7-0 MIAC) season, the Johnnies' third perfect season under Gagliardi and third in four years.
The Johnnies averaged 233.2 rushing yards and allowed only 112.1 yards of total offense per game. The offensive and defensive lines were anchored by a pair of two-time, All-America tackles, Michael Collins and Fred Cremer. Halfback Jim Shiely, an All-MIAC selection, led SJU with 823 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 157 carries, while Don Nett registered 671 yards and four touchdowns. All-American Tom Gillham and Terry Hartman split time at quarterback, and the duo's favorite target was All-American Dave Griffin, who hauled in 23 passes receptions for 387 yards and five touchdowns. Hartman also doubled as the Johnnies' kicker, converting 26 PAT's and five field goals on the year. Defensive back Pat Whalin was named to the Associated Press' Little All-America first team.
Nicole Dailey is a captain of the University of Minnesota All-Girl Cheerleading Team. She has won four letters and was voted by her peers to receive the Gopher Spirit Award. Dailey and her spirit squad teammates helped create an exciting and positive atmosphere at Golden Gophers football games in the fall.
Dailey is studying nursing and biology. Throughout her time as a student-athlete she has received awards in academic excellence and been a member of the School of Nursing Dean’s list. She was inducted into the National Honors Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau.
Dailey currently works for Hennepin County Medical Center in Employee Occupational Health and Wellness assisting in the coordination and on-boarding services of the hospital’s volunteer and residency programs. This past semester Nicole worked for State Senator John Marty assisting with health initiatives and research for the Minnesota Health Plan, Senator Marty’s bill to bring a single-payer health care system to Minnesota. Over the past four years Nicole has volunteered for HCMC, Fairview Hospitals, and Minnesota’s Block Nursing Program.
This summer she is assisting in medical research at the VA Medical Center where she receives her clinical education and is able to give back to those who have served. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school.
Mike Max started his career as an intern at WCCO-TV and shortly after was hired as sports producer. Today he hosts Sports to the Max with Mike Max on WCCO Radio and is a sports anchor and reporter at WCCO. Prior to landing his own radio show, Mike hosted Sports Connect on the Midwest Sports Channel.
In 2010, Mike started co-hosting a weekly high school sports segment on WCCO-TV called High School Sports Rally. The Friday night segment highlights competitive high school matchups and shares the compelling stories of high school athletes.
In addition to his duties at WCCO Television and Radio, Mike is also a host and producer for Life to the Max. Much more than a sports show, Life to the Max highlights stories of perseverance, tenacity and winning attitudes.
A true Minnesotan, Mike grew up in Gaylord, Minnesota and played football, basketball and baseball. Mike attended Hamline University and furthered his talents on the court and on the diamond, playing basketball and baseball for the Pipers.
In his spare time, Mike enjoys working out, hunting and spending time with his wife, daughter and son.
The 2014 St. Paul City Conference Player of the Year, Garrett Gardner excelled as both a running back and linebacker for St. Paul Central. The all-state player and two-year captain led the Minutemen to a berth in their section championship game last fall, the program’s farthest playoff run ever. Gardner rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a senior and scored 53 touchdowns the last two years. He tallied more than 250 career tackles. Gardner’s leadership helped his teammates line up correctly on the field, and drew a record number of participants to volunteer off-season workouts.
Gardner is an honor roll student who serves as a mentor to fellow students. He was selected to the School Climate Committee to help make Central’s learning environment better for students and staff. Gardner plans to major in sports medicine and play football at Wyoming.
Gardner has volunteered for years at Jimmy Lee playground with his father, Richard, and other youth coaches, giving back to the place that helped him develop his athletic skills. Gardner helps teach young football players, and sets an example with his positive, respectful and friendly attitude.
White Bear Lake quarterback Trey Anderson passed for 1,602 yards as a junior and was poised for a stellar senior season. He already held the Bears’ career and season passing records. Then an ACL injury struck during practice before the Bears even played their first game. But Anderson, also a track athlete for the Bears, did not let the injury dampen his spirits. He continued to serve as team captain and assist his teammates.
In the classroom, Anderson is a consistent A honor roll student, AP Scholar and President’s Award winner who has been named student of the month four times. He is a member of White Bear Lake’s Chemistry Club and National Honor Society. Anderson plans to study economics/communications in college.
Anderson has devoted time to numerous volunteer opportunities during his high school career, including tutoring, Link Crew and camp counseling and mission trips. Trey’s parents are Trent and Beth.
As a St. Cloud Cathedral High School senior, Tommy Auger put up some impressive numbers. The AP All-State tight end led Minnesota with 90 receptions, the third-most in state high school history. He was also the Granite Ridge Conference Linebacker of the Year and the Crusaders’ offensive and defensive MVP. He is the school’s all-time leading receiver and ranks second in career tackles. Auger has played four varsity sports for the Crusaders, with hockey, baseball and basketball in addition to football.
Auger is also a four-year A student. He has been on Cathedral’s dean’s list or honor list every semester. Auger has taken five Advanced Placement courses. He intends to study accounting and play football and baseball at St. John’s.
Auger’s community involvement includes volunteering with the Special Friends Program at St. Cloud Children’s home, campus ministry, Toys for Tots and youth sports clinics. Tommy’s parents are Andy and Libby.
Ben Ellefson, a tight end and linebacker for Hawley High School, completed an outstanding high school football career last fall. The Heart O’ Lakes Classic Conference MVP was named to the Minnesota Vikings All-State Team and AP All-State Team. Ellefson was a three-time all-conference and All-Section 8AA honoree. As a team captain and starter on both offense and defense, Ellefson helped Hawley win the 2014 Heart O’Lakes Classic Conference and Section 8AA titles. He also captained the basketball team and tallied more than 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds.
An academic all-state selection, Ellefson has proven to be a leader not only in athletics but also in the classroom. He is Hawley’s class vice president and National Honor Society vice president. Ellefson will graduate near the top of his class and plans to study business administration at North Dakota State, where he has earned a football scholarship.
Ellefson has logged community service hours with the Salvation Army, youth group, blood drives and more. Ben’s parents are Randy and Kara.
Gunnar Grimsrud started Rochester Mayo High School’s varsity squad for three seasons, including two years of starting on both sides of the ball. He helped the Spartans reach their section championship game three years in a row, and was named to the 2014 Minnesota Vikings and AP All-State Teams. Grimsrud made 94 tackles as a senior linebacker and captain on his way to Big 9 Defensive Player of the Year recognition. He also ran track and played baseball for Mayo.
An academic all-conference selection, Grimsrud brings the same work ethic to the classroom as on the gridiron. He was accepted to South Dakota State, where he plans to join the football team this fall and major in biology/pre-medicine.
Grimsrud has also devoted time to mission trips and volunteering opportunities through the Salvation Army, food shelf and vacation Bible school. Gunnar’s parents are Dana and Koni.
Born in Sierra Leone before eventually moving to the United States in 2003, defensive back Ismael Kamara has put together an impressive high school resume at Harding High School in St. Paul. A standout in football, basketball and track, Kamara earned seven-total All-Saint Paul City Conference selections, as well as an all-metro honorable mention. He was Harding’s defensive MVP four times.
Kamara owns a 4.16 grade point average that slots him in the top 10 percent of his class and has been on the A Honor Roll throughout his four years at Harding. He is a National Honor Society member and the vice president of his senior class who plans to study engineering/business at Stanford or North Dakota State.
Kamara, a student ambassador and Harding Knight Crew leader, has helped organize community drives such as Pennies for Patients, Toys for Tots and donations to food shelves. He has also devoted time to Feed My Starving Children and major Harding events like the Hall of Stars ceremony. Ismael’s parents are Mabinty Janneh and Ibrahim Bangura.
Team captain Taylor Otterstatter is a versatile athlete for Mayer Lutheran, running track and playing basketball in addition to playing both sides of the ball for the football team. The three-time All-Minnesota River Conference selection caught 68 passes for 881 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior tight end. On defense, he moved from defensive end to linebacker and became the team’s leading tackler. Otterstatter was named to the KARE-11 All-Metro Team and KDUZ All-Area Team.
Mayer Lutheran’s National Honor Society president, Otterstatter is a perpetual honor roll student who has earned an Academic Excellence Certificate every year. Otterstatter has accepted a partial scholarship to play football at Northern Iowa, where he would like to study sport and health science.
He has also devoted an impressive amount of time to service. Otterstatter has been on mission trips to Mexico, volunteered in his school’s link and shadow programs, presented and emceed at the Celebrate His Harvest Gala, coached youth camps and more. Taylor’s parents are Keith and Tami.
Ben Shoults is a standout offensive lineman who helped Maple Grove High School go 29-4 with two state tournament appearances in his three varsity seasons. Both the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and Northstar Football News chose Shoults for their 2014 All-State Teams. Shoults was a KARE-11 and Star Tribune All-Metro honoree, and was also named the Northwest Suburban Conference Lineman of the Year. He has also played hockey, baseball and basketball.
A Minnesota Football Coaches Association Academic All-State selection and National Honor Society member, Shoults has consistently made the A honor roll. He has committed to play football at Harvard and intends to be a pre-medicine major.
Shoults has also shown leadership through his participation in student tutoring, coaching Maple Grove youth football camps and practices, volunteering with Special Olympics and Feed My Starving Children and Maple Grove’s Link Crew, which helps orient new students. Ben’s parents are Joe and Laura.
An accomplished quarterback for Cambridge-Isanti High School, John Solberg also competed in swimming and track and field for the Bluejackets. The Cambridge, Minn. native proved to be versatile throughout his high school career, starting for three seasons at both quarterback and cornerback. He was a three-time all-conference selection and was the 2014 Mississippi 8 Quarterback of the Year after throwing 27 touchdowns and averaging 245 yards per game through the air as a senior.
A multi-sport Academic All-State honoree, Solberg’s feats extend beyond the football field, as he ranks first in a class of 358 with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. He plans to study biomedical science and/or exercise science in college.
Solberg racked up dozens of hours of community service. These volunteer efforts include delivering Meals on Wheels, mentoring incoming freshmen with the Link Crew, visiting with residents at Grace Point Crossing assisted living community and more. John’s parents are Mark and Kelly.
Mitchell Stangel is a well-rounded student-athlete who attends Crosby-Ironton High School. On the football field, Stangel was a three-year starter and a two-time all-conference selection at the linebacker position. He captained the Rangers’ football and baseball teams, as well as the Northern Lakes hockey team, for which he served as the team’s starting goaltender.
Stangel will graduate as co-valedictorian of his class, and garnered Minnesota Individual Academic All-State accolades as a senior in 2014. He is on Crosby-Ironton’s Knowledge Bowl team and student council. Stangel met the United States Naval Academy’s stringent admission requirements, and intends to study aerospace engineering there.
Stangel is active in the community through his church and through youth football and hockey programs. Mitch’s parents are Kevin and Jeanne.