Coordinator Jim Glogowski and other members of Minnesota State Mankato’s defensive staff had been reminding players last week that Texas A&M Commerce had a penchant for running trick plays.
“We saw a few on video, but it was more the coaches telling us, ‘Be ready for anything,’ ‘’ senior linebacker Alex Goettl said.
The Mavericks were leading 21-14 late in the third quarter in Saturday’s Division II quarterfinal at Mankato’s Blakeslee Field. Commerce was starting a possession from its 41 – and the Lions decided to go with trickery immediately.
Quarterback Mikla Smalls tossed a pass to his right to receiver Matt Childers.
“We were supposed to bite on it as a bubble screen,’’ Goettl said. “The running back was leaking out on the other side, though. Something was fishy.’’
Childers threw back across the field, 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Goettl took the pass in stride, in front of the intended target, and went 31 yards with the interception. The touchdown broke open what became a 42-21 victory and put the Mavericks (13-0) in the national semifinals on Saturday at Slippery Rock (Pa.).
It also gave the National Football Foundation another highlight if interested in adding to a brief video when Goettl is introduced along with 11 other finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy – euphemistically known as the “academic Heisman’’ – on Tuesday night at the New York Hilton in Manhattan.
There’s an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship for all the finalists, and that’s upgraded to $25,000 for the winner. This will be the 62nd dinner for the NFF, which had Gen. Douglas MacArthur among its founders.
The Campbell Trophy (originally named for Vincent Draddy) has been presented since 1990. It is intended to honor players across all levels of college football for a combination of academics, community service and on-field performance.
Traditionally, the award goes to a player from Division I – Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow, Danny Wuerffel and ex-Viking Brad Culpepper are past winners – although Brandon Roberts from Division III Washington (Mo.) received the trophy in 2002.
Goettl and Carnegie Mellon’s Michael Lohmeier are the Division II/III athletes among Tuesday’s 12 finalists. This adds to a hectic week for Goettl, a fifth-year senior from Mankato West. He left for New York on Monday with his father Dan, sister Kelsey (youngest of three) and fiancé Stephanie Anderson. He’s also finishing finals for his degree in biomedical sciences (3.93 GPA) and was scheduled to walk in graduation on Saturday with several teammates – including Ryan Schlichte, the quarterback Goettl blocked for as a lineman at Mankato West on a 2014 state championship team.
Coach Todd Hoffner was asked about Goettl as a player, teammate and student and used one word to summarize Alex’s time at the hometown university: “Phenomenal.’’
The graduation ceremony is excitedly off the table now, with Goettl flying back on Wednesday morning, rejoining his team for practice, and then heading out on Friday for Slippery Rock as the Mavericks try for what’s been an elusive national title in this run of football excellence.
“We have that new locker room and there’s an open spot in there for a big trophy,’’ Goettl said. “We would like to be the team that fills it with the national championship trophy.’’
One vital part of Goettl’s upbringing will be missing at Tuesday night’s ceremony. His mother Michele died at age 49 on Jan. 3, 2017, while on a family vacation in the Bahamas. She had a heart seizure while scuba diving.
There was a catch in Goettl’s voice when his mother was mentioned and he said: “I think about her every day. I’ve just tried to make her proud. For sure, she would be happy about what’s taking place on Tuesday.’’