Brent Lingen played football for Osseo High School and the legendary coach, John Hansen, in the mid-1980s. He was 6 feet 4 and saw action at tight end and defensive end for the Orioles.
“When it was time to start those two-a-days in the middle of August, we were all hoping there wouldn’t be any of those 90- and 100-degree days,” Lingen said. “Osseo’s colors … we had those black helmets and your head felt like it was in a furnace.”
And what did Lingen and the other Orioles of three decades past do in the summer to get ready for those two-a-days?
“Not that much,” he said. “It’s not like we didn’t have the commitment that the boys do today, but it was a different time. Some of us would get together in the summer and do some passing drills … nothing really organized.
“It wasn’t that often the weight room was open at the school, even when we did go up to see if we could do some lifting.”
This did not prevent Osseo from being one of the better football programs in the Twin Cities. It was the approach to sports in that era. There still were numerous multi-sport athletes even at large suburban schools with winning athletic programs.
“I believe that all the things that are available today, for kids with a commitment and a good level of talent, lets them improve much more as athletes than when I was playing sports,” Lingen said. “They are getting better year-round, not just during a season.”
On Wednesday, there was a vivid example of this in the Lingen family, when Brandon — the oldest of three children and a senior at Wayzata High School — formally signed to accept a scholarship with coach Jerry Kill’s fourth recruiting class at Minnesota.
Brandon is listed as a 6-5, 245-pound tight end. It is an amazing transformation for a player who was a 6-1, 185-pound sophomore in the fall of 2011.
“My dad’s 6-4, and he told me that I was going to have a growth spurt,” Brandon said. “I was hoping for it, because I wanted to see how far I could go in football.”
Minnesota and other schools sent the message that they would be monitoring Brandon’s progress. The schools were most impressed by the same quality Wayzata coach Brad Anderson had seen in the undersized sophomore: Lingen’s blocking.
“Brandon was doing well in basketball,” his father said. “Then, he sort of got the idea he could take football to the next level, and gave up basketball.”
Two sports wouldn’t work? “It is really tough if your goal is to play at a high level in college,” Brent said. “Basketball wants you playing year-round. So does football. They want you in the weight room, want you playing in the 7-on-7 passing leagues in the summer, right up to the start of practice.
“There’s also the optional extra stuff, like Wellefast [Elite Sports Training]. Brandon is there working on acceleration, lateral movement, everything involving speed and power.”
Brandon was enjoying the benefits of his extra work and his growth spurt as a junior and then suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He missed most of the season.
“The Gophers said they would have to watch me for a few games as a senior before making a decision,” Brandon said.
There were some other programs — North Dakota State, Rutgers, Air Force Academy, Florida Atlantic — that were getting more antsy about Lingen’s decision. He went to the Iowa game, watched the Gophers take a whipping and visited the recruiting room. Brandon again was told that the Gophers weren’t ready to make a decision.
To his surprise, the Gophers called two nights later to offer a scholarship that was promptly accepted.
On Wednesday, he became part of a recruiting class with two other tight ends — the highly sought Gaelin Elmore, 6-6 from Somerset, Wis., and Jerry Gibson, 6-3 from Theodore [Ala.] — and a possibility to play elsewhere.
“We also have Maxx [Williams] as a sophomore, and he’s going to play in the NFL,” Brandon said. “Tight end is going to be a crowded position, but everyone saw how the Gophers like to use them.
“The ‘tight end down the middle’ that worked so often last season … I loved that play.”
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org