Mankato beating victim leads former teammates on to field

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 15, 2014 - 8:21 AM

Packed stadium rallied around Isaac Kolstad, who is working toward a full recovery.

– His gait still unsure four months after a near-fatal beating, Isaac Kolstad stepped to the head of a line of football players streaming into the Minnesota State, Mankato stadium Thursday.

Leading his former teammates to the center of the field, he stopped, turned to the stands and raised his fist, touching off a roar of approval from the stands packed with more than 6,000 Mavericks fans.

“It was amazing, just pure joy,” said his cousin Annie Jessop, one of more than 130 family members also in the stands to watch Kolstad proclaim his return from injuries that had left him lingering on life-support for weeks. Like many others, she wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “#22strong” in honor of Kolstad, who had worn No. 22 as a linebacker on the team before graduating in 2013. “I can think of nothing else to say but ‘We love you Isaac’ ” Jessop said.

The Mavericks’ season opener was only the latest turn in Kolstad’s inspirational recovery from a beating police say was administered in May by Philip Nelson, a former star quarterback at the University of Minnesota who had recently transferred to Rutgers.

Doctors had told the family to prepare for the worst after he was punched and then kicked in the head while laying unconscious on the street. The story of his life since then, told in part by his wife, Molly, on a Caring Bridge website, has resonated in this football-loving town, with donors and Kolstad’s former employer raising more than $150,000 to help the family pay medical bills and expenses related to Kolstad’s against-the-odds fight.

“I’m super, super proud of Isaac right now,” said Molly Kolstad, speaking to reporters before the game. Speaking publicly for the first time since the May 11 fight that landed Kolstad in the hospital, she said her husband has only a general understanding of what happened that night.

“He’s ready to come home,” she said. “He wants to be a husband again. He wants to be a dad, and he can’t wait to go back to work.” The couple have two children, including an infant daughter born less than a month after his injury.

Kolstad only recently began walking without assistance. His speech has slowly improved, but sentences are short. His brain injury makes it difficult for him to say the right words, she said. Still, she’s grateful for how far he’s come. The first brain scan of his injuries back in May had doctors telling the family not to expect too much.

For now, daily life has been centered around Kolstad’s five hours of inpatient therapy in St. Paul five days a week. He hopes to move home this fall, said Molly.

A criminal case is still pending, with Nelson and St. Peter resident Trevor Shelley charged in the ­beating.

The fight, which took place near a downtown intersection about 2 a.m., lasted just seconds, and may have been based on a misunderstanding in which Kolstad was confused with someone else. A Mankato police sergeant who reviewed video footage from city cameras said Kolstad seemed to trigger the physical confrontation when he struck Nelson in the back. Shelley then allegedly punched Kolstad in the head, knocking him to the ground unconscious and sending Kolstad headfirst into the pavement. Nelson then allegedly kicked a defenseless Kolstad in the head.

The Mavericks' 31-0 victory over St. Cloud State Thursday night was also the return of coach Todd Hoffner, who was removed from the post two years ago when school officials found pictures of his children naked on his school phone. A judge later dismissed child pornography charges against Hoffner, saying the pictures were nothing more than children at innocent play.

The university still fired him though. Hoffner had already accepted a job as head coach at Minot State University in North Dakota when an arbitrator ruled in his favor in April. He immediately returned to Mankato.

Another of Kolstad’s cousins, Matt Jessop, said the family’s attitude since early on is one of ­forgiveness. “We’re not condemning anybody,” he said. “No negative stuff. What we’re focused on is Isaac and his recovery.”

“We do want to pray for everybody. It’s not just Isaac. There are a lot of lives that have been affected by this.”


Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329


  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Mankato beating victim leads former teammates on to field

    Friday September 5, 2014

    Isaac Kolstad led the Minnesota State, Mankato Mavericks football team on the field at Blakeslee Stadium before Thursday night's...

  • Isaac Kolstad's CaringBridge site

    Tuesday May 13, 2014

  • Family photo shows beating victim Isaac Kolstad with newborn daughter

    Friday July 11, 2014

    The family of Isaac Kolstad released a picture of the injured former Minnesota State, Mankato football player holding his infant...

  • Isaac Kolstad moving out of Mankato hospital to rehab facility

    Tuesday June 24, 2014

    Kolstad, 24, suffered serious brain damage and other injuries during a fight that erupted May 11 after Mankato bars closed.

  • Mankato beating victim Isaac Kolstad improving, gave thumbs-up sign

    Wednesday June 4, 2014

    Brother-in-law Mike Fleming laid out a detailed account of Isaac Kolstad progressing into what the relative characterized as “the best place for a possible recovery.”

  • MSU Mankato wins season opener 31-0 over St. Cloud State

    Thursday September 4, 2014

    Fifth-ranked Minnesota State Mankato cruised to a 31-0 shutout of No. 12 St. Cloud State on Thursday evening in the...

  • Isaac Kolstad led the Minnesota State, Mankato Mavericks team on the field Thursday night at Blakeslee Stadium.

  • Isaac Kolstad is shown with his wife and one of his children.

  • Isaac Kolstad led the Minnesota State, Mankato Mavericks football team...

  • Isaac Kolstad acted as the Mavericks’ honorary captain during the coin toss at the team’s home opener at Blakeslee Stadium on Thursday night.

  • Isaac Kolstad led the Minnesota State, Mankato Mavericks football team on the field at Blakeslee Stadium before Thursday night's game vs. St. Cloud State. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ - September 4, 2014, Mankato, Minn., Minnesota State, Mankato, Blakeslee Stadium, Former Minnesota State, Mankato football player Isaac Kolstad, who was seriously injured in an assault in downtown Mankato in May, returns as honorary team captain for the Mavericks' season opener against St. Cloud State ORG XMIT: MIN1409041856522349

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Minnesota 35 FINAL
Miami 37
Baltimore 13 FINAL
Houston 25
Detroit 20 FINAL
Chicago 14
Cleveland 13 FINAL
Carolina 17
Atlanta 30 FINAL
New Orleans 14
Green Bay 20 FINAL
Tampa Bay 3
Kansas City 12 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
New England 17 FINAL
NY Jets 16
NY Giants 37 FINAL
St. Louis 27
Buffalo 24 FINAL
Oakland 26
Indianapolis 7 FINAL
Dallas 42
Seattle 35 FINAL
Arizona 6
Denver 7:30 PM
New York 108 FINAL
Toronto 118
Memphis 91 FINAL
Cleveland 105
Boston 84 FINAL
Miami 100
Detroit 105 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
LA Lakers 101 FINAL
Sacramento 108
Philadelphia 96 FINAL
Orlando 88
Phoenix 104 FINAL
Washington 92
Indiana 100 FINAL
Minnesota 96
New Orleans 101 FINAL
Oklahoma City 99
Colorado 2 FINAL(SO)
Detroit 1
Dallas 6 FINAL(SO)
Edmonton 5
Buffalo 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 1
Toronto 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Philadelphia 4 FINAL(OT)
Winnipeg 3
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 69 FINAL
Army 72
Ferris State 82 FINAL
Bowling Green 68
San Francisco 65 FINAL
Cleveland State 69
Oregon State 52 FINAL
Quinnipiac 60
Coastal Carolina 72 FINAL
Central Arkansas 55
Holy Cross 48 FINAL
Canisius 67
Southern Miss 55 FINAL
Georgia State 68
Western Carolina 66 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 62
Creighton 58 FINAL
North Texas 62
Maryland 73 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
Cornell 61 FINAL
Radford 74
Vermont 55 FINAL
Saint Louis 58
Loyola-Maryland 52 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Reinhardt 72 FINAL
Winthrop 100
Ark-Little Rock 46 FINAL
Green Bay 66
TX-Pan American 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 77
Alabama State 63 FINAL
Evansville 81
Hartford 82
Goshen 55 FINAL
Valparaiso 82
Bryant 48 FINAL
Denver 46
Austin Peay 63 FINAL
Lipscomb 69
Tennessee St 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 65
South Dakota 67 FINAL
Montana 62
Samford 64
Coker 52 FINAL
South Carolina 78
Boston College 71
Northern Ariz 66 FINAL
Hampton 75
SD Christian 61 FINAL
San Diego 71
UC Irvine 55 FINAL
Bradley 47
Troy 65 FINAL
Nicholls 64
Seton Hall 47 FINAL
Georgia 65
Appalachian St 59 FINAL
Alabama 60
North Dakota St 52 FINAL
Kent State 53
San Jose St 53 FINAL
Washington St 82
Alcorn State 45 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 78
Sacramento St 47 FINAL
Seattle 66
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 84
Fairleigh Dickinson 74 FINAL
Brown 79
Buffalo 73 FINAL
Long Island 79
Bucknell 74 FINAL
Mount St Marys 49
Stony Brook 70 FINAL
Wagner 76
Wofford 75
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Providence 67
Maine 54 FINAL
William & Mary 51
Alabama State 43 FINAL
Samford 56
TX-Pan American 43 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 64
South Dakota St 64 FINAL
Marist 82
Saint Josephs 50 FINAL
(5) Notre Dame 64
Radford 60 FINAL
Virginia Tech 73
(3) Texas 67 FINAL
(4) Texas A&M 65
Rhode Island 60 FINAL
Bryant 56
South Florida 90 FINAL
Penn State 87
Sam Houston St 55 FINAL
TCU 79
Evansville 50 FINAL
(14) Maryland 110 FINAL
Coppin State 51
Mercer 59 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 72
Chattanooga 58
Princeton 84 FINAL
Monmouth 53
Eastern Illinois 69 FINAL
Lehigh 72
Rider 67 FINAL
Binghamton 72
SC State 57 FINAL
Clemson 66
Fairfield 63 FINAL
Iowa State 76
Richmond 70 FINAL
Eastern Kentucky 56
Cleveland State 80 FINAL
Morehead St 72
Kent State 62 FINAL
Colgate 61
South Alabama 43 FINAL
UAB 73
Saint Peters 35 FINAL
Navy 71
Youngstown St 52 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
Lafayette 66
Davidson 51 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Indiana State 73 FINAL
St Johns 67
Southern U 49 FINAL
Florida 78
Wright State 46 FINAL
Purdue 70
(19) Oklahoma St 66 FINAL
USC 62
Houston 54 FINAL
Texas Tech 60
Ark-Little Rock 66 FINAL
Tulsa 59
Dayton 71 FINAL
Vanderbilt 67
Northern Ariz 37 FINAL
New Mexico 56
UNC-Asheville 60 FINAL
USC Upstate 67
North Dakota 81 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Western Ill 57 FINAL
Marquette 65
Elon 67 FINAL
(6) North Carolina 85
Ball State 59 FINAL
Western Ky 84
(8) Kentucky 68 FINAL
(13) Duke 89
New Orleans 58 FINAL
Alabama 87
Chicago State 47 FINAL
Milwaukee 69
Bowling Green 61 FINAL
Bradley 47
Ill-Springfield 56 FINAL
SE Missouri St 73
Northern Ill 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 51
(23) Iowa 100 FINAL
Drake 98
Central Michigan 64 FINAL
Minnesota 67
Western Carolina 45 FINAL
North Florida 62
Wyoming 71 FINAL
Colorado 76
Portland 58 FINAL
Boise State 94
Cal Poly 63 FINAL
Colorado State 65
No Dakota State 54 FINAL
Grand Canyon 69
Albany 71 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 49
Oklahoma 64 FINAL
Arkansas 71
Idaho State 63 FINAL
Seattle 55
(18) Michigan State 89 FINAL
(19) Syracuse 76
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Arizona State 88
TX-Arlington 46 FINAL
North Texas 38
Fresno State 68 FINAL
Oregon 59
St Francis-PA 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 72
CS-Bakersfield 74
(2) Connecticut 86
(10) Louisville 70 FINAL
(24) California 57
Howard 53 FINAL
Virginia 74
Miami-Ohio 42 FINAL
(21) Miss State 68
Illinois-Chicago 55 FINAL
Old Dominion 61


question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters