By the end of Wednesday morning’s signing ceremony at Lakeville North, football coach Brian Vossen’s shaved head glistened. He worked up a sweat making the trip back and forth to the head table to be photographed with each player as they were introduced one by one.
Understandable, because eight members of the Panthers’ 2014 defense will play Division I or Division II college football next year. For most schools, having a couple of players sign is a successful year.
But eight? From the same side of the ball?
“It’s really a testament to the kids,” Vossen said. “You get a lot of kids with the talent, but not everyone puts in the work to get this far. These guys really pushed each other.”
Fraternal twins Jordan and Jesse Cardenas — Jordan is two minutes older — will split up for the first time in their football-playing lives. Jordan, a defensive back, is headed to Augustana (S.D.) while Jesse will play linebacker at Northern Iowa.
“We used wrestle with each other all the time until my dad finally said no more,” Jordan said. “One of us would always take it too far and someone would get hurt. But, you know, it really prepared us for the demands of football. It’s going to be weird not playing with him.”
For father Cory Cardenas, a Bloomington police detective, their impending departure means a lifestyle change.
“Some dads hunt with their sons. I took them to the gym and trained with them,” he said. “I’m so proud of them, but now that they’re leaving, I’m not sure what we’re going to do. I said to my wife, ‘Maybe go to a football game?’ ”
Linebacker Tristyn Hanson, who fought back from a demolished ankle suffered early in the season to play in the postseason, committed to Air Force. Defensive end Carl Engwall completed a transformation from basketball player who plays football to fulltime football player by signing with North Dakota. Lineman Boyd Draeger, whom Vossen calls “a monster,” became a preferred walk-on at Wyoming.
A knee injury didn’t stop linebacker Connor Melz from committing to Southwest Minnesota State. Dakota Toedter, who starred at linebacker while Hanson was hurt, is headed to Northern State (S.D.). Safety/kicker Stu Hamann, who had two pick-sixes and was 34 for 34 on extra points in 2014, signed with St. Cloud State.
Between trips to the head table, Vossen sat, beaming like a proud papa.
“My O-line coach told me this morning I’d better enjoy this because I won’t get to see it again,” he said.