Jackson Erdmann's lifelong dream was to play Division I college football.
So when Penn State made a recruited walk-on offer — no scholarship, but several other perks and most important a chance to compete for a job — he grabbed it.
But after a year, Erdmann saw how long the odds were against him of playing a prominent role any time soon, prompting a transfer to St. John's, a school that recruited him hard out of Rosemount High School.
Michael Veldman's story is similar — he passed up a Division I scholarship at Western Illinois to walk on at North Dakota State, where his brother played football and several other family members attended. But after a year, Veldman, too, realized the long odds against him and transferred to Gustavus, which had recruited him at Becker High.
Erdmann and Veldman are among four Division I quarterbacks who transferred to the MIAC this season, the others being Jacques Perra and Gabe Green at St. Thomas.
"We're going to recruit kids that are going to get Division I and II scholarships — probably not as many Division I — but we want to make sure we get them on campus, and if they do choose to go somewhere else, then at least they have an idea what we're about," Gustavus coach Peter Haugen said.
Erdmann, like Perra, transferred last January and has had the advantage of playing during the spring and getting a jump-start on a new offense. But Veldman and Green didn't transfer until the start of this school year — "It took a long time for me [to make the decision], a lot of talks with family," Veldman said. But Haugen this week named Veldman to start Saturday's opening game, although the competition was close; entering the final week of camp Haugen said he had a 1A and 1B at quarterback in Veldman and sophomore Sam Archer.
Veldman said nearing the end of fall camp that he has "a pretty good grasp on the offense." And that offense is one of the reasons he chose Gustavus — the Gusties averaged 38 passes a game last year, leading the MIAC.
Erdmann entered the final week of camp in a three-way battle to start, but this week was named the starter for the Johnnies' opener vs. defending UMAC champion St. Scholastica. Erdmann had a brilliant high school career, despite battles with injury and illness. He suffered a bout of acute cerebellar ataxia during the winter of his junior year, then broke a bone in his lower leg in the opening playoff game of his senior season.
Erdmann said he has a clean bill of health and believes he's a better quarterback — and more mature leader — for his year at Penn State.
"I had a lot thrown at me, but I think I learned a lot about myself and who I want to be as a person," he said.
After a year of no game action, both quarterbacks are eager to get a taste of MIAC competition.
"It was a playing time issue for me," Veldman said, echoing Erdmann. "I really wanted to compete and showcase what I can do on the field."