Ron Stolski retired as Brainerd High School's football coach in January 2020. He had been a head coach in Minnesota high schools for 58 years, with the final 45 at Brainerd.
There were 389 victories, and none more emotional than the 13-10 upset of Eden Prairie in the Class 5A quarterfinals on Nov. 12, 2010 at Maple Grove.
There was a reminder of that game to be had as Tampa Bay played Kansas City in Sunday's Super Bowl.
Joe Haeg, a standout tackle for Stolski's Warriors as the left tackle for the state semifinalists in what was Minnesota's largest class of football, is a versatile, 6-6, 310-pound offensive lineman for the Bucs.
Haeg signed with North Dakota State out of Brainerd, was redshirted in his first year, then played on four FCS national champions from 2012 to 2015. He was twice a first-team All-America and earned an invitation to the 2016 Senior Bowl.
He was taken in the fifth round by Indianapolis in 2016 and started his first two seasons for the Colts. He was a starter again in 2018, then injured an ankle in the third game of the season and missed two months.
The Colts had drafted early and well for offensive linemen and Haeg saw limited duty 2019. Tampa Bay signed him this past offseason. He has been used most often as a sixth lineman in the Bucs' heavy package when Bruce Arians and Tom Brady are in a running mood.
"Pat Shurmur had joined the Vikings coaching staff early in 2016 and I talked with him about Joe before the draft,'' Stolski said. "I said, 'What a team is getting in Joe is a quiet workhorse; a player who never missed a weight workout – not one – in three years in our varsity program. And then he went to NDSU, spent five years getting better and stronger, and graduating with a 3.9 grade average.'
"They also would've been getting a big, powerful man with good feet. And, a player with a fierce will not to be defeated.''
Haeg and his Brainerd teammates showed that against Mike Grant's dynastic Eden Prairie Eagles on that November night in Maple Grove.
"We stopped them at the 3-yard line, then drove 97 yards for the winning touchdown with four minutes left,'' Stolski said on Saturday. "We had a stud running back in Jordan Hayes, and we ran him on the counter repeatedly, pulling Joe and our guard.''
When Brainerd reached Eden Prairie's 27, quarterback Mitch McLain again handed off to Hayes, then ran toward a sideline, and received a throwback pass from Hayes for what became the winning touchdown.
Even Joe Haeg might have done some hootin' and hollerin' on that one.
"The only time I ever talked with Bud Grant was the next year,'' Stolski said. "One of my former players was hunting ducks in Canada at the same place as Bud.
"My player put him on a phone and he said, 'Ron Stolski, Bud Grant. You beat my son in that playoff game with one of the trick plays he has used.' ''
Lou Nanne was in Florida with his wife Francine on Friday when the messages started arriving that Jake McCoy, his blue-line partner with the Gophers in the early '60s, had died in the Twin Cities at age 79.
Soon, the phone conversations started among Louie, other former Gophers and more pals of Jake's, and the sadness started to lose out to the stories about McCoy.
"Jake had the most wry sense of humor of all-time,'' Nanne said. "You couldn't be around Jake for five minutes without him saying something – or doing something – to crack you up.
"We were just talking about the night that Michigan's Polanic, I'm sure it was Tom Polanic, drilled him. We had the worst helmets of all-time with the Gophers, those square things, and Jake also wore these big, aviator glasses.
"Polanic was huge – played a few games for us with the North Stars – and he took a run at Jake and laid him out. And as Jake was trying to get up, the helmet was twisted around, and the glasses were sideways from his head to his chin, and we were all on the ice howling.''
Nanne was a senior for the 1962-63 season, when coach John Mariucci put McCoy, a junior two years removed from playing for St. John's on the outdoor ice in Collegeville, with him.
"Maroosh said, 'Jake, Nanne's going to taking off up the ice, so you stay back and try to cover the skaters that get behind him.' Jake was good skater, a good player. He was on the 1964 Olympic team with Herb and Dave Brooks, and a bunch of Gophers.' ''
McCoy had a long run as Richfield's hockey coach, also coached at Washburn when City Hockey still was competitive in Minneapolis, and coached youth hockey for years.
"After he retired, he took a job driving one of those Park and Ride buses at the airport, just to do something. Jake told the story: He took a fast turn, and an older lady came flying off the seat and down the aisle, and his bus-driving days came to a quick end.''
Then, Louie started laughing, and said, "What a character.''
Also: quite a contributor to Louie's legend. Nanne won the WCHA scoring title as a defenseman in 1962-63 with Jake back there to stop the potential pitfalls tied to Louie's adventures.
Last month, the WCHA, likely to be in its final winter as a men's hockey league, started to unveil all-decade teams. The 1960s were amazing, and this was the six-player team:
Goalie-Tony Esposito, Michigan Tech. Forwards-Keith "Huffer'' Christiansen, UMD; Bill Masterton, Denver; and Red Berenson, Michigan. Defense-Keith Magnuson, Denver, and Nanne, Gophers.
That scoring title certainly helped Louie to join the distinguished group, and thus, thanks to Jake McCoy for staying home when necessary.
+Shelly Anderson, a basketball legend both at Augsburg (All-America in 1973 and school Hall of Famer) and with St. Paul's "Noonball'' crew of hoops lifers, has a book printed by The University of Arkansas Press. It's part of a Twin Cities Sports series and titled, "Games for All Seasons.'' The book is dedicated to Bill McKee and Keith Hardeman, two outstanding athletes and close Anderson friends who have died.
+Chris Middlebrook, the Twin Cities crusader for the sport of bandy, has published "The Bandy Chronicles: My Pursuit of a Forgotten Sport.'' This one can be ordered online.
While searching, you also can find Middlebrook's long, photo-filled essay headlined, "A 100-Year Grudge? Why Bandy is not in the Winter Olympics.'' Bandy.com is one of locations for that.
+Ron Evjen has written "The Last Minute – a Viking Miracle,'' a book centered on the Hayfield Vikings improbable run to a second straight state basketball tournament in 1968 that included a victory over mighty Austin. Admirers of big vs. small lore from our one-class state tournament days can search the title and get a summation at Google Books.
+John Mulligan sent me a copy of "A Little Pain,'' a fictional account of a murder set in Plainview, Minn. There's a charismatic football coach, two high school friends, and one turns into a lawyer defending the other for murder.
I didn't dive into it as of yet, but the unofficial prologue does some excellent scene setting for life in a small Minnesota town in the 1950s and 1960s. Google search the title and Mulligan … it'll pop up.