MANKATO — It’s been 10 days since the football season ended for Mankato West, and it still bugs Philip Nelson that he couldn’t help his team win the semifinal game and achieve the goal of a state championship.
But that loss hasn’t diminished what the senior quarterback and his teammates accomplished this season, winning the first 11 games and being ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA all season.
“That last game didn’t come out the way we wanted,” he said. “But I know that everybody out there gave it their all and played their hearts outs. That’s all you can do.”
On Tuesday, Nelson was named the player of the year by The Associated Press. It was the second time Nelson had earned an all-state honor from AP.
“It’s an honor,” Nelson said. “It’s a great individual award, but football is a team game, and I couldn’t have done anything without my teammates, with all the work in the offseason and building chemistry.”
This season, Nelson completed 174 of 262 passes for 2,784 yards with 35 touchdowns, breaking the single-season program records for yards and touchdown passes. He also rushed for 1,243 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“I’m excited for him,” West coach Mark Esch said. “He deserved it. From what I’ve seen, he was the best football player in Minnesota this season.”
In his four-year career, Nelson completed 490 of 801 passes for 7,564 yards and 94 touchdowns, ranking second in state history in each category. He holds the state record of 135 touchdowns, rushing and passing, in his career.
It all started the summer before his freshman season. Esch said that Ray Teachout was going to be the starter the next season, so he gave a lot of reps to Nelson during summer camps. The extra work paid off because Nelson had to start a couple of games when Teachout was hurt, continuing the momentum of a state-championship season.