MANKATO — If it wasn’t for the occasional ski trip to Montana, Dana Matthews would have needed to buy an entirely new wardrobe for his trip to Mankato.
Instead, the Destin, Fla., resident dug deep into his closet to find his ski outfit and the furry brown thing on top of his head that he described as his Grizzly Adams hat. He knew spending the afternoon outside at Blakeslee Stadium was going to be a lot different than hanging out at his home near the tip of the Florida panhandle.
“I knew sitting outside on these cold steel benches wasn’t going to be fun,” Matthews said.
He had just finished leading cheers for his son Chas’ Valdosta State University football team as the team took the field Saturday. Valdosta was in town to play the undefeated Minnesota State University Mavericks in a game that would decide who would travel to Alabama next week for the NCAA Division II championship game.
Judging from his hat, Matthews could have been exaggerating a bit while he described what his son’s team did to prepare for playing in temperatures in the 30s. Valdosta, Ga., is near the Florida border. Except for a 300-pound tackle from way up north in Wichita, Kan., and a darn good quarterback from Cashion, Okla., every player on the team is from Georgia, Alabama or Louisiana.
“It was 78 degrees last Saturday when we were playing ball,” Matthews said. “Fifty degrees is like really, really cold for us. The coaches had them taking ice baths after every practice to get ready. They all have heat packs in their shoes.”
John Swensen, a longtime Mavericks fan, noticed the Valdosta team had to borrow their big sideline jackets from Grinnell College, a team with similar colors in Iowa. He also noticed the team brought a uniformed and armed Georgia state trooper with them. They take football seriously down south and its not uncommon for even high school football coaches to have police escorts, said Debi Frocks, Valdosta team secretary and “den mother.”