The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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January 14, 2013

West's Wills to play at Duluth

MANKATO — When Dan Wills was heading to Duluth last weekend to make an official visit at Minnesota Duluth, he had recently met with Minnesota State football coaches and thought he might be a future Mavericks' player.

But after meeting with the Minnesota Duluth coaches and seeing how excited the tight ends coach was, Wills said he decided to commit to the Bulldogs.

"I really liked the experience, and I loved the campus," Wills said. "Loved the coaches; I like the coaches at MSU, too, but I just had a feeling that I fit better there."

Wills, a senior at Mankato West, only played one season of varsity football. He made six catches for 101 yards and one touchdown, and as a defensive end, the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder made eight tackles with 34 assists, four sacks and one interception.

He suffered a serious knee injury in a playoff game against New Prague, which caused him to miss all of the basketball season. He had surgery in late December, will get rid of crutches in three weeks and will lose the knee brace in March.

"(The rehab) has been going really well," he said. "I know my knee will be fine."

Wills said that as of last summer, he thought he'd be playing college basketball somewhere, and a lot of Division III programs have contacted him. But Division II football programs became intrigued by his size and speed, despite limited football experience.

"I think with my body, football will be easier to play in college," Wills said.

Wills said he will study mechanical engineering at Minnesota Duluth, and he will redshirt next fall so he can continue to rehab his knee. He's happy that he has an opportunity to get away for college, but he's close enough for family and friends to attend games. Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State both play in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, and the Bulldogs will play at Blakeslee Stadium at least once in his four seasons.

It's been an emotional rollercoaster for Wills over the last three months, but he has enjoyed the ride.

"I never would have thought this is the way things would turn out," Wills said. "But it's been exciting. I'm really happy with how everything worked out."


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