By Chad Courrier
The Free Press
Hunter Friesen was coming to Minnesota State, then he was going to the University of Minnesota, and he ended up back at Minnesota State as a walk-on.
He watched last football season from the sidelines, practicing every day as a redshirt freshman, but he had his fun watching teammates achieve so much.
This spring, he has a chance to show why he should be in the game on Saturdays, not on the bench.
"There's definitely more of a sense of urgency now," Friesen said. "Instead of knowing you're not playing on Saturdays, you're out there fighting for a job, fighting for a scholarship."
Friesen, the former Mankato West standout, is going through his first spring practice period at Minnesota State, trying to show the coaches and his teammates that he should be one of the team's receivers. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound receiver originally committed to attend Minnesota State in February of 2012, but last summer, he accepted an offer to walk-on at the University of Minnesota and be reunited with former West teammate Philip Nelson.
After attending an orientation meeting at Minnesota, he decided that it wasn't right for him. So he returned to Minnesota State in time for the beginning of the semester but after preseason camp had wrapped up.
"(The Gophers' opportunity) just turned into a mess," Friesen said. "I didn't want to deal with it."
Hunter received all-state honors twice while at West. In his career, he made 113 receptions for 1,891 yards and 29 touchdowns. As a senior, he caught 63 passes for 1,181 yards and 21 touchdowns before suffering a broken leg in a state semifinal game.
He scored 34 touchdowns in his career, including two rushing, two on kick returns and one on an interception. He made 13 interceptions, with nine in one season. Both are school records.
Friesen was redshirted last year, running with the scout team as the Mavericks rolled through a historic season. Friesen had a chance to watch Adam Thielen, one of the most prolific receivers in program history, prepare and succeed.
"You just have to work hard," Friesen said. "You take a guy like Adam, who wasn't highly recruited out of high school, and he's going to make it big time.
"High school is pretty simple. In college, you have a lot of changes. You have to keep your head up and keep trying."
With Thielen gone, there are 74 receptions, 1,176 yards and eight touchdowns available for the new receivers. Interim coach Aaron Keen said he doesn't think one receiver will make up that void, and he's excited about the potential depth at that position.
Kyle Riggott, Keyvan Rudd, Ra'Shon Harper and Austin Rieder all made catches last season, and Keen said Friesen would rank in the next group of receivers, along with Dennis Carter, who played here in 2010 and 2011 but was not with the team last season.
"With all young kids, there's a process," Keen said. "There's new terminology and route discipline and techniques. Mentally, there's a lot for young people to figure out. But he's definitely in our plans for next season."
Friesen, who will likely be used as a slot receiver, knows it's important to catch the coaches' attention with his play-making ability and consistency. Keen said he'd like to rotate his receivers, maybe making playing time available for five or six.
"It's going to be tough," Friesen said. "There's a lot of guys battling for spots. I just have to work hard and make plays when I get the chance."