A couple years back, the local sports fans were abuzz over the recruiting of Mankato West quarterback Philip Nelson.
Was he good enough to play big-time football? Big Ten? University of Minnesota?
Rightfully so, the recruiting of Nelson garnered a lot of attention as the best quarterback in this town’s history made his college choice, which turned out to be the Gophers. There were hundreds of questions, such as “Is he good enough to play at that level?”
On Wednesday, West senior Danielle Nack signed a letter of intent to continue her swimming career with the Gophers. That decision, and the process of whittling down big-time offers, drew far less attention around the community.
Which is unfortunate.
While Nelson will be known for at least one more year as the best quarterback to play high-school football in Mankato, Nack is already one of the best swimmers in this recruiting class in the country. She’s better at what she does than any other high-school athlete this town has ever produced, in any sport.
Mankato East grad Craig Dahl is in the sixth season of playing safety in the NFL, which makes him one of 125-150 of elite-level players at his position.
Nack swam in the Olympic Trials last summer, finishing 46th in the 100-meter butterfly.
She is ranked 27th in the country in this class, according to CollegeSwimming.com, and ninth by swimswam.com, both of which likely knows more about that sport than anyone around here. Both sites call her the No. 1 butterfly specialist in the senior class.
Nack turned down Auburn, Tennessee and Southern California to sign with Minnesota. It might be a long time before another Mankato athlete gets recruited by the Southeastern Conference in anything.
Next week, Nack’s high-school career ends at the state meet, and given her history, she’ll likely go out with gold medals and state records. She is an athlete who seems to perform better when the stakes are the highest.
With Nack, Nelson and Molly Lohman, who signed with the Gophers’ volleyball program on Wednesday, West has become quite the feeder program for Minnesota.
In the next year, junior quarterback Ryan Schlichte will likely become the next Scarlets’ athlete to draw big-time recruiters, possibly the Gophers. And that will create plenty of buzz around town. People have already begun to ask about his ability, if he can be a Division I quarterback.
Junior Chantal Nack, Danielle’s sister, seems like a recruitable athlete in swimming, too.
But it will be a long time until this community sees another athlete that’s as good in his or her sport as Danielle Nack is at swimming. It would be no surprise if she succeeds at Minnesota, and it would be pretty cool to see her qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Yet, not one person has asked if Nack is good enough to be a Division I or Olympic swimmer.
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at email@example.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.