Just a week ago, Isaac Kolstad was a recent college graduate, ready to embark on his career after being a standout linebacker on the highly successful Minnesota State football team.
Philip Nelson was trying to revive his college football career at Rutgers, willing to take next season off after transferring from the University of Minnesota, where a once-promising start had gotten off the tracks.
Now, Kolstad is fighting for his life, and Nelson for his freedom, the result of a few seconds of confrontation that appears to be a tragic mix of alcohol, testosterone and bad timing.
Kolstad and Nelson were both good kids, shining examples to youngsters at Mankato East and Mankato West, and were becoming adults who would reap the benefits of talent and hard work.
Kolstad was a three-sport standout for the Cougars who left town for the dream of playing Division I football at North Dakota State.
Though things didn’t work out at Fargo, Kolstad returned to have three stellar seasons at Minnesota State, playing linebacker and being a key piece of one of the best defenses in Division II. He was married and had a daughter, and with a college degree in hand, his future seemed bright.
Nelson could have been a standout in two sports at West, but a serious knee injury when he was younger ended his basketball days. But he put more focus on football, becoming the most prolific quarterback in Scarlets’ history.
He was highly recruited and was lauded statewide when he decided to play for the Gophers. He was pushed into the starting quarterback position too early with the Gophers, playing a half-season as a true freshman, and he continued to play inconsistently last season. The transfer to Rutgers seemed to be a fresh start, where his future seemed to be getting brighter.