Kiel Fechtelkotter: ‘The Road to All-American’The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by award-winning Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola, which runs occasionally in The Superior Telegram.
Highway B between Hawthorne and Lake Nebagamon was once referred to as “Johnsonville.” Not after the bratwurst, but after a solid family named Johnson that settled in the area and quickly became the anchor of that community.
Over in Poplar, the Fechtelkotter family established itself as an important component of that Village. These families were leaders in, and an important part ofwork ethic, education, business and social religious facilities of their areas.
So it should be no surprise when John Fechtelkotter and Sherry Johnson were married in 1981 that their children would become successful in their own right.
Oldest daughter Jamie, now married to Pat Cook, had a successful sports career at Northwestern High School and is now a dental hygienist in Lake Nebagamon. Cody Fechtelkotter was an outstanding athlete as a track, wrestling and football star for the Tigers. Cody went on to play football in college for both North Dakota State and the University of Minnesota Duluth and is now the school psychologist at Northwestern Elementary and is married to the former Beth Aker.
It is youngest son, Kiel, that made the most recent stamp upon the family name.
Kiel was a natural athlete from the earliest age, starting with the Northwestern Wrestling Club in kindergarten. In fourth grade he led the Sonics to the Rookie Basketball Association (RBA) championship with a 31-point performance.
By the time “Fech” got to Northwestern High School, it was baseball and football that he settled into. In baseball he was an awesome infielder and hitter and became the Superior Telegram and Duluth News Tribune Player of the Year in 2006. A standout in football as well, he accepted a scholarship offer to attend UMD and play linebacker for the Bulldogs.
Fech’s career began with the perfunctory red-shirt season, a chance for players to learn the system, acclimate themselves to the academics of college, and to get stronger physically. He impressed his coaches enough at practices that year that he earned the Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year.
As a redshirt freshman he then played sparingly, waiting his turn at a linebacker post. As a sophomore, he became a regular, but in an early season game against Missouri Western sustained a neck injury that threatened his career. It turned out to be a pinched nerve and after a brief hiatus, he was back on the gridiron.
The team finished 15-0 and won the NCAA Division II national championship. Fech made a key play in the national semifinal game against the top ranked team in the country, Grand Valley State, when he sealed the victory with a game-ending interception, despite playing with a broken hand. That may have been a harbinger of things to come, because Kiel really began to excel during his junior year.
With the team making it all the way to the NCAA Division II quarterfinals before losing to Grand Valley State, Fech was named to the All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference first team as a linebacker and led the Bulldogs in tackles for losses.
The best was yet to come. With a veteran team back, UMD fans were expecting a great year last fall.
Fechtelkotter and fellow linebacker and roommate, Robbie Aurich, anchored the defense from their linebacker posts. Offensively, Isaac Odim returned as one of the all-time UMD great running backs. Other stars abounded on the team as well, such as quarterback Chase Vogler and former Cumberland Beaver Derrick Zappa, Rob Huberty, Cody Eich and Bloomer’s Forrest Clements. Superior fans were excited as well, as former Spartans Max Phillips, Joey Reichert and Chris Blake were also Bulldogs.
A midseason loss of Odim to injury tempered the enthusiasm briefly, but with seniors Brad Foss and Brian Hanson filling in admirably at running back, coach Bob Nielson’s squad built up momentum for the post season. Another NSIC crown preceded the playoff run that included an impressive 17-14 come from behind NCAA semifinal win on a very cold and windy day at Griggs field against Northwest Missouri State.
The NCAA Division II football championship is held at Florence, Ala. Better weather, great facilities and an experienced host group make it an great annual affair for the city.
In the championship game, it was another exciting football game for the Bulldogs as they came out on top with a 20-17 victory over Delta State and became the 2010 NCAA DII football champions.
Fechtelkotter had 14 tackles in the game and he and his teammates had reached the mountaintop again in his final football game.
But there is more; after the season, the Daktronics All American Football team was released and the only member of the first team from UMD was our hero, former Northwestern Tiger Kiel Fechtelkotter. He also was named to the AP Little All America first team and the D2football.com All American first team, as well as being named the NSIC Defensive Player of the Year.
These are some great accomplishments for a great player and great person, but also represented the hard work and success of not only one family tree but two family trees.
“Kiel is a great guy to have in our program and has earned all his accolades through commitment and hard work, combined with being a very talented player,” said UMD coach Bob Nielson. “Kiel showed a tremendous amount of leadership this year, which is a testament to our seniors, and is how you win championships.”
Fans will also be interested to know that Kiel got a haircut and donated his 13-inch long hair to “Locks of Love,” a program that makes wigs for cancer patients. Kiel is set to graduate Saturday with a criminology degree. The Fechtelkotter and Johnson families, as well of the entire area, are very proud of Kiel Fechtelkotter, All-American.
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