Thole: Former state preps pave coaching path to NFL

Former Minnesota prep Gus Bradley was recently hired as an NFL head coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Former Minnesota prep Gus Bradley was recently hired as an NFL head coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Minnesota high school football will have two of its alumni serving as head coaches in the National Football League during the upcoming season.

Marc Trestman, who played at St. Louis Park and Paul Casey “Gus” Bradley, who prepped at Zumbrota, will coach the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively.

Trestman was a quarterback at St. Louis Park under coach Bob Roy — a former Ponies three-sport standout and NDSU Bison and SCVAA Hall of Famer. Trestman played football at Minnesota for a couple of years before transferring to Minnesota State-Moorhead. Trestman became a coaching nomad with stops as a quarterbacks coach at the U of Miami, two stints with the Vikings and had coached for eight different teams in the NFL.

The University of Minnesota passed over Trestman a couple of times so he looked for greener pastures north of the border when he landed in Montreal in the Canadian Football League in 2008. He spent the past five years there and won a pair of Grey Cup titles.

Those Grey Cup victories are like Super Bowls to the CFL bunch.

Trestman looked good to Chicago because of his extensive background coaching quarterbacks. I think the Bears were looking for someone who could get max results from Jay Cutler.

I will be pulling for Trestman because of my 48-year friendship with Bayport’s Bob Roy, a fellow NDSU Bison and the fact that Trestman never lost sight of his dream of being a head coach in the NFL.

Gus Bradley steered a slightly different course in pursuit of his job in the NFL. He was a standout at Zumbrota High School for good pal Ken Belanger and landed a scholarship to dear old NDSU. Ponies all-metro players Eric Thole and Tony Grilz were also recruited to the Bison and were teammates with Bradley.

Grilz was his roommate for three years and I got to know Gus when he visited our house.

Bradley was  free safety and punter for the Bison and was a four-time Academic All-NCC selection. The Bison won two national titles during those years and Gus stayed around as a grad assistant at NDSU before signing on as an assistant at Fort Lewis College.

NDSU beckoned his return and he coached at the Fargo school under head coaches Bob Babich and Craig Bohl (2-1 vs. the Gophers).

Bradley later made it to the NFL and got his big break when Pete Carroll brought him into his fold with the Seattle Seahawks.

I think it is a big deal when a pair of coaches in the big leagues played their high school football in the land of lakes — Bradley at Zumbrota under Belanger and Trestman under former Pony Roy at St. Louis Park.

Speaking of our pal Roy, he coached former Gophers All-American defensive end Bob Stein at St. Louis Park. Stein, who was twice an All-Big Ten selection, led the Gophers to a share of the 1967 Big Ten title. Stein is on the ballot for the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame.

Yes, I voted for Stein, and I will be talking to Roy later this week. I’ve only met Trestman, but Bradley I’ve talked to on several occasions and believe he is a stand-up guy.

I hope both these men have great careers because they have worked hard to get to the big show.

In the huddle

I couldn’t help but notice in this newspaper last month that former Ponies Jon Whitcomb ’83 and Brian Gunderson ’90 coached a youth hockey team successfully. Gunderson had first-hand experience as he played hockey for coach Andre Beaulieu, but the same can’t be said for Whitcomb. I remember both guys very well as they were delightful football players in the 1980s. Whitcomb was a starting offensive tackle on our

Former Ponies trainer Gene “Taco” Bealka, left, and Dr. Bob Meisterling, right, shown tending to Adam Lopez in the 1989 Prep Bowl, always provided first-rate care to Stillwater athletes.

Former Ponies trainer Gene “Taco” Bealka, left, and Dr. Bob Meisterling, right, shown tending to Adam Lopez in the 1989 Prep Bowl, always provided first-rate care to Stillwater athletes.

1982 state championship team (11-1) while Gundy was a wide receiver until our section championship game in 1989 when all-conference quarterback Jeff Zignego was injured in the second series and was lost for the rest of the season. Gunderson took over for Ziggy as eight inches of snow — with more on the way — greeted him on the neutral turf at White Bear. We whipped Park 48-0 for the section title and followed with state victories over Moorhead (27-7) and Osseo (38-21) before losing to Burnsville 21-7 in the Prep Bowl to finish 10-4 in a season I’ll never forget…. Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson came ever so close to breaking the NFL rushing record. He accomplished this after coming back from knee reconstruction surgery. No. 28 underwent hernia surgery last month, which means he will shatter all rushing records this year. If a major knee recon led to his magic season last fall, a sports hernia will add more to his yardage total next fall…. The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays effective Aug. 1. Maybe the football teams at Illinois, Moorhead State and Hamline won’t be mailing it in next season…. When the smoke clears, it’s all about leadership, excellence and performance…. Seeing a picture from the 1989 Prep Bowl that showed the late, great SAHS trainer GeneTacoBealka and Dr. Bob Meisterling made me again reflect on what a top-notch medical crew we’ve had at Stillwater. Bealka will be inducted into the Humboldt High

Samantha Gunning, right, the daughter of former Ponies and NDSU standout Kurt Gunning recently broke six Northern State University swimming records over the course of 3 1/2 days.

Samantha Gunning, right, the daughter of former Ponies and NDSU standout Kurt Gunning recently broke six Northern State University swimming records over the course of 3 1/2 days.

School Hall of Fame as the first recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award on April 9 at the Prom Center…. Samantha Gunning, daughter of former Ponies and NDSU football star Kurt Gunning ’87 and his lovely wife Vanessa, swam 11 times in 3 1/2 days while breaking six Northern State University records and hitting 10 personal bests. Kurt has to be very proud, proving again that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The elder Gunning was inducted into the SCVAA Hall of Fame in 2010. Kurt and his family reside in Fargo…. Sorry to see the passing of Stillwater’s Lorene Bonine, a great mom and Big Red supporter, last week at the age of 51…. Together we build character, courage and loyalty…. finis

Today’s rumination #610

More truth is found in digging for facts than jumping to conclusions.

• • • •

George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: georgethole@gmail.com

up arrow