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Superior QB returns to field at full strength

Nick Mehlum

Superior football coach Bob DeMeyer might not go for it, but his star quarterback will enter preseason practice looking to get laid out.

Or lit up, blown up or clobbered. Whatever the lingo, Nick Mehlum wants to get hit. The senior-to-be has made an Adrian Peterson-like recovery from the anterior cruciate ligament tear he suffered in the Spartans’ final game of 2013. The final hurdle, the last big obstacle in Mehlum’s path, is contact. Hence the desire to be tackled.

Just don’t get carried away, fellas.

“Just the first time, but then I’ll be back to not wanting to be hit,” Mehlum said by phone Friday. “Then they can lay off, and hopefully my guys can protect me.”

Don’t expect DeMeyer to pin a target on Mehlum’s back. In fact, it’s likely the QB will be off-limits at practice, and for good reason.

Before he tore his right ACL in an Oct. 26 playoff loss to Hortonville, Mehlum established himself as one of the area’s best signal-callers as the Spartans regained their respectability after four straight sub-.500 seasons. Strong-armed and mobile, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Mehlum threw for 1,941 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. He added 375 yards and eight TDs on the ground.

“He means a ton to our program,” said DeMeyer, whose team went 7-3 a year ago. “I think he is the best quarterback in the area. He’s a very special athlete and a very special young man.”

The scary part, at least for Superior’s opponents this fall, is DeMeyer says Mehlum is stronger now than he’s ever been. The reigning Big Rivers Conference player of the year attacked his rehab head-on after his ACL surgery Nov. 15. Initially frustrated by the inactivity that followed, Mehlum soldiered on. He did everything he could, all the while abiding by his doctor’s orders.

“That’s the kind of kid he is — he’s very disciplined,” DeMeyer said. “It was very important to him, so he did everything he could to get back.”

Like so many ACL injuries, Mehlum’s was of the fluke variety. Trying to avoid a pass-rusher in the pocket, he crumpled to the ground after trying to plant his right foot to make a cut.

No dice.

Months of agony ensued, and Mehlum was forced to miss basketball season last winter and track and field in the spring. Early in the summer, though, he was cleared to get back on the field. He hasn’t missed a beat.

Consequently, Mehlum once again is an attractive prospect to college coaches. Among others, he has talked with North Dakota, Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State-Mankato. Today, he and Superior teammate Jake Libal will participate in a senior-only camp at North Dakota State. Mehlum hopes to attract more interest, but he says his main goal is to find the right fit.

“I just want to get a chance to play in college,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter to me where it is; I just want a chance.”

A strong senior season, in which Mehlum can alleviate college coaches’ concerns over his knee, only will help.

“It won’t take long for him to prove that he’s back and he’s better than he was last year,” DeMeyer said.

That process starts Aug. 22 when the Spartans travel to play Hopkins. They christen their new turf field Aug. 29 against Merrill.

Grand Rapids to celebrate ‘Victory Day’

New Grand Rapids football coach Greg Spahn thinks everyone deserves an end zone celebration. As a result, the Thunderhawks will invite special-needs students in and around Grand Rapids for a day of football on Oct. 4.

Billed as “Victory Day,” the get-together at Grand Rapids High School will feature football drills led by the team’s coaches and players. Each participant also will have the opportunity to don a Thunderhawks jersey while scoring a touchdown and having their name announced over the public-address system.

The event, sponsored in part by Special Olympics of Itasca County, will be open to special-needs students ages 6 to 21.

Superior names new boys soccer coach

Superior named Jim Willmore its new boys soccer coach Friday.

Willmore replaces Jack Hajewski.