BEA’s Oppedal preferred walk-on at Minnesota

COMMITTED TO THE GOPHERS — Blue Earth Area offensive tackle Trevor Oppedal (63) looks on as Fairmont linebacker Cory Lyons (7) trips up Buc running back Chris Sanders after a gain during the teams’ 2016 prep football season-opener at Wilson Field in Blue Earth. Oppedal will be a preferred walk-on for the University of Minnesota Gophers football program next fall. (Photo by Leanna Mahoney)

BLUE EARTH — Like many Minnesotans, Trevor Oppedal has grown up a fan of the University of Minnesota. Like most Minnesota prep football players, the Blue Earth Area Buc senior had dreams of playing for the Gophers.

But unlike a good portion of those players, Oppedal actually will have that opportunity. On July 31, Oppedal sent a tweet out, announcing his commitment to head coach P.J. Fleck and the Gophers football program.

“I am honored and excited to announce my decision to further my education and football career at the University of Minnesota!!!” Oppedal tweeted. “Thank you Coach Fleck and Coach (Matt) Simon for this amazing opportunity #RTB”

Oppedal, who is leaning toward being an engineering major, will be a preferred walk-on and play at the offensive tackle position. He said being a preferred walk-on “makes me want to work harder” in order to earn a scholarship as a collegiate student-athlete.

Blue Earth Area head coach Randy Kuechenmeister has no doubts about his work ethic.

“He’s going to be a big, strong kid who’s able to move people and who will work extremely hard,” Kuechenmeister said about Oppedal, who is 6-foot-7.

Ironically, Oppedal had his sights partially set on a different program prior to the Gophers’ offer.

“I had posted something on Twitter about getting an offer from (the University of) North Dakota,” he said. “It was a day after, and I think they (Minnesota) wanted me to come to camp, so I told North Dakota that I wanted to wait. I went down there and they told me what they wanted.”

Oppedal also had offers from Southwest Minnesota State University and St. Cloud State University in addition to North Dakota State University, but when your dream school knocks, you answer.

“It’s kind of hard to turn down an offer from somewhere where you’ve been dreaming of playing,” Oppedal said. “I think it’s exciting because not a lot of people get to play at that high of a level, especially around here.”

It also helps that the color scheme from high school to college won’t change. On Monday, Oppedal donned a maroon-and-gold Blue Earth Area High School T-shirt with a similarly-colored hat featuring a gold ‘M’ on the front.

Minnesota’s football program is not completely unaware of the Blue Earth Area football program and its players. Former Buc prep standout Jonah Pirsig signed on to play for the Gophers in 2013. While there, Pirsig started 29 games in 42 appearances during his four-year career, and was named Minnesota’s Offensive Lineman of the Year and earned all-Big Ten Honorable Mention during his final year. Pirsig graduated in May with an elementary education degree.

“For our program, it’s nice because it shows kids that there are opportunities out there if you work hard and you stick with it,” Kuechenmeister said about having another Buc-turned-Gopher football player. “I think for Trevor, it’s a fantastic opportunity to go somewhere you’ve always thought about trying to play and getting that opportunity.”

Pirsig, who signed with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent in May, helped Oppedal in the decision-making process.

“I talked to him (Pirsig) about what I should do, and he told me to try it out,” Oppedal said.

But before heading to the Twin Cities in 2018, Oppedal has plenty of potential to tap into going into his senior year of high school.

“I think he’s grown by leaps and bounds. He’s getting better all the time, just like I think he’ll be better by the end of the year and he’ll be better next year,” Kuechenmeister said. “He’s just starting to come into his own and become the player that he can be.”