Traetow selected to Hall of Fame

CELEBRATION — Fairmont High School assistant principal Andy Traetow is honored during the Gustavus Adolphus Gusties’ homecoming football game on Oct. 6. Andy (middle) celebrates with his wife Michelle (right) and children (left to right) Norah, Emmett, Landon and Simon. (Photo courtesy of the Traetow family)

Speech time. On Oct. 6, Andy Traetow was inducted into the Gustavus Adolphus College Hall of Fame after the Gusties’ homecoming football game in St. Peter.

Traetow said being elected to the Gustavus Hall of Fame in his first opportunity was humbling, but he wanted to make sure people knew he didn’t succeed on the field on his own.

“Tom Brown, who is the current athletic director at Gustavus, he and I were really close when we were there. He gave me a call in late August and told me that to be eligible for the Gustavus Athletic Hall of Fame you have to be 15 years removed, so this was the first opportunity for me to be fortunate enough to receive that honor. Getting the call left me speechless for a little while. It just, the flood of emotions that come back from everything that I put into my experience at Gustavus, it was surreal. Then, to soon after that learn that six of the eight of us being inducted were all from the class of (2003), the meaning that had in and of itself. I got to be inducted with one of my teammates, which doesn’t happen a lot, that was special.

“One of the things I included in my acceptance speech is, I truly feel blessed for my successes as an athlete, but I realize that I wasn’t able to do that without the help of a lot of great people around me and from my family to my coaches and teammates. Without my teammates, there would have been no yards gained, no records broken, none of those successes would have been there without the guidance of my coaches and the camaraderie with my teammates.

“I feel grateful to have had the experience I’ve had. I feel blessed to — in that time of my life — have had the talents I had to share on the football field. I’m truly honored and humbled by the experience. To receive that honor was a special moment for myself and my family.”

He said he got to spend the Friday before the homecoming game talking with the Gustavus football team and watching practice. Traetow said he usually goes back for homecoming every year, but having the opportunity to share his story with the team and talk about the impact Gustavus had on his life was important for him.

“Gustavus did an amazing job with it,” Traetow said. “That experience was about as perfect a day as it could be. They really took care of us and made us feel special and welcome back on campus.”

Traetow said getting the call saying he was going to be in the hall of fame was amazing.

“You feel like that’s where you grew into the person that propelled you to where you’re at today,” Traetow said. “That’s where my wife and I met, after us we both had several family members who went to Gustavus after I did, including my sister. All of that was a part of it. The family aspect, not just my family, but the family I built at Gustavus. I was extremely close to my head coach, about 10 minutes after I got the call letting me know, he called me and that meant a lot, too. It was a special moment to get that call and to be able to go back for the hall of fame ceremony.”

Traetow said football has always been in his life because his dad coached in Mankato; Madison, S.D.; and Mitchell, S.D.

“In my early years, my family moved with (my dad) as his coaching assignments changed,” Traetow said. “My dad is originally from Welcome, so his siblings and my grandparents are still in the area, that’s in essence why we moved back to the area. My interest in football, that’s been my whole life. I grew up around it.”

Traetow graduated from Jackson County Central High School in 1999, two years after Jackson and Lakeview high schools consolidated. Traetow spent his freshman and sophomore years of high school playing defensive back and quarterback for Jackson, then switched to running back after the teams combined.

He said neither team had a history of success, but the combination started on a high note.

“We consolidated with Lakefield at the time and really grew a lot of amazing connections and friendships with teammates,” Traetow said. “There were two teams that went from, Jackson, we were 2-7 the year before, and Heron Lake-Okabena-Lakefield I believe was either 0-8 or 1-7 and we turned that into a team that went 13-1 and lost the state title game. Those memories, that community that we helped build through the success of the activities, not just football but all the others, too, starting that school year was amazing. Bringing those communities together, two different groups of young men in a high school setting coming together to play. Those are some of the greatest memories.”

Traetow said he was one of 11 players the season he graduated to go on to play college football.

He said the amount of players who continued their careers after high school is a testament to the hard work and dedication the team had.

A childhood on football busses, being a ball boy and scheduling time to be around a team is a good way to start a life in football. Traetow said he would spend as much time as he could with his dad and his dad’s teams when he was young, which led to him wanting to play college football through his life. He said it showed him that he wanted to center his life around football and teaching.

Traetow began his college career at South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., but transferred to Gustavus after one semester because of reasons both academic and athletic.

“Being that close to home was great,” Traetow said. “Every Saturday, my extended family would show up to the Gustavus football game, home or away and it was not uncommon for me to have 20-plus family members at every game. That’s a memory I will cherish as much as anything else, that love and support I had along the way. Those are memories you can’t replace, it was such a meaningful part of my experience at Gustavus.”

Traetow graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 2003 with a degree in elementary education. During his three-year career, Traetow racked up totals that place him in the top six in Gustavus history in yards in a season (1,233), yards in a game (252), career yards (2,791), career touchdowns (28), career yards per carry (5.6) and career rushing attempts (501).

Traetow ended his college career with 4,901 all-purpose yards and earned All-America honors and Academic All-America honors his senior season.

After college, Traetow joined the Sioux Falls Storm of the indoor football league and continued his career.

After two years with the Storm and four years teaching in the Jackson County school district, Andy joined his wife, Michelle, teaching at Fairmont and joined Mat Mahoney’s newly-formed football coaching staff in 2007. Traetow said he came in without a defined position in the staff, but he and Michelle had always had a goal to work together and he had respect for Mahoney from competing against each other.

“We were married right out of college, our goal was to someday be in the same school district,” Traetow said. “I loved my time at Jackson County Central, there’s great, tremendous people there, but the opportunity for both of us to be here was hard to pass up and coach Mahoney going into his first year as a coach here, he and I are the same age and competed against each other in high school. Not in football by chance, but in basketball. We knew of each other a little bit and the camaraderie that we were able to build really quick was something special with not only him, but the other coaches as well that were all ready on the staff. To be able to move into a system with that level of comfort and people that you know will be focused on the kids and getting the most out of them both as athletes and as people is a great fit.

“When I was hired in Fairmont, I was just excited to be here and to be a part of the Fairmont football tradition. We were fortunate in my time on the sidelines here, I like to say we have had a lot of great athletes who made us look good as coaches. It really comes down to them and the product they put out on the football field. We’re fortunate, we have great kids here.”

Traetow was part of Mahoney’s staff from 2007-13, but left to be an administrator. He said the demands on a school administrator can make coaching challenging because of inconsistencies in one’s schedule.

The timing worked for Traetow though, for his family continued to grow.

“Time demands of the position of school administator are different, our family was growing, too, and that combination meant that was the move that needed to be made,” Traetow said about leaving the coaching staff. “I still miss it, don’t get me wrong. Every year when August comes around, it still holds a place in my heart. People say the further away you get, the easier it gets, but it’s been almost the opposite for me. I feel like I miss it more and more as the years go by.”

Traetow said he stays connected to football through his children as they start to play and through his friendships with Mahoney and others on the coaching staff.

“It leaves an empty place,” Traetow said about no longer being directly connected to a football team. “I’ve been blessed to fill that with my children who are starting to play the game. We want our kids to pursue things they’re passionate about, our two oldest boys are of age to be playing and have taken an interest in it, it’s been great, but when you step away it leaves, I felt empty. I still have connections with coach Mahoney and coach Johnson and now coach (Brian) Wille, who happens to be my cousin, to have those connections and be able to engage in those conversations has helped. And of course our student athletes here, to see them grow most importantly as people, but also as members of our teams and activities is another way to step back and look at it. To watch them have success, we have a lot to be proud of here in Fairmont.”