Eight Players Get Preferred Walk-ons Offers

Bennett Rustad is a Gopher preferred walk-on

Eight players have signed acceptance of admission letters to become preferred walk-ons for Minnesota. These players had to be accepted by the University and will be announced along with the rest of the Gopher football class for 2009. There are several other players who could end up as potential walk-ons.

The eight players are outside linebacker Joey Balthazor of Hartland (WI) Arrowhead, cornerback Lucas Duppler from Appleton (WI) North, defensive end Kyle Dykstra of Princeton (MN) High, center Zach Mottla, strong safety John Onwualu and fullback Willie Schneider from St. Paul (MN) Cretin-Derham Hall, wide receiver Sahr Ngekia of Richfield (MN) Academy of Holy Angels and guard Bennett Rustad from Plymouth (MN) Wayzata.

Potential walk-ons also include safety Kyle Risinger of Minnetonka (MN) High, offensive tackle Phil Norman from Duluth (MN) East and linebacker Mike Henry of Mahtomedi (MN) High.

Risinger is a two-sport standout for the Skippers who was named second team all-metro by Star Tribune. He is a hard hitter who had received interest from Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Buffalo, North Dakota State and William & Mary. Risinger attended the Northern Illinois game versus Central Michigan, a Western Michigan game and traveled to William & Mary. He received a scholarship offer from Winona State.

Norman is a 4.0 student who has been accepted into the Carlson School of Management and ranks #1 in his class. Norman helped lead the Greyhounds to a 10-1 mark, losing to Orono in the state quarterfinals. However, he is considering just being a student at Minnesota, according to Duluth East head coach Joe Hietala.

"I know that he has been accepted there and that that is what he wants to do for his schooling," he said. "But as far as playing for the U, I don't know what he has decided yet. I sure think that he could play there if he decides he wants to play. He definitely has the ability. He is a quality football player and he is huge. He could play there if he puts his mind to it and wants to do it."

Norman, a three-year starter, received recruiting looks from Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State, Minnesota State Mankato and Harvard, a school he was leaning toward at one time, according to Hietala.

"He is a great kid all the way around," he said. "He is as smart as they come as far as picking up schemes and understanding what different defenses are trying to do to an offense. He can just look it over and he picks it up and makes an adjustment. He did the adjustments for our whole line. He was able to understand quick enough and communicate that to his teammates on the line. They were a pretty special group of linemen this year.

"I'm really hoping that Phil decides that he wants to play," he said. "I'd love to see it. Of all the players that we have had come through in all the years, he is probably the one that has the best potential to be successful at that level."

Henry helped lead the Zephyrs to the state quarterfinals, losing to Northfield 21-13. They finished 5-7, but were forced to forfeit five games. Henry finished with 111 tackles (a team-high), 35 solo and 76 assists with 5.5 tackles for loss and one interception. He was named Associated Press All-State honorable mention.

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