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St. Cloud Orthopedics feature: Syverson back on the soccer field for SJU this spring

By Frank Rajkowski, SJU Writer/Video Producer

COLLEGEVILLE, MN – Aaron Syverson says he’s not quite back to 100%.

But the Saint John’s University quarterback is close enough to be back on the field with the Johnnies, who started spring training this week.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Minnetonka grad spent two seasons at Colorado State Division I before transferring to SJU before the start of the second half of the 2020-21 school year.

His play through a long stretch of spring training a year ago, and again in preseason last fall, landed him the starting job. And he settled in quickly, throwing for 1,768 yards and 17 touchdowns while leading his team to a 7-0 start.

But it all came to an abrupt end when he suffered a broken leg in a 37-7 win over Gustavus Adolphus on October 23. Chris Backes skillfully made it the rest of the way as the Johnnies won the MIAC title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs where they lost 31-28 to Linfield (Oregon), ending their season with a record of 11-1.

Now, however, Syverson is ready to pick up where he left off.

“I feel pretty good,” he said earlier this week. “I don’t know yet if I’m running as well as I would like. I would say I’m probably around 95%. But I can get back to training and that’s a good thing.” thing.”

SJU is preparing for a trip to Canada to face the Winnipeg Rifles of the Canadian Junior Football League. The CJFL is made up of players between the ages of 17 and 22, a number of whom will play in the Canadian Football League (CFL). The game – which is scheduled for noon on May 7 at IG Field, home of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers – was originally scheduled for 2020 but had to be postponed due to COVID-19.

Combined with the spring workouts already authorized by MIAC rules, the additional NCAA-authorized workouts to prepare for travel means SJU could hold a total of 31 workouts this spring.

But the head coach Gary Fasching ’81 said his team would only use 20 – including 10 with all team members (the bottom four with shoulder pads allowed) and another 10 (all with shoulder pads) for those traveling to Winnipeg.

“Training will give us a good chance to take a look at some guys who we think might have a shot at the starting spots next season,” Fasching said. “Guys might not win those positions in the spring, but they can definitely get into a pretty good position in the fall.”

This is the third time the Fasching team will make a trip to Canada, having traveled to Regina, Saskatchewan in 2013 and 2016. But unlike those years, or during the spring training period prolonged that resulted from COVID-19 a year ago, the Johnnies not play a spring game.

The team will hold a scrimmage on April 24.

“The most important thing is just having the chance to develop a connection with everyone,” said Ethan Stark, a safety return starter. “Especially with some of the new players coming in.”

“I don’t know what to expect outside of the game (in Winnipeg), but having extra practices helps a lot,” Syverson added. “Especially when it comes to filling some of the vacancies we have.”

Indeed, on offense alone, SJU must replace the All-American wide receiver Ravi Alstonlast season’s MIAC Most Valuable Player, who elected to use a final year of athlete eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the impact of COVID-19 at FCS Montana State.

SJU is also a graduate of the All-American Center Nick Neumanplus several other All-MIAC first-team offensive picks in tackle Tyler Johnsonwide receiver Matt Mohr and run back Henry Trostwho carried the ball for 796 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2021.

But the main contributors return to the All-American tight end Alex Larsonwho caught eight touchdown passes last season, and wide receiver Jimmy Buck, who caught seven in his first season with the team after transferring from the University of Minnesota.

“We definitely have some holes to fill,” Syverson said. “But we also have a lot of returning guys who did pretty well for us last season and now have the chance to play even bigger roles.”

Syverson said he’s actually been able to run the ball with his receivers much of this winter.

“I’ve been able to do 7v7 with the guys on our own since we came back (to school) in January,” he said. “Once I felt good enough to kick the ball, it made me feel a lot better about coming out here and training this spring.”

Syverson said it was different going into spring training as an established starter.

“Last year I was the new guy and just wanted to learn the ropes and not step on anyone’s toes,” he said. “This year, I know I have to play more of a leadership role.

“My goal is just to do what I can to help us build on the success we had last fall. We have a lot of great returning players and we have the potential to do some really big things.”

• Fasching said not everyone will be going to Canada. Some players are having scheduling conflicts with spring sports while others have been caught up in delays in the passport process and may not get one in time. In all, he expects around 85 players to make the trip.

• Two transfers are training with the team this spring: tight end Trey Steinbach is a 2020 graduate of Marshall High School (Minn.) whose father played football at SJU. He spent the 2020-2021 school year on the FCS power North Dakota State roster. Defensive back Noah Chase, a graduate of Lutheran High School in Orange County, California, played in Kenyon, Ohio as a freshman last fall.

• During the game with the Rifles, the Canadian rules will be in place when Winnipeg is on offense, which means that 12 players will be on the field and all offensive players in the backfield, except for the quarterback, can be in motion before the snap. When the Johnnies are on offense, American rules will be in place.

“I didn’t know much about Canadian football before that,” said Stark, whose team will likely employ an additional defensive back as the 12th player. “So it will be a learning experience.”

• Fasching and fellow SJU graduate Bubba Sullivan ’89, a former longtime Northfield High School (Minnesota) head coach, will be inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame at a banquet on Saturday 2 April at the Doubletree Hotel in Minneapolis.

“I look forward to the banquet and I share the honor with my family and my coaches,” said Fasching, who reports that he feels pretty close to being back to normal after a serious battle with COVID that has taken him down. left hospitalized for more than a week at the end of the football season last fall.

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