Catching up with Mike Nentl over Labor Day weekend, he was doing what he usually does when he comes home to see his family – walking the track at the Gobblers facility, doing eight laps around so he can keep track of how far he is walking, according to the two-time Athlete of the Year.
Nentl graduated from Aitkin in 1977 and then spent four years playing football and baseball at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
He played for nationally recognized coach John Gagliardi and has fond memories.
“It was great playing for John, he taught me so much about football and life, he won his 200th game my senior year when I started every game and then went on to win another 280 games before retiring,” Nentl said. “He taught us team comraderie and to always be prepared so when it’s your turn to contribute you’ll be ready.
Nentl said one of his fondest memories is when his brother Kevin brought some Little League players down to watch Nentl play – and watching them run right onto the field.
“I had to shoo them off right away but it was great that they came down to see me,” he said. “I still stay involved in Johnnie functions and watch most of thegames.”
Mike was an outstanding high school athlete, and gave his coaches alot of credit.
“I had three great coaches, Jerry Hall, Ron Meyer and Truman Buisman,” he said. “In 1977 our basketball team won the district and lost in the region semis to Marshall ‘U’ High, a team that had won 53 straight games before playing us. They were too much for us but we were excited to make it that far.
“We lost our point guard Brad Sorenson before the district tourney but we hung in there and got as far as we could,” he added. “Coach Meyer always had us ready for our opponents, he always knew how to prepare us.
“We just were not going to lose that season. We won the Mid-State Conference as well.”
Mike has been a success since his playing days as well.
“I have worked for Kemps for 36 years, the last 32 in sales. I service Cub Stores and eight independent grocery stores in the Twin Cities,” Nentl explained. “I’ve worked with wonderful people, some of which were affected by the looting and rioting in Minneapolis so it became a little more personal for me.”
Nentl still has family in Aitkin – his mom RoseAnn and brother Keith along with siblings Mary, Joyce and Ann around the state. He lost his brother Kevin, better known as “Pork” in the Aitkin area, in 1989. He offered some advice for young athletes as they make their way through high school.
“Always be prepared, put yourself in a position to win, enjoy your teammates and your coaches and finally make alot of memories, high school only happens once in your life,” he said.