Children tend to dream big.
And as young people growing into adulthood, those dreams, for many, evolve with perspective developed through life experience.
However, for a select few, those youthful, grandiose aspirations come to fruition – and then some.
“It was my hope and dream to play football at a Division I level,” said Russell-Tyler-Ruthton graduate Kyle Minett, following South Dakota State University’s 2009 football game against the University of Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. “I was recruited quite a bit by the University of Minnesota, but was never officially made an offer. Going to South Dakota State (SDSU) has been a blessing, so far.”
The leading rusher (79 yards, 19 carries) in the contest, for either side that day, in the Jackrabbit’s narrow 16-13 defeat, Minett – a 2010 (Dec.) graduate – donned the Blue and Gold once more Saturday at the Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in a halftime ceremony recognizing the Jackrabbit Sports Hall of Fame – Class of 2021.
“It was very humbling when I received the call from our Athletic Director Justin Sell that I was to be included in Class of 2021,” said Minett, who took the field with five fellow SDSU greats in the class. “I figured at some point it might happen, but it’s very humbling … 11 years out (of college) and you’re so grateful. I’m grateful I was given the opportunity and put in the position to succeed with a competitive and opportunistic approach. I’m very appreciative.”
Competitive no doubt, as Minett and the R-T-R Knights claimed back-to-back Minnesota State High School League Class A basketball championships in 2003 and 2004 before stepping on the gridiron for the Jacks in 2007 and finishing his career in 2010 as the university’s second-leading rusher (4,277 yards). Minett was the featured running back for the Jacks, 2008-2010, becoming the first rusher to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons – 1,289, 1,304 and 1,208 – and helping SDSU make its first Football Championship Series appearance in 2009.
“He was a very highly recruited player in the region and we kept a close eye on him and got to know him early; and the type of program we offer fit with Kyle very well,” SDSU head football coach John Stiegelmeier said following that 2009 game against the Gophers. “Kyle is a football player. I don’t know if you put him on a track, tested him and ran him through the paces if the numbers would wow anybody, but give him the football, throw him the football, have him compete on the field, and he’ll show you he’s a tremendous football player and a tremendous part of our football team.”
Indeed; Minett capped that season with the second of three all-Minnesota Valley Football Conference honors and the first of two Football Championship Subdivision All-America squad selections. And Minett was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the FCS during his senior season. He finished his football career with 54 touchdowns, 47 rushing and seven receiving, catching 107 passes for 912 yards.
Perhaps the accolades that have served Minett most, since graduating, is his three-time selection to the Academic All-America first team.
“I received a great education at SDSU,” said Minett, son of Ruthton’s Joel and Karen Minett. “I started in engineering and ended up taking a couple economics classes – developed a strong interest in it. If you find your passion, find what you’re interested in, it’s a lot easier to be engaged in and excel in your studies. And it was important to me, because I knew I wasn’t going to play football my entire life and that I’d have to get to work. It was something I prioritized, right along with training to be a college football player.”
Never an easy juggling act, balancing academics and athletics, Minett attributes much of his ability to excel in the classroom as well as on the gridiron to his parents.
“I’ve always been incredibly competitive; my parents did a great job with me and I grew up with a great support system where they always pushed me,” said Minett, who resides in Marshall with his wife Maggie and their five children. “There was the right level of discipline in our household; they pushed me, but in the right ways. That created an incredible competitive drive in me and, whatever I did, I wanted to get the most from it. I always tried to do the right things the right way, whether that was lifting, eating, listening and learning, all the things you can control.
“Doing that and given some tremendous offensive lines in front of me, both in high school and college, puts you in great situations to do great things as a team. My competitive drive and working with like-minded people helped push me. So, that’s the approach I took.”
An approach Minett still brings to his life and his career as General Sales Manager at Kibble Equipment in Marshall, a John Deere dealer serving Minnesota, South Dakota and part of Iowa.
“It’s not making it about yourself, but making it about the group environment or, in this case, a team environment – understanding that, individually, you’re capped,” he said. “As a team, a group of people working together, the ceiling is much higher. I’ve always had that approach and I’m fortunate to be part of some great teams; now, being part of a team of sales professionals and getting the opportunity to work with people, influence and help others be successful. If you do that, it’s going to lead to success for yourself, too.”
And of the many successes Minett can reflect on as a member of the Jacks, most are of games the team played rather than specific plays where he contributed in a big way.
“We had a good run against North Dakota State during my time, beating them three of the four years, and we had some exciting and close games against the U of M and Nebraska,” he said. “I guess one play that stands out is scoring the winning touchdown against Stephen F Austin in 2008 as time expired (a 50-48 come-from-behind victory), but more than specific plays it was just big games against big opponents and the hype and environment leading up to them. I always went about it as quick reflection, maybe something learned and … on to the next play. So, honestly can’t remember a lot of runs unless I reference them with film.”
Film that might just help the next generations of area athletes conjure up their dreams.