It's not rare for a Division III player to show up on a National Football League roster. What is unusual is when one school turns out two NFL players in the same season.
Wheaton (Ill.) College can claim that in 2010 with Andy Studebaker of the Kansas City Chiefs and Pete Ittersagen of the Tennessee Titans. The two even played against each other in a late December game.
It might be the first time in 20-plus years (non-strike seasons) that one Division III institution had two alums on active NFL rosters.
It's believed that the last time it happened, in the late 1980s, it involved two Tommies -- WR Jim Gustafson played four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, and DB-KR Neal Guggemos played three seasons with the Vikings and New York Giants .
Gustafson played four seasons with the Vikings, and in 58 games had 38 catches for 491 yards and five touchdowns. Guggemos had one interception and six fumble recoveries in 27 career games . Guggemos still shares the MIAC career interception record with 25. Both players also were football and track and field All-Americans.
St. Thomas football actually had two players active in the NFL in both 1924 and 1952. Center John Madigan and QB-P Wilfred Houle played together in 1924 with the Minneapolis Marines. In 1952, Cigar Bowl alums Popcorn Brandt (RB, Pittsburgh Steelers) and Jack Salscheider (OT, Los Angeles Rams) were in the league.
Wheaton SID Brett Marhanka queried all Division III schools and compiled this list of Division III institutions with two players on NFL rosters sicne 1970:
--1972-73/Amherst: Doug Swift ’70 (Dolphins) & Jean Fugett ’72 (Cowboys)
--1974/St. Norbert: Larry Krause ‘70 (Packers) & Ted Fritsch, Jr. ‘72 (Falcons)
--1974-75/Amherst: Doug Swift ’70 (Dolphins); Jean Fugett ’72 (Cowboys) & Freddie Scott ’74 (Colts)
--1975-87/Widener: Joe Fields (Jets) & Billy “White Shoes” Johnson (Oilers, 74-80) and Falcons (82-87)
--1976-77/Amherst: Jean Fugett ’72 (Redskins) & Freddie Scott ’74 (Colts)
--1978-89/Amherst: Jean Fugett ’72 (Redskins); Freddie Scott ’74 (Lions) & Sean Clancy ’78 (Dolphins)
--1986-88/St. Thomas: Jim Gustafson (Vikings) & Neal Guggemos (Vikings, 86-87) and Giants (88)
--2010/Wheaton 2010: Andy Studebaker ‘08 (Chiefs) & Pete Ittersagen ‘08 (Titans)
Tommie All-American Fritz Waldvogel, who stands 5-foot-9 on a bad hair day, isn’t the first horizontally challenged player to flourish with the help of St. Thomas football coach Glenn Caruso.
The Tommies’ third-year head coach also played a role in the development of Detroit's Stefan Logan, who’s coming into his own as a top-flight NFL kickoff- and punt-return man.
The 5-foot-6 Logan thrived at South Dakota when Caruso was the offensive coordinator. He went on to break the Coyotes’ school career records for rushing and all-purpose yards, and as a senior in 2006 was a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy as Division II Player of the Year.
Logan signed a free-agent deal for minicamp in 2007 with the New York Giants and that fall had a six-week stint on the Miami Dolphins' practice squad. He played the 2008 season with the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League, where he scored three TDs and compiled 1,366 rushing/receiving yards.
After a strong preseason camp, Logan made the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009 as a 28-year-old rookie free agent. He went on to break the team record for season return yards (1,466), including an 83-yard runback in the regular season, and ranked third in the NFL in return yards and KO return average. He also returned a punt for a TD in a preseason game.
He was released last September on the final cutdown day, but was immediately signed by Detroit. Logan tied a Lions’ record with a 105-yard kickoff return in October vs. St. Louis -- his first NFL touchdown and the league’s longest play of the 2010 regular season. He also had a 71-yard punt return this fall. His 1,448 kickoff yards were fourth most in the NFL, and his 26.8 yards per return ranked third in the league. He also averaged 12.1 yards in punt returns.
Few NFL players have a more unusual resume than Logan’s. He played just one season of football, as a junior, at Miami’s Jackson High School. He took off five years before getting an invite to tryout at South Dakota as a walk on.
"Stefan was an absolute blessing for us at South Dakota," said Caruso, who coached in Vermillion in 2004 and 2005. "He came in as a walk-on with the previous staff, and by the time we got there at the end of his freshman year, it was abundantly clear that this was a very special player.”
In Caruso’s final season at USD in 2005, Logan set an NCAA record with 184 rushing yards in one quarter. He also had a 90-yard touchdown run and a 90-yard TD catch that season.
“He's a guy that can make you look like a really good coach really quickly,” Caruso said. “There were times that I can remember calling some pretty average plays that ended up with him running clear through the back of the end zone.
“What I enjoyed the most about coaching Stefan was that he was harder on himself than I ever could have been, and looking back, my daily expectations for him were so high that they were probably irrational at times, and he just kept meeting and exceeding them. As we see time and time again, his success is a direct correlation of his extreme mental toughness and work ethic, he never, never took his God-given talents for granted; as amazing as his legs are, his biggest attribute, without question, is his will.”
Even with his 5-foot-6, 185-pound frame, the Lions like Logan’s athleticism and his overall play on special teams. He recovered two fumbles in one game, and the play after his 105-yard TD, he assisted on the tackle on the ensuing kickoff.
A recent story by John Niyo of the Detroit News notes that Logan had some unusual jobs after high school. While waiting for a chance to play college football, Logan bagged groceries, packed radios in a Motorola factory, then had a job more fit for a punter than a punt returner. He literally worked in the “coffin corner” as a mortician with his father, who prepared cadavers for research at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.
“"I mean, I've seen it all,” Logan told Niyo. “All kinds of stuff. It was crazy. … It was kind of hard to say, 'Hey, let's go grab lunch' after that."
Logan’s father, Michael, is battling kidney failure and is on dialysis three days a week, but was able to travel to Detroit to see his son’s 105-yard kick return. After the game, Stefan gave the game ball to his dad.
He explained to Niyo that his road hasn’t been easy but has been satisfying. “Me going through what I've been through to make it to the NFL, it's been tough,” Logan said. “But knowing what I know, I'll tell anybody, 'Don't give up. Have faith and believe in yourself and you can get it done.' You'll stumble along the way, but you'll be fine. That's just a part of life."
Yes, 2010 was a tough calendar year to be a Minnesota Vikings fan. Since the fourth quarter of last January’s NFC Championship Game loss in New Orleans, Purple faithful had to endure an errant Favre toss, a lost OT coin toss, a recycled Moss, a fired boss, and a Dome roof that was declared a total loss.
The Vikings did something else last done in 1991 by an NFL out-of-town team -– they lost two games in one season in Detroit, joining the 1991 Cowboys (who lost in both the regular season and the playoffs).
Sunday might have been the first time an NFL head coach threw Gatorade on his players, except when the game ended the Vikings didn't have a permanent coach.
A few statistics explain Minnesota’s change of fortunes from 2009 to 2010. The 2009 Vikings ranked first in the NFL in fewest interceptions with seven, but ranked last in 2010 with 26. Brett Favre’s QB rating led the league in 2009 but ranked 29th out of 31 in 2010. The Vikes were ranked third in the NFL in 2009 in third-down conversions (think Chester Taylor) but slipped to 24th in that category in 2010. In scoring, the 2009 Vikes were second but the 2010 Vikings ranked 29th. In sacks, Minnesota fell from first in 2009 to 20th in 2010. In forced fumbles, the Vikes dropped from second in 2009 to 19th in 2010.
The Vikings’ public relations staff had to worry about Jenn Sterger, and in a strange December its equipment manager had to think like Will Steger. So it was fitting that the Vikings had three games snowed out, which is not easy to do when you’re an NFL dome team.
On Jan. 3, 2010 the Vikings were the toast of the town. On Jan. 3, 2011, they’re just toast.
The afternoon hiring of Leslie Frazier appears to be good news. Let's hope he fares better than the last Viking head coach named Les.