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If you build it, they will come: MW football team's future looks more promising with more housing being built

WORTHINGTON -- About a month remains before the Minnesota West Community and Technical College football team holds its first practice for 2018. But anticipation for the upcoming season is building.

Veteran head coach Jeff Linder ended the 2017 campaign with 42 players in camp. Thus far in the summer there are 63-plus players with their paperwork signed.

That’s a high number. And it figures to rise further. Linder said he added 12 more potential recruits in the past week.

Why the increase? College supporters like to believe that Minnesota West is getting the word out that it’s a smart two-year option for high school graduates. But outsiders can’t come to West unless they have a place to stay, and the Bluejay Villas housing project -- a 108-bed student dwelling unit being made ready for August -- is helping to solve a housing crunch that has bedeviled the college for decades.

Bluejay Villas, under the management of Bluffstone LLC, is available for all students. But athletes are quickly snapping up available units. Forty-two football players reserve units at the Villas at last count, and 15-to-20 more are on the waiting list, according to Minnesota West housing director TD Hostikka.

Roughly 96 of the Villa residents will be athletes, he said.

For Linder, the housing project is a godsend. And he mostly credits college president Terry Gaalswyk for getting the idea to the finish line.

“We’ve had so many kids just walk away in the past, because they’ve been so frustrated that they can’t find anything (for housing). It’s been a long time coming, but we are so fortunate to have President Gaalswyk believing in it and helping to bring it about,” Linder said.

Linder is excited about football’s future at the school, but he’s also excited about the future of the college in general.

Potential students want a student housing experience, he said. They want to be part of a real college community. Parents want to make sure their kids have life necessities taken care of at the school. The added housing does just that, and it’s located right next to the main Worthington campus.

“It will really liven things up on campus,” Linder said, referring to student life.

Hostikka agrees.

“It really enhances the community college atmosphere. What the Bluejay Villas have done, they’ve really provided the opportunity for a true community college atmosphere,” he said.

He predicts increased attendance at sporting events, an increase in intramural activity, and improved student participation for theater productions and clubs.

The Villas figure to enhance the football team in many ways, said Linder. For one, it deepens the squad, challenging players to perform at their best knowing there’s competition for their positions within the team. Team depth also makes injuries less debilitating.

“We’ve never had a problem selling the program. We’ve never had a problem getting them interested in the school. The problem we’ve had is finding them a place to stay,” Linder said.

Linder said he has recruited several top athletes from the area, and he also has a Division I transfer coming in (from outside the immediate area) who’s got a great arm. The Bluejays will also have a key wide receiver returning for his sophomore year -- Reginald Colson III, who was one of the top pass catchers in the nation as a freshman.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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