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Steidl, Vogeler take the next step

Alexandria senior Aaron Steidl (left) and John Vogeler sign their letter of intent to play football at the college level on Wednesday afternoon. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Alexandria’s Aaron Steidl and John Vogeler have long dreamed of playing college football. Now they will get their chance after both players signed on National Signing Day this past Wednesday.

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Steidl inked his name as a preferred walk-on to three-time FCS national champion North Dakota State University (NDSU), while Vogeler signed on partial scholarship to play Division II at Bemidji State University.

“It’s great to see it pay off for these two guys,” Cardinals head coach Mike Empting said after they both signed in front of family, friends and coaches at the Jefferson High School offices. “They’ve worked so hard. Both programs are getting great athletes but also just tremendous kids too.”

Steidl chose to walk on at the Division I level with the Bison over Division II scholarship offers from Bemidji State and the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD). His final two came down to NDSU and UMD, but a recent visit to Fargo with the current coaching staff after Craig Bohl’s departure cemented his decision to join what has become the top program at the FCS level.

“It’s definitely a work ethic,” Steidl said. “I know a lot of people are going to say, ‘Oh, you’re just going to be a walk-on.’ I could have taken money at Duluth, but I’m not going to let money make my decision. That’s just going to push me even more to think that this guy here is getting a bigger scholarship than me. I can prove myself to the coaches that I can be better than him.”

Steidl said the coaches at NDSU recruited him to play defensive tackle for them. He is currently 6’3” and weighs 265 pounds. They want him to use his athleticism to his advantage and play at around 290 pounds. He plans on using a redshirt season to get started on that in the fall.

Putting muscle on is something that shouldn’t be a problem for Steidl after he gets into a college weight program. In almost three years, he went from a 175-pound running back as a sophomore to a future defensive tackle at NDSU.

“I know I’m a lot different from those days playing running back,” Steidl said. “I still got to run the ball a little bit this year. That felt good, but defensive line is definitely a better fit now with my body.”

Empting was happy for both players because he saw the kind of work they put in to get to this point.

“John’s been great in the weight room and he went to all those camps,” Empting said. “Aaron went to camps this summer and has put in so much time. Aaron played his junior season at 195 pounds, and he came back and played his senior year at 260, and he’s lean. They work hard and it pays off for them. I’m proud of the boys for the efforts that they put forth, and I’m happy that they got what they want out of it.”

For Vogeler, it came down to St. Cloud State University and Bemidji State before he chose to play for the Beavers. Vogeler said he doesn’t expect to use a redshirt and that coaches have told him they believe he can come in and compete for their quarterback job as a freshman.

Vogeler said the strong relationship with those coaches at Bemidji State played a huge role in his decision. New facilities, the academics, a better scholarship and the chance to play sooner rather than later also helped the Beavers land the Alexandria quarterback.

“I’m extremely excited with the future and what it has to hold for me,” Vogeler said. “The [Alexandria] coaches, I couldn’t do this without them. They played a huge part in me getting here. I’m just excited and blessed, just ready to go.”

Vogeler said he also plans on trying to walk-on to the basketball team and play both sports at Bemidji. On the football field, he has the ability to beat defenses with his arm and his legs, a trait that college coaches are always looking for.

“They said they like what they see,” Vogeler said. “They know how fast I am and what I can do running the ball and throwing.”

Vogeler got a taste of what it’s like to be a quarterback in a zone-read offense and the responsibilities that come along with that for the Cardinals this past fall. He’ll likely see a similar style of offense at the next level as he tries to become an impact player with the Beavers.

“I think John has got the physical tools, no doubt about it,” Empting said. “He can run and throw. He’s got a strong arm. For him, it’s just going to be a matter of him learning their system up there…we ran a similar scheme to what Bemidji state runs up there. They’re going to coach him up hard – more film study and more opportunity for learning. I think he’ll go up there and compete for the position.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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