Alexandria’s Quist gets a Hall of Fame honor

MikeQuist Alex vsWillmar.jpg
Alexandria's Mike Quist walks on the field before a game between Alexandria and Willmar in 2019. Quist, predominantly a defensive coordinator during nearly 25 years of coaching, was named to the 2020 Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame this year. (Mark Ripley / Select Digital Memories)

Alexandria native Mike Quist was rendered speechless when he got a call on a Monday morning to inform him he was getting one of the biggest honors a prep coach can receive.

Quist, a graduate from Alexandria in 1968, is maybe not like a lot of the other honorees that make up the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. His only stint leading a program came at Brandon-Evansville for three seasons as a co-head coach with Greg Lanners from 2009-2011.

Quist and Lanners led the Chargers to back-to-back 5-4 records their last two seasons there. Brandon-Evansville is a regular contender now, but the 2010 and 2011 seasons were the first time since the two schools merged that B-E finished with a winning record in consecutive years.

Quist made his main mark in coaching by being a consistent fixture for some great defenses as an assistant over many decades. That earned him support among his peers as he joined Walter Hunting (Duluth Denfeld), Jeff Mumm (Thief River Falls) and Karl Urbaniak (Mabel-Canton) as inductees from the high school division into the 2020 Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame Class. The banquet for the inductees was scheduled for March 28, but it was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A make-up date has not been set.

“I was just blown away,” Quist said of the honor on March 24. “There just was no reaction on my side, literally. It just came out of the blue. Obviously, excited and grateful.”


Mike Quist

Getting back in the game

Quist has spent about 25 years on the sidelines for programs in Gaylord, Alexandria and Brandon-Evansville.

Now 70 years old, he had been out of coaching before getting back into the game last fall as a volunteer assistant working with the defensive linemen in Alexandria for current head coach Mike Empting.

“I was really just fumbling around in retirement. I asked those guys, ‘Mind if I help out during your team camp in the summer?’” Quist said. “They were so nice. I just never left.”

Empting came to Alexandria in 1997 at the same time Quist was on the Cardinals’ staff as a defensive coordinator. Empting was excited to see Quist show an interest in working with the Cardinals again last fall as part of this current coaching staff.

“He just brought a lot of knowledge as far as technique work,” Empting said. “Stance, get-off, strike, read -- all those details that are really important for playing the (defensive line) position well. It was good to have him (here last year), and then just that veteran presence. Those years of experience in close games and planning and preparation are kind of invaluable.”


Part of the golden years

Quist said he was fortunate to be on coaching staffs during what he called two golden eras in football for both Gaylord and Alexandria. Quist was in Gaylord during the 1970s as he worked with the defenses for some great teams.

“They had their biggest class sizes for small-town Minnesota,” Quist said. “Southern Minnesota was ahead of northern Minnesota in the 60s and 70s as far as football. We didn’t mess up a lot of kids. A lot went on to colleges and had good careers.”

Gaylord won Class C championships in 1972 and 1973, and Class B titles in 1975 and 1979. It was part of five state tournament-appearances that decade for the program.

Alexandria’s most dominant decade in football came in the 1990s. The Cardinals were the 1994 Class AA state runner-up and added state tournament appearances in 1996, 1998 and 1999. Those are part of 10 trips to state for Alexandria overall.

Quist was a big part of getting kids to buy into the importance of getting in the weight room and seeing the benefits from that, but he deflected a lot of that attention to his colleagues too.

“(Longtime Alexandria head coach) Denny Kalpin came to town out of Fargo South with a good defensive background as a defensive coordinator there,” Quist said of Alexandria’s run in the 1990s. “They talk about culture these days, but that was a cultural hot spot where both boys and girls were lifting weights back then, and that was a tribute to Dennis and (Greg) Lanners. In 1994, we had a lot of kids on that team who went on to play college football.”

Adjusting on the fly

Quist helped guide some talented defenses during those days during an era when a lot of offenses were centered around the running game. Things had changed a bit when Quist returned to Alexandria to help out in 2019.

Many coaches still preach the importance of running the football, but teams are often much more spread out at Alexandria’s Class 5A level. Quarterbacks operate out of the shotgun instead of under center, and schemes are designed to get the ball out quickly and let playmakers operate in space.


“Last year, I think I just concentrated on fundamentals. We still have to stop the run. I figured that was something we could get results with right away,” Quist said. “I think the Moorhead game (a 56-48 loss in the Section 8-5A playoffs), we didn’t put pressure on the quarterback, and that is something we’ll have to solve for next year.”

Quist has every intention of being there on the sidelines with the Cardinals again this fall.

“This winter really has been a lot of research into our main conference rivals and getting to clinics and learning how they’re blocking some of this new stuff,” he said. “It’s really kind of fun.”

Quist has enjoyed working with the athletes again. He has been a part of coaching a lot of good football players through his career, and he hopes they think of him as a coach who has always been a fair teacher to work with.

“That’s pretty much it. Be prepared, get it all out there and use my time with the kids to get something done every day,” Quist said. “I’ll work as hard as anybody. I’ll always be in the room, and I think that engenders confidence to all that we work with.”

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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