By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
St. Michael-Albertville senior Sean Scharlau has put himself in pretty good company.
Only three players in the history of STMA football have been selected to play in the high school all-star game. Scharlau becomes only the second Knights player who will participate when he suits up for Team North on June 29 in the 40th annual showcase at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud.
Matt Spaeth (2002) was only other player to suit up for the Knights in the historic event. Defensive back Chris Kleven was selected in 2011, but denied to play for personal reasons.
Besides Spaeth, notable current and former NFL players to participate in this game; Eric Decker (Denver), James Laurinaitis (St. Louis), Marian Barber III (Dallas, Chicago), Ben Utecht (Indianapolis), Todd Bouman (Minnesota, Jacksonville) and Craig Dahl (St. Louis).
Scharlau said he was both surprised and honored when first hearing of the news in mid-February from head coach Jared Essler.
“At first I was surprised when Essler told me to fill out the form to be nominated,” said the 6-foot-1, 270-pound Scharlau. “I was pretty honored once I found out I was chosen. There are a lot of bigger and better linemen out there, but it feels good.”
While most players are chosen based heavily on individual statistics, it’s the linemen that usually do the brunt of the dirty work. Work that often times only teammates and coaches recognize.
“My strength is run blocking,” said Scharlau, who along with senior Mikey Kessler earned all-conference honors as offensive linemen. “It feels good to open up big holes for the running backs to go through.”
“Sean really blossomed into a great player his senior year,” Essler said. “He played a lot as a senior as a two-way player. His agility and feet really improved and he’s a kid that lived in the weight room.”
Just a few months from graduating, Scharlau recently committed to play Division-III football next fall at the University of St. Thomas.
Scharlau said he narrowed his final college choice between MIAC rivals St. Thomas and St. John’s.
“It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Scharlau said. “I knew either way that I wasn’t going to play much my first year. Glenn Caruso (UST head coach) talked to me and said how much they wanted me on their team. That’s what pushed my decision over the edge.”
While the high school all-star game will feature a bunch of new faces, there will be new opportunities to look forward to, including a chance to play with and against seven other future Tommies.
“I’m expecting a good game,” Scharlau said. “Hopefully there’s a little more competition than you see with the (NFL) Pro Bowl. I’m excited. There should be a lot of Division I and II kids there so it will be a chance to see how I stack up.”
Admittedly, his senior year came with much adversity.
Scharlau credits senior teammates Ryan Lyzhoft, Bennie Wilson, Cole Krutzig and Brian Ferry as well as his coaches and friends for helping him grieve both on and off the field after suffering the loss of his father last June to cancer.
“Those guys and my brothers and mom were great helping me deal with my dad,” Scharlau said. “Ryan, Cole, Bennie and Brian were all huge supporters. I played the whole season and will dedicate my entire college career for my dad.”
“It was really hard on Sean and the guys rallied around him,” Essler said. “It’s hard not to root for a kid like that.”
Scharlau was also quick to point out other players who should have had a say in the all-star game. Wilson enjoyed a banner year as both a defensive player and fullback and will become the first Division-I football player from STMA since Spaeth joined the University of Minnesota in 2003.
“I thought Wilson deserved it,” he said. Wilson will play as a preferred walk-on next season at North Dakota State University. “He’s one of the best defensive linemen in the state. I was shocked when he didn’t get selected.”
Unlike both Wilson and Scharlau, last year’s invitee, Kleven, denied the trip to St. Cloud’s Husky Stadium. Kleven had no future plans to play college football and decided to skip the invite to last year’s all-star game.
The once former teammate of Kleven had different opinions on playing in the exhibition summer game.
“I would have played even if I wasn’t playing college football,” Scharlau said. “It’s an honor to be selected.”