Mr. Football on the mend

Injury costs Tusler all-star experience

A football shot out towards the sideline benches at Clemens Stadium on the St. John’s University campus, and Bridge Tusler couldn’t resist the urge. Crutches fell to each of his sides, and the blur he made in finding the ball in the air was almost reminiscent of the ones he created nightly last fall en route to eventually winning the Mr. Football Award after his senior season with Osseo High School.

Osseo senior and Mr. Football award winner Bridge Tusler, right, was named honorary captain of the North All Star Team by head coach Dwight Lundeen, left, during practice June 26 at St. John’s University. Tusler was forced to miss the Minnesota High School Football All-Star Game after breaking his ankle in early May. (Sun staff photo by Nick Clark)

Osseo senior and Mr. Football award winner Bridge Tusler, right, was named honorary captain of the North All Star Team by head coach Dwight Lundeen, left, during practice June 26 at St. John’s University. Tusler was forced to miss the Minnesota High School Football All-Star Game after breaking his ankle in early May. (Sun staff photo by Nick Clark)

Of course he caught the ball. Mr. Football wouldn’t drop this one. But that is not to say he should of.

“You see,” he said. “I can’t help myself.”

Tusler was hand for the North Team practice for the June 29 Minnesota High School All-Star Football Game; a game many had hoped would come with the opportunity to watch Tusler flaunt what made him the state’s most electric player while playing for Osseo. The opportunity was side-tracked however during an open gym session six weeks ago, when while playing basketball, Tusler went up for a dunk and crashed down under the body of another player.

“I came down and my ankle was underneath him,” said Tusler. “It was pretty violent, and I heard this crack that sounded like a tree branch breaking. I didn’t feel much because I went right into shock, but my ankle was broken.”

That wasn’t all. Tusler also damaged one of his tendons seriously enough that, even with the bone now healed, he remains on crutches and in a walking boot.

It also pinned him to the sidelines of what was to be an all-star experience he had dreamed of participating in for as long as he can remember.

“When I was little, there was a guy at my church who went to Blaine and played in this game and we went and watched him,” he recalled. “Ever since then, I’ve dreamed of playing in this game. When I broke my ankle, that was the first thing I thought of.”

His next thought, however, proved even more why he was selected as Mr. Football in the fall. There was no way Tusler was going to be able to play, but that wasn’t about to stop him from spending the week with his fellow all-stars. Tusler was at St. Johns for the duration of the week long training camp, and bussed over with his team for the June 29 game at St. Cloud State University.

His presence alone immediately earned him the respect of the North Team coaching staff, which this year was led by Becker High School head coach and 300 game winner Dwight Lundeen.

“He didn’t have to come and sit out here with us everyday in this heat, but with how I’ve gotten to know him a little bit, I’m not at all surprised he decided to come,” said Lundeen. “I feel terrible, because I really wanted to coach him. He’s a great player. He plays Super 32 (Class 6A) football and never comes off the field. That is a great football player, and I feel terrible for him too, because I know he really wants to be out there.”

He is in spirit. Lundeen announced at the beginning of the team’s June 26 practice that Tusler would be serving as an honorary team captain. Still, Tusler insists he’d rather be playing.

“I see a drill, or a big hit, and I want to go out there and hit them back,” said Tusler. “That coaches will joke and say ‘do you want to play.’ Trust me, I’ve been tempted.”

The ankle is feeling much better, something he proved with that catch he made of an errant ball headed towards the sidelines. He said it should be in good enough shape to head to his future home as a Division I running back at South Dakota State University by the end of July to finish his rehab.

Once he arrives, he’ll also begin his quest for a degree in Sports Parks and Recreational Management. His goal is to one day run his own sports complex. But for now, he just wants to run, period.

“I’m not the type that likes to sit around much, so this has been tough,” said Tusler. “Especially now, missing this. I want to be out there and let some of these guys see who Mr. Football was on the field. I just love to play, and I can’t wait to get to do it again.”

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