by Bruce Strand
Elk River Star News
Isaac Aanerud was already a third-year starter in soccer for Rogers in 10th grade when he started messing around kicking footballs. The lifelong soccer player did so partly because his next-door neighbor is football coach Marc Franz, who had already had gleaned three excellent kickers from the soccer program.
“I wouldn’t say he recruited me, but he certainly encouraged me when I asked about it,” said Aanerud.
The neighbors are both happy with the decision. Aanerud has kicked 10 field goals for the Royals the last two years, six from 40 or more yards, while routinely crushing kickoffs through the end zone.
“I never thought that football would turn out to be as big a deal as it is,” said the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Aanerud, who now leans toward football as a college sport, even though he’s a three-time all-conference soccer player.
Said Franz: “If he can kick it into the end zone and make them march 80 yards, that’s huge for us, for field position. And obviously, any time we are at the 25 or so, we can take a shot at three, so he’s a big weapon.”
Kellen Berger, Ryan Howg and Austin Koeppe were previous soccer players who kicked for Franz, with Koeppe holding the team kicking record of 154 points. Aanerud was Koeppe’s friend and soccer teammate for two years.
Aanerud handled kickoffs in 10th grade with linebacker Mitch Grupa doing the placekicking. Grupa still kicked extra points last year while Aanerud took over field goals and made five of nine, from 30, 40, 41, 42 and 44 yards. For this year’s 9-0 team, Aanerud, working with snapper Zach Evans and holder Nathan Hajder, is 42-for-43 on XP’s and 5-for-9 again on field goals, good from 38, 26, 23, 41 and 42 yards. He’s got touchbacks 32 of 57 kickoffs.
“I’m sure I can make a 55-yarder,” he said. “I’ve hit from 60 in practice.”
Aanerud attended a “rating” camp in Milwaukee where he ranked 79th among about 500 nationally, and second in the state, after kicking from various lengths and angles and different conditions.
His biggest kicks have been a 44-yarder in 10-7 win over Monticello his junior year, and his 41-yarder as time ran out against St. Michael-Albertville this year to tie the game 31-31; they won 38-37 in overtime.
His athletic ability is evident when he’s had to make the tackle on a kickoff to prevent a touchdown, which he’s done four times.
About his two fall sports, he says, “Football is a totally different atmosphere, that’s for sure. It’s so much more intense. By comparison, soccer is kind of a mellow sport.”
In soccer, Aanerud has been deployed all over the field — outside defense as a willowy eighth-grader, center back in ninth and 10th grades, center midfield as a junior, and forward as a senior. He’s been all-conference three years, team captain two years and all-state honorable mention this fall.
“Isaac is very versatile,” said coach Chris Miller, “so I was able to play him wherever I needed him, and he always did a great job. This year we needed a forward with a good shot.”
Aanerud knocked in 14 goals and made six assists, and set a school-record of five goals in one game, a 6-0 win over Monticello. He scored from long range, on breakaways, on headers, on garbage shots, on PK’s, relishing the chance to shoot after logging 11 goals his first four seasons.
He played for a conference champion in ninth grade with a stellar senior group including his brother Victor. The Royals were 6-25-2 his next two years, but bounced back to tie for the conference title this year (7-1) while finishing 9-11 overall.
“I definitely like to score, but the position I’m best at, and most knowledgeable, is defense. I learned a lot from my brother, ” said Aanerud. “If I play in college, it would probably be defense.”
A sprinter in track, Aanerud placed fourth in the 200 dash at conference last year, and helped set a school record in the 4-by-200 relay in 10th grade. He also plays basketball (JV the last two years), the sport he spends the last time at.
About his athletic future, he says, “It’s really close, but if I could kick for a college team, that’s what I’d want to do. But if not, I’d like to play soccer, too.”