Esko players find football beyond Friday night lights


April 28, 2023

Pine Knot photo

Esko athlete Koi Perich has committed to playing football at the University of Minnesota after his senior year this fall.

Junior Koi Perich is latest Eskomo to commit

Avid area football fans by now have probably heard that Esko junior star running back and defensive back Koi Perich has committed to play for the Minnesota Gophers after graduating from Esko. The casual fan may not realize that as many as seven Eskomos will be playing college football two years from now when Perich plies his wares for Minnesota. Another player is undecided, which could mean as many as eight players in the college ranks.

"If anything, it speaks to the hard work that kids are willing to put in during the off season and the effort they make at becoming good citizens and players," said Esko football coach Scott Arntson.

While the headliner may be Perich playing at the Division I level, there are plenty of players who have proven their abilities at Esko. Perich's older brother, Mason, took last year off from football but will suit up this coming fall for a very good Division II program at Minnesota State-Mankato, while Davontae Gregory will also play Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football at Winona State.

"All these guys are friends, and our guys in the Esko program all are committed to getting better," Koi Perich said. "When you have this many guys going on to play college ball, you know they are focused. I guarantee there isn't a team that is as close as this team is."

The Eskomos will also be well-represented at the Division III level as Ty Christianson will play at Concordia, Nolan Witt will go to Wisconsin-Stout, Matt Peterson will play at St. John's near St. Cloud, and Wyatt Hudspith will play at Gustavus in St. Peter.

"Every year I try and take the guys to watch a Gophers football game, but now we may have to not only do that, but try and see some of our other guys play," Arntson said Tuesday night.

As for Perich reaching the top level, it has come with a lot of work.

"When you take great athleticism and an incredible work ethic, this is the type of potential you can get," Arntson said. "People don't see all the hours in the weight room, the conditioning and all those other things that Koi does. He doesn't take a day off and he has an intense desire to be the best, and that's a great combination."

Esko was buzzing during the basketball season when Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck and others arrived to watch Perich play basketball.

"It was pretty cool when they came to that basketball game," Perich said. "All the college coaches want their high school recruits to play more than just football, and to see him come to Esko was amazing."

Pine Knot photo

As for Perich, he had to whittle down the impressive list of teams recruiting him. Almost every school from the Big 10 made offers, as did schools from the SEC, the Big 12, the ACC and the PAC 10 conferences - all the top power football conferences in the country had at least one school after the multisport star.

"A major reason I chose Minnesota was because of coach Fleck and safety coach Danny Collins," Perich said. "Coach Collins took his time and explained to me the reasons he thought I'd be a safety in college, and it made a lot of sense."

Perich is on the track this spring. In college, he will have to think about only one sport.

"To know I can focus three hours a day on football and lifting, I think gives me a big upside," said Perich. "I am hoping that it will help my football career begin to skyrocket."


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