Athlete of the week: Austin Larson, Elk River, football: Wild Card
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Austin Larson’s name will be long-remembered by Elk River football followers for a dramatic kick he made in 10th grade.
However, his true value was his versatility, his contributions at running back, quarterback, placekicker, several defensive positions and other kicking team duties.
“Austin did so much for the team in three years of varsity,” said coach Steve Hamilton. “He was our most physical running back. He played linebacker and safety, and was one of our better defenders. He obviously kicked for us, and had two game-winners as a sophomore. We will miss him. It was always great to have someone that could help you out wherever he was needed.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Larson’s career totals were 1,073 yards rushing and 139 points scored, including 11 touchdowns, eight field goals, and the rest extra points.
“It’s been a blast. I just wish we could have gone farther this year,” said Larson, who helped the Elks go 6-3 his sophomore year and 6-6 with a section crown his junior year. This fall, the Elks finished 3-7 with a 52-14 loss to the Rogers team they’d beaten the last two years.
Larson drilled four of six field goals his sophomore year, including a 27-yarder at Moorhead to beat the Spuds 31-29 with 40 seconds left, and probably the most famous kick in Elk history, the last-second 37-yarder that capped a highly-emotional 17-14 upset of Rogers at home.
Larson kicked only four more field goals his last two years. He practiced kicking more in 10th grade when his only other job was blocking back. He became much more involved in the offense as a junior and in the defense as a senior.
Larson made his biggest impact offensively as a junior when he played quarterback six games (four of them wins) along with halfback, and totaled 608 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, scoring 76 points running and kicking. In the section opener at Willmar, he ran for 196 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-28 win. “The ‘keep’ was open that night and they couldn’t stop it,” said Larson.
Larson’s position could best be described as Wild Card. Offensively, he was the placekicker and running back three years, and started 10 games at QB. This year, Larson was at QB before Hamilton decided he needed that ruggedness and versatility more on the struggling defensive side. He was deployed, depending on the opponent, at strong safety (pass coverage), free safety (deep man), middle linebacker or quick linebacker (covering the slotbacks). “I enjoyed defense,” said Larson, who made 44 tackles, third on the team, and led with two interceptions. “I wish we could have done a little better.”
Larson never quite made all-conference (he was honorable mention all three years) in large part because he never stayed at one position for very long.
Also hockey player until this winter, making honorable mention all-conference as a junior, he decided not to play this year. “I want to give my body a break and start saving up money for college,” said Larson, who works at Play it Again Sports.
His athletic career is over, too, except for rec sports, because he plans to enter Air Force ROTC in college rather than play football.
“A lot of people in my family have been in the military,” said Larson, citing his father, two uncles, two cousins and older brother as influences for this decision. “My goal is to be a combat rescue officer.”
About that field goal against Rogers, Larson said his family has the film on a web site, and he’s watched it a few times. Would he show it to his grandkids? Larson laughed, probably never having contemplated being a grandpa before. Larson laughed and said, “Maybe, if they don’t believe I actually kicked a game-winning field goal, then yes, I’d probably have to show them.”
THE LARSON SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Mike and Dani; brother Justin … Sports: football, formerly hockey … Other activities: National Honor Society, Impact leadership … Academics: 3.76 GPA … Next year: National Guard and probably North Dakota State, Air Force ROTC
Favorite stuff — Class: World Literature … TV shows: “How I Met Your Mother,” and “Surviving the Cut” … Movie: “Dumb and Dumber” … Reading: “Lone Survivor,” and “No Easy Day” (both about Navy Seals) … Food: burgers at “Five Guys” … Drink: water, apple juice .. Teams: Vikings, Air Force Academy, Gophers … Hobbies: golf, wake boarding … Wants to visit: Rio de Janeiro