Rob Baumgarn, the head coach of the Ridgewater College football program, felt keenly the tragic death of two young men last week.
Lukas "Luk" Neubarth, 18, of Brownton died last Thursday evening when his snowmobile plunged through thin ice near Nevis.
The 2010 graduate of Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop had visited the Willmar campus in December. Baumgarn was quite sure Luk, a linebacker, would follow his older brothers to Ridgewater. Nik was a blocking fullback for record-setting running back Alex McLaughlin three years ago while Zak, also a running back, is a freshman.
"Tough, hard-nosed football players and all good kids," said Baumgarn.
The boys are the sons of Bill Neubarth, an assistant coach at GFW and the head coach at McLeod West when it closed.
The family was on its annual ice fishing outing to the lake country east of Park Rapids. Luk was on a snowmobile with his best friend, Tom Plendl, a lineman who made the Ridgewater visit with him. Bill and Zak were on separate snowmobiles.
A sudden snowstorm caught them out on Third Crow Wing Lake. Visibility was near zero as the three sleds tried to navigate back to shore. Luk and Tom's sled got separated and plunged into open water created by moving water, according to one report.
Tom crawled to an ice shelf, stripped down to his underwear and dove back in the icy waters in a futile effort to pull his pal to safety.
Bill Neubarth told Fox 9 News: "I saw the snowmobile go down and the lights shine up in the trees and I knew there was trouble. It's the worst time of my life because you are supposed to protect your kids and I couldn't."
Luk's body was recovered the next day. Plendl was briefly hospitalized for exposure.
Baumgarn and the coaching staff attended Tuesday's wake and Baumgarn planned on attending Wednesday's funeral in Brownton.
On New Year's Day came news reports out of Indianapolis of the murder of Dominique Corder, a sophomore at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Corder, a quarterback who spent his first year out of high school at Iowa Western CC, led the Raiders to a 10-2 record and was MVP of the state conference.
Corder was shot in the stomach by an unidentified assailant shortly after midnight when he stepped into the street in front of his grandmother's home.
The shocking news triggered Baumgarn's memory of the death of Warriors football player Adam Milton. On July 20, 2008, the 21-year-old Florida native was stabbed to death near his apartment. Miles David Edinburgh was convicted and sentenced to 30 years for the crime.
As soon as he learned of Corder's death, Baumgarn e-mailed Central Lakes head coach Greg Medeck with condolences.
"He e-mailed back that I was one of the first persons he thought of when he learned of Dominque's murder," said Baumgarn.
Corder and the Raiders beat the Warriors at Hodapp Field in October. Corder threw for 212 yards and three touchdowns. "When it came to running and passing, he's the best I've seen," said the Warriors head coach.
"It's terrible to see this happen to two good kids in just three years," he added.