A Passionate Life Cut Short

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MTT News Desk's picture
John Donaldson
Fred Statz loved football from a young age

I love football, I play football, I live football. Life is too short and too valuable to take seriously or take for granted.

I like to treat every moment as a reward, not a gift, because in order to get anything in life you have to earn it through hard work and discipline, that makes life all the sweeter. Work hard so you can play harder.


Fred Statz,

as quoted in the program for his Nov. 17 funeral at St. Martin’s Catholic Church

Fred Statz’s parents and siblings say his passion for football was contagious, and they all caught the bug.

In fact, Statz’s enthusiasm infected all of his football families, his immediate family as well as the teams he played on. People who have played football, or been around people who have played football, know that “team” is a code word for “family.”

Maybe that’s why after Statz was killed in a tragic automobile accident in Minnesota Nov. 12, more than half of the people who came to the church wore their football jerseys. These honorary pallbearers came to bid farewell to their former player, their former teammate, and their former coach.

At the time of his death, Friedrich Joseph Statz was 25, but in that short time, he had touched many lives on the gridiron.

“The funeral was incredible,” said Statz’s father, Bill Statz. “It was really something.”

“It was standing-room-only,” added his mother, Kathy Statz.

The outpouring of love from those Statz touched on and off the gridiron, said his family, was overwhelming. Their dining room overflows with memorabilia sent them by the football programs Statz was associated with.

There are pictures, jerseys, signed footballs and helmets, and much more. The Packers sent a football signed by the players and coaches, and a signed photo of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Middleton Cardinals, the team that helped Statz develop into a college recruit, sent a helmet signed by all the players and coaches.

Fred Statz may be gone, but there is no way he will ever be forgotten. His legacy has been set in stone.

St. Martin’s is just a block or so down the road from the Statz home in the tiny unincorporated burg called Martinsville. That’s the house where Fred, the only son of Bill and Kathy Statz, grew up with sisters Vicki, Katrina, and Emily. Emily is his fraternal twin.

 “He started in black and orange and ended in black and orange,” said Bill Statz, referring to his late son’s fifth grade football experience with the St. Francis Orioles, and final one with the South Central Hawgs, a semi-pro team in Minnesota.

In a way, Fred lived out a dream for Bill, who stood 6-1 and weighed 193 pounds back in the 60s, but could not play football for Wisconsin Heights because he had to work on the family farm. Fred wanted to play, but like so many youngsters in that era, his first duty was to the family business.

But three decades later, things were different. Fred was encouraged to pursue his dream, and pursue it he did. At his peak in Mankato, he carried 285 pounds of sinew and muscle on his 6-3 frame. He later trimmed down to play for the Hawgs, and Bill thinks it made his son quicker.

The Hawgs play in the Southern Plains Football League (SPFL), an adult nine-man contact league in Minnesota. Statz was a premier defensive lineman and linebacker on the squad, and coached the defensive line as well.

Bill Statz says the veteran Hawg players were reportedly a little taken aback by their new teammate’s enthusiasm when he first showed up. As they waited for a game to get started, Statz, soft-spoken off the field, remarked it was time to “put on the war paint,” which technically is used to reduce reflection but has the alternate purpose of firing up the user and intimidating the opponent.

The other players said it was too far to go back to the locker room, said Bill, “so Fred took off on his own, and soon he came running out of the building with his war paint on, screaming all the way back to the field.  He just infused everybody, they all said, “Wow, this guy’s got some energy.’”

Between his stints with the Orioles and the Hawgs, Statz excelled at Middleton High School and the University of Minnesota-Mankato, where he earned a math education degree with a minor in coaching. At Mankato, he started doing his “roar”, which many would find reminiscent of a certain Green Bay Packer defensive player whose number is 52.

“He always had the roar,” said his twin with a smile. “Clay Matthews got that from Fred.”

Statz also sported long, wavy hair, much like Matthews. “He was proud of it, too,” said Kathy Statz.

“He never let anyone tell him he couldn’t do something,” added Emily.

Jay Doyscher owns the SPFL. He told the Waseca County News, “Off the field (Statz) was…a very gentle man, he was certainly a friend to all of us first and a teammate second. On the field is where he came to play the sport he loved. He loved to the fans involved in the game. Last season was his first season and he quickly became not only a starter, but a leader on the team. His energy never stopped. He made everyone around him accountable and a better player.”

When he died, Statz was coaching the junior varsity team at Waseca High School, and was a student coach at Mankato.

In other words, fully two-thirds of Fred Statz’s life was dominated by football. His family reports he planned to keep it that way, too. Bill Statz explained that Fred “was aspiring to be a college coach, with National Football League coaching as the big goal. His career path was coaching football.”

 “He wanted to keep coaching,” seconded Kathy. “He was football. He lived football.”



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