Reporting Shane Kitzman
I only planned to chat with Bethel senior JD Mehlhorn for 20 minutes or so.
Nearly an hour later, I realized something Mehlhorn’s even aware of — brevity is not his strong suit.
If you know me you probably understand why it’s so hard for me to say anything with just 140 characters
— JD Mehlhorn (@JDMehlhorn) July 16, 2013
In his defense he has a lot to talk about.
Because ever since he was a standout athlete at Lakeville South, Mehlhorn’s built up a bevy of selfless off-the-field accomplishments.
His DECA chapter kept Lakeville’s beloved Antlers Park squeaky clean, he has donned the hairnet for Feed My Starving Children, and he still travels back to take part in his hometown’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings.
Minneapolis has felt the effect of Mehlhorn’s efforts, too. Through the Berean Neighborhood Care program, he’s painted, landscaped and helped with various projects – whether it’s for a single-parent home or a local church.
But it was a week in Bratislava, Slovakia this summer that tells his story best.
As part of GoodSports International, he fostered a welcoming atmosphere offering activities and athletics for children from 11 to 17.
“A lot of them didn’t have any place to go,” he said. “We’d sing songs, play games and show them love that they wouldn’t get anywhere else. Some of them even wanted to learn American football. I plan on going back this summer for a longer trip in 2014.”
GoodSports ministry’s the brainchild of former Twin Tom Johnson and his wife, Debbie, Mehlhorn said.
“The kids would ask, ‘Why are you here?’” Mehlhorn said. “I’d say, ‘I’m here because I’ve been graced, and given so much joy because of my faith in Christ. I want to spread it to everyone and let them know that they’re loved.’”
It wasn’t just connecting with teenagers. Mehlhorn also doled out defensive back fundamentals to Slovakian men – ages 18 to 45 – who played for the Monarchs, a European football league.
“It was so much fun — they just enjoyed the game and wanted to play,” he said. “It’s not nationally recognized there. There’s no glory in it for them. They just go to work and play football.”
Mehlhorn’s community involvement doesn’t come at the expense of undergraduate coursework, either.
Toting a 3.95 GPA as a double major in physics and exercise science, Mehlhorn has more schooling in mind.
“I’m probably going to a graduate school and get Master’s in human performance or strength and conditioning,” he said. “Ideally, I’ll end up working with kids through sports, whether that’s in a collegiate program or whatever. I want to open doors and programs so that kids can be cared for.”
Before you blindly jump on the Mehlhorn bandwagon seeing he has the trifecta of intellect, athletics and generosity, remember he’s an unapologetic Packers fan.
“I’m a Twins and Timberwolves fan, but my Dad (Al) was born and raised in Green Bay, and my mom (Cindy) was born in Wisconsin,” he said.
Mehlhorn actually passed up a scholarship to play at Augustana, instead choosing to follow in both of his parents’ footsteps and attend school in Arden Hills.
As for his Royals, Mehlhorn eyes a third career trip to the postseason. His freshman year the team made the NCAA semifinals. During his junior year, the squad advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“We’d love to win the conference,” he said, as his little brother, Matt is a sophomore wideout on the team. “And we would all love to win a national championship. It’s still one week at a time, though. The coolest part of the playoffs is just being able to spend more time with your team.”