MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A former college football star’s life changed forever last spring, the night a fight nearly killed him.
On Monday, for the first time, Isaac Kolstad shared his own story with WCCO.
Surveillance video shows the fight in downtown Mankato. You can see what witnesses say is Isaac Kolstad hitting former Gopher quarterback Philip Nelson.
Nelson then falls to the ground. That’s when witnesses say Nelson and another man punched and kicked Kolstad.
Kolstad suffered a severe brain injury and lay in a coma–with little hope. His recovery has been nothing short of remarkable.
While he lay in his hospital bed, his wife and teammates would play highlights of his playing days, hoping something would resonate.
“We brought the videotapes in and we were like, ‘Don’t you hear them cheering for you, Isaac?'” his wife, Molly said. “‘Come on, wake up you can do this. We want to cheer for you some more.'”
Nearly seven months later, it’s like a miracle. He can walk again, and he’s going to therapy three times a week to get his speech back.
“When I got hurt, I was like, ‘Why did this happen to me?'” Kolstad said. “But then I [thought] ‘Okay, I need to make the best of this,’ and I work harder every day.”
For Kolstad, there was more to live for than just his physical recovery.
Two floors above him in the hospital, and just three weeks after the incident, his wife was enduring an emergency c-section that would produce their second child, Maleea.
“Maleea had the cord wrapped around her neck four times,” Molly Kolstad said.
Family is what keeps him coming back, keeps him determined and on task.
“I focus more because I know I want to make them proud,” Kolstad said.
Then there is his other family, and the remarkable story of the Minnesota State, Mankato football team, which is playing for a national championship this week.
Kolstad was brought in during the season as a surprise guest speaker.
“I think Isaac coming in, talking to them, telling them never to quit, never to give up,” head football coach Todd Hoffner said, “what a tremendous message for a young man who was on the brink of not being with us, and now he’s fighting his way back.”
The team is unbeaten, Kolstad their biggest fan.
“I had a few words” for the team,” said Kolstad. “I said, ‘Don’t quit, I don’t want to see you quit.'”
And his wife, Molly, is his biggest fan.
“Isaac Kolstad is a beautiful person,” she said. “He’s an amazing father, a wonderful husband, he’s the sweetest person I know.”
Kolstad’s adopted an attitude of “always be positive.”
“I can’t afford to be negative,” he said.
The men who fought with Kolstad that night are charged with felony assault.
Philip Nelson and Trevor Shelley are awaiting trial dates.
Nelson’s attorney is asking for the charges to be dismissed.
He argues there is no proof Nelson is responsible for Kolstad’s injuries.