The Vikings recognized Caledonia as the inaugural Minnesota Football Program of the Year during a two-day Vikings Town Takeover to honor the community.
CALEDONIA, Minn. –Humility isn't a choice for Carl Fruechte. It's just who he is.
"If I wasn't humble, my dad would come out of the valley and come kick my tail," Carl said. "It's just the way we believe we should be. It's not about us. It's about 'we' as a community; it's about 'we' as a football program."
Serving as the head coach of the Caledonia football team since 1997 and now heavily involved as an assistant coach, Carl has led the Warriors to six state titles since 2007 and an impressive 113-6 record over the past nine seasons. On Wednesday, Caledonia was recognized as the inaugural Minnesota Football Program of the Year.
Carl's son, Isaac, contributed to two of those championships (2007 and 2008), found success as a walk-on at the University of Minnesota and is now a wide receiver for the Vikings.
Carl and Isaac collectively have much to boast about – but they don't. It would go against their nature.
"My dad's big on being humble and always just keeping your head down and working to achieve the next thing – never getting too high and never getting too low," Isaac said. "It's always been a good thing in our family to try and just be humble and be happy and just continue to work."
If humility is the first rule of the Fruechte household, hard work is the second.
A town of fewer than 3,000 people, Caledonia centers on a work ethic that's exemplified by the football program but goes far beyond the gridiron.
"Our community is really hard-working," Carl said. "I mean, they're blue-collar, they get up in the morning, they go to work."
Caledonia parents instill this mindset in their kids at a young age. As a coach for both football and girls basketball, Carl takes it upon himself to foster that mentality for athletes that come through his programs. He and the other coaches often arrive at school by 6 a.m., ready to work with students.
"By 6:30 we'll have 35 to 40 kids, which is a lot for us, being a small AA school," Carl said.
Carl said he's motivated by investing in each athlete as his own child.
"I was raised that you're supposed to care for your fellow man," said Carl. "I try to look at each football player as if they're all my 'Isaacs.' I have two daughters, Alecia and Maria, and [when I coach basketball], they're all 'Alecias'; they're all 'Marias.' With that philosophy, we're always trying to do the best for them."
While most teenagers spend a lot of time in conflict with their parents, Carl said he and Isaac rarely butted heads, especially on the field. Isaac will tell you that playing for his dad at Caledonia was a great experience, albeit nerve-wracking at times.
"He's kind of an intense dude," Isaac said of Carl. "But it's groomed me right for my career, and [Vikings Head Coach Mike] Zimmer and he are very similar, I think, in their intensity. It's fun to play for both of them."
After Isaac joined the Viking as an undrafted free agent in 2015, his teammates have seen those ingrained Fruechte qualities. Fellow receiver Charles Johnson said that with Isaac, what you see is what you get. And it's all positive.
"Isaac's really down-to-earth, really humble," Johnson said. "He loves what he does. He's going to go out there and give you everything he has on every single play, and he's not going to complain about it."
"He does have some sarcastic moments, and he has those smart comments that he likes to throw in in our receiver room. He's the funny guy."
Isaac held a spot on the Vikings practice squad in 2015, and his number one focus for 2016 is making the active roster.
"Obviously, I'm going to try to make the 53-man roster," Isaac said. "That's the big-time goal, but there are things you need to do to get there – playing great on special teams and knowing the offense inside and out – doing the best in those things to show [the coaches] they can rely on you and that you can be an integral part to both the offense and special teams."
Carl said it's been an exciting journey to see Isaac end up in the purple and gold for his hometown team. And while there hasn't been a day he wasn't proud of his son, Carl loves to see Isaac's attitude of looking ahead and wanting more.
"He wants to make the team, he wants to play, he wants to help Coach Zimmer and the staff, and rightfully so," Carl said. "It should be, 'I want to make a difference.' "
As the next football season approaches, Carl will be working with his Warriors for another state title, and Isaac will have his eyes on making the Vikings 53- man roster. Whether it's in Caledonia under the Friday night lights or on the turf of U.S. Bank Stadium, there's always work to be done.
It's just the Fruechte way.