The traditional Mr. Football banquet that brings elite high school football players from across the state transitioned to a video session Sunday, but there was plenty of recognition to go around for the 10 finalists and 2020 winner Jake Ratzlaff.
Ratzlaff played safety and tight end for the Rosemount Irish. He recorded 70 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, two fumble recoveries (including one returned for a touchdown) and three interceptions on defense. Ratzlaff also caught 10 passes for 209 yards and three scores on offense and blocked three punts on special teams in just six games.
The two-time captain and team's player of the year led the Irish in tackles, interceptions, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, and blocked kicks, helping Rosemount go 6-0 in a season shortened by COVID-19.
After starting as an outside linebacker as a sophomore, Ratzlaff transitioned to safety for his junior season and thrived with the opportunity to make plays that included a school record 126 tackles in 2019. He totaled 261.5 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and three interceptions in his career.
Ratzlaff also was named the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year for 2020. He committed to Wisconsin in November after evaluating offers from Minnesota, Iowa and Iowa State.
"I'd like to thank God for blessing me with the abilities I've been blessed with. I give Him all glory and honor," Ratzlaff said after he was named Mr. Football. "I want to thank my family for always sticking with me through the ups and downs. It's been easy at times; it's been hard, but they've always stood right by my side, and I'm truly thankful for that.
"I want to thank the coaching staff at Rosemount for making me the player and person I am today," he continued. "Coach [Jeff] Erdmann has done so much for myself and the program. I thank him greatly. I also want to thank my defensive coordinator, my defensive backs coach and my outside linebackers coach for teaching me how to play physical defense. I want to thank my teammates for always pushing me in practice to become better. It was such a blessing to have so many great teammates and such a great team. Lastly, I want to thank the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and the Minnesota Vikings for the award and putting this all together."
Mr. Football 2020 Finalists
Shea Albrecht, T/DT, Orono
Joe Alt, TE/T, Totino-Grace
Cameron Anderson, WR/S, Blue Earth Area
Trey Feeney, QB, Moorhead
Nick Flaskamp, RB/LB, Minneapolis Southwest
Marcus Hansen, DE/G/K, Waseca
Eli Mau, LB/TE/P/K, Chanhassen
Jake Ratzlaff, SS/TE, Rosemount
Garrison Solliday, DL/DE, St. Thomas Academy
Adam Tonsfeldt, QB/SS, Barnesville
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman announced during the meeting that each program will receive a $1,000 grant from the Vikings and the Wilf family.
Spielman, whose son JD won Mr. Football in 2015, explained the pride he took in saluting each of the finalists.
"I want to thank you for inviting me to such a prestigious event, and I want to congratulate all of the administrators and coaches on the call and the parents," Spielman said. "I was very blessed a few years back when my son JD was a part of this prestigious award. Most importantly, I want to congratulate the 10 finalists.
"We have been through a year like no other year. This has probably been the most challenging year for all of us. I know it is in my lifetime," Spielman continued. "It really tested our perseverance and our leadership skills."
Spielman recapped the policies and procedures that the Vikings and NFL teams put in place in 2020 to reduce the risk of coronavirus and credited high school officials, coaches and players for what they were able to do in a modified season. He also noted the role that quests for social justice played on teams at multiple levels in 2020.
"To be a top-10 finalist for 2020 Mr. Football is probably a bigger feat and more incredible than anyone in the past, and I hope as you go forward that you guys will reflect back on all of the leadership lessons you learned and what perseverance is about, willingness to handle adversity and move forward, that you reflect back on everything you went through this year and how you are going to carry that forward, not only in your football career but in your life as well," Spielman said. "I salute you and congratulate you on such a phenomenal feat and such a great job."
About the Mr. Football Award
The Mr. Football Award is sponsored by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and the Minnesota Vikings. It is presented annually to recognize Minnesota's best high school football player who is also a graduating senior.
A selection committee reviews nominees and names 10 finalists before reviewing full game films of each player and choosing Mr. Football.
More than 25,600 players participated in high school football in Minnesota in 2020.