Incoming college freshmen have a lot to balance in the fall of 2020.

Recent Brainerd graduate Owen Davis is no different. Davis plans to go to University of Minnesota-Duluth to play football.

Offseason workouts have been challenging for Davis as gyms have been closed for most of the spring.

Davis has a squat rack and bench set up in his home to complete the workouts required by UMD while connecting with the coaches via Zoom.

“We have Zoom workouts four times a week,” Davis said. “That’s been weird and some getting used to. It’s been a lot of Zoom meetings right now which is fine, it’s just not like being up there.”

For speed and agility, Davis called on an old friend in Rod Reuer, the Brainerd boys track and field coach.

“It’s super nice,” Davis said. “Just one-on-one meetings, staying six feet away, it’s been really helpful and nice. It’s been good for my training for sure.”

Reuer was Davis’ eighth-grade football coach and even though Davis quit running track after his freshman year in high school Reuer agreed to help Davis in training this summer before he goes to UMD July 6.

“My parents are really good friends with him,” Davis said. “And Rod was always a little disappointed I wasn’t in track, but he understood. He’s been a good coach for me and super good guy.”

Reuer gives Davis a series of workouts at the Southdale Soccer Fields in Baxter. He teaches Davis proper running form.

“We spent a lot of time working on technique and learning how to run proper,” Reuer said. “There’s an art and science behind it.”

Reuer mentioned in particular he works with Davis on his foot strike and knee lift to be more efficient.

“Hopefully the more efficient you run the faster you run,” Reuer said.

Reuer uses six-inch hurdles to create a speed ladder for Davis to run through. He doesn’t want him overstriding.

“You want your foot to be under your hips when you land, so you can keep rolling,” Reuer said.

The biggest takeaway for Davis is keeping his knees up.

“The hurdles have really helped with that,” Davis said. “I’m really trying to push off with the balls of my feet as well.”

Along with running form, Reuer is working on Davis’ acceleration.

“He has that natural ability,” Reuer said. “He does pick up cues and pointers pretty quickly. Speed wise, he has the long-running form and I think playing football and basketball he would’ve been a great track athlete as well.”

To be a good route runner at the next level Reuer wants Davis to have his high-end speed under control.

“That’s going to be very important,” Reuer said. “When I see kids play DII football, it’s a step up from high school. The defensive backs are much quicker than they were in high school. You aren’t going to be able to just run by them.”

Conducting workouts with Davis also gives Reuer a chance to coach, something he missed because coronavirus canceled the spring season.

Reuer feels bad for the seniors who he didn’t get a chance to coach in their last season of track and field. Seniors like high jumper Connor Powers, throwers like Luke Wilhelm and John Berry and runners like Brett Besenfelder and Ben Staehling all missed the opportunity to run track and field one last time.

“I was really excited coming in,” Reuer said. “We had a good first week of practice and we knew things might be in limbo. We were just crossing our fingers that it wasn’t going to come to the point where we would lose the whole season. Once kids were not able to go back to school the inevitable came about.”

Reuer met with a lot of his athletes virtually and wanted to make sure they finish their school work.

Reuer will be working an elementary track camp July 13-16 in Brainerd.

Davis plans to play wide receiver at UMD, but they might try him as a returner and punter, too. He caught 23 passes for 527 yards and three touchdowns his senior year with the Warriors.

“We will see how that turns out,” Davis said. “They are anticipating a season, with a lot of strict rules once we get up there.”



CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.