Like most college athletes, former DeForest High School standout Hunter Toppel has been in a holding pattern as he waits to see if the college football season will move forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is entering his senior season at the Minnesota State University-Mankato.
“It has been crazy, nothing like we have ever experienced before,” Toppel said. “Nobody can tell you how to deal with it, because nobody has gone through it before. The coaches have helped us keep a positive attitude. It is out of our control. There is no sense in getting stressed and mad when I can’t do anything to control the outcome.”
Even if there is a season, the NCCA has announced their will be no playoffs or national championship at the Division II level.
“It’s not looking good for our conference,” Toppel said. “It feels like they are delaying the inevitable. I’m trying to be positive, but it looks like the trend is to cancel the fall season.”
Toppel redshirted his first year with the Mavericks and has been a starter on the offensive line ever since.
There is a chance that fall season will be postponed until spring.
Toppel, a mass media major, will have to make a decision if the season is moved to the spring because he is scheduled to graduate in December.
“My only option would be to enroll in grad school,” Toppel said. “I could then play with the team, but I would have to enroll again. Right now, I’m waiting for the final decision with the conference and then I can proceed. I want to keep playing football and play in the NFL and will do what it takes to get me on that path.”
Toppel hopes to overcome the odds of making the NFL out of the Division 2 level.
“It would be a help to play, especially since it is tough to make the NFL from Division 2,” Toppel said. “The more games I play, the more tape I have for them to view and that will help in the long run. I need every bit of play time and film. Another season could help me boost myself in their eyes.”
Toppel redshirted his first season with the Mavericks and has been a starter on the offensive line ever since. He started at right tackle as a redshirt-freshman and then moved to left guard. He has started every game the last three years.
“I have loved every second of my time on campus,” Toppel said. “The first time I stepped on campus, I loved everything about it. It has been an unreal experience.”
With the help of Toppel, the Mavericks have won three straight Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference titles.
After advancing to the Division II national semifinals in 2018, the Mavericks advanced to the national title game last season. The lost 48-40 to West Florida in the championship game.
“It was a dream come true to be in the national championship game,” Toppel said. “It felt so much bigger than any other game. I didn’t have anxiety going into the playoff games but then the pressure got ratcheted up in the championship game. The whole game experience was great. We left it all on the field.”
As a sophomore, Toppel earned All-NSIC first team and second-team All-American honors. Last season, he was named second-team all-conference.
Toppel points to his time in DeForest as a big reason for his success in college.
“Starting from an early age, I’ve had a lot of people helping me out,” Toppel said. “A lot of people have helped me achieve my goals. I still keep in touch with a lot of people who have helped me along the way.”
For now, Toppel will continue to work out daily at a private training facility to get ready for whatever his senior season will look like.
“If we can go out and just play conference games and win a tile, that is what we are going to do,” Toppel said. “That is all we can control. I would like to go out on my terms.”