Where Are They Now!
Colby Ring- Class of 2009
Player Profiles (From Top To Bottom)
Colby Ring (2009)
Michael Zauhar (2002)
Dustin Borlaug (2012)
Mike Valesano (2008)
Joe Haeg (2011)
Josh Habermann (2005)
Brainerd Warrior athletes have a tradition of excellence in multiple sports: Colby Ring (one of the greats to have worn football’s #40), a remarkable athlete who was both thunder and lightning in football, is part of that long Blue line.
Ask Colby today and he will tell you that some sports teach “great eye hand coordination and quickness,” others create “explosiveness and stamina” and yet others require “physical factors.” Each sport exposes athletes to different coaching styles, in effect teaching “adaptability” to life’s circumstances.
Built like a middle linebacker, but with the breakaway speed of a running back, Colby played both ways, blanketing the field from sideline to sideline on defense and setting the BHS record for tackles (thunder), then breaking tackles and outrunning DBs as part of the powerful Warrior running game (lightning). Although capable of a “pancake” tackle, Colby set his tackling records by getting to the ball, first, then sound technique.
Colby and the determined Warriors took on the heavily favored Wayzata Trojans in the quarterfinals of the 2007 state tournament, defeating the Trojans with a famous come from behind drive capped by the Nate Schaefbauer to Brandon Sheppard last minute “low and away” touchdown pass and catch at the goal line (now canonized as “The Catch”), propelling the Warriors on to the Dome.
Games like Brainerd vs Wayzata, and later, Brainerd vs Eden Prairie, literally require consistent team efforts, down to the last seconds. What is it that Colby Ring remembers most about his Warrior football life? In his words:
“It is easy to look around and see that you are not doing this yourself. There are teammates, coaches and community members
there who are counting on you to step up and give everything you have.
“The biggest life lesson football taught me was a responsibility greater than myself, as a team.
“When you are throwing up during workouts and pushing yourself through extra reps in the weight room, you are not doing it
for yourself. You are doing it for the other 10 on the field with you.”
For his stellar BHS career on the gridiron, Colby was MVP and All State.
Not surprisingly, Colby excelled on the ice, at defense, and literally contributed legs in the setting of BHS sprint records in the 4 x 100 and the 4 x 200, a true “three sport athlete.”
Demonstrating the value of athletic diversity by participation in multiple sports, Colby was recruited by the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD) and started at middle linebacker for three years, playing in the Bulldogs’ 2010 Division II national championship year. He was all conference in 2012 and 2013 and All American in 2013.
During his UMD career, Colby played in 52 games: The Bulldogs won 90% of those games and along the way Colby amassed 283 tackles, third most in UMD history. Organized football team workouts occasionally consisted of swimming, volleyball, dodge ball, basketball, tug of war and soccer.
Despite his Thunder and Lightning athletic prowess, it was only in 2015, when Colby’s parents read the current UMD program, that they learned that Colby was the team MVP in 2012. Despite all of the challenges and successes Colby was part of in his athletic history, his deeds always spoke loudest for him. Love of his brothers on the field is what mattered.
Off the field and while at UMD, Colby met Nadine Abu Azzam, another UMD national champion (dance). After Colby graduated from UMD in 2014, Nadine and Colby married and moved to Richmond, Virginia, where Colby is an inside salesman with Ryerson Steel, a 175 year old company serving the aerospace, defense, heavy equipment, oil and gas, shipbuilding and transportation industries by the processing and distribution of metals, with operations in the US, Mexico, Canada, China and Brazil.
Who would know Colby Ring better than the Dean of Minnesota football coaches, his varsity coach, Ron Stolski:
“From the moment Sophomore Colby stepped on the Varsity field to the time he stepped off as a Senior Captain and Mr. Football
finalist, his demeanor and attitude remained remarkably the same: That of a humble, respected, quiet leader who lived and
demonstrated all that any parent, teammate or coach would desire.
“Colby gave it his all. In every manner and form, Colby only knew one way. Smooth as yogurt, quick as the snap of a finger, his
considerable physical skills remained overshadowed by the effortless way he employed them.
“A Warrior and a gentleman: What a marvelous combination!!”
Colby Ring: Thunder and Lightning, a most honorable bearer of the grand tradition and calling of the Warrior Way.
-Written by John Erickson
Michael Zauhar (Class of 2002)
Dr. Michael Zauhar has returned to his roots, working as a chiropractor at Lakes Chiropractic in Brainerd, raising a family here with his wife, Jamie, an elementary school teacher in Brainerd, and volunteering as an assistant Brainerd High School football coach for the past several years.
As a Warrior on Don Adamson Field, Dr. Zauhar was a 3 year starter, All Conference for 2 years, Captain and Academic All State as a senior. This quiet excellence moved on to St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, where Dr. Zauhar again was a 3 year starter on the storied teams of the legendary Coach John Gagliardi, including his senior year when he was a pre – season All – American and served as Captain in St. John’s D – III national championship run and (see photograph).
In that championship game at the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, against perennial national powerhouse Mount Union, winner of 3 consecutive D – III titles, with the Purple Raiders at the St. John’s 3 yard line and only down 17 – 6 with plenty of time in the 4th quarter, Cornerback Zauhar stepped in front of a pass in the end zone and sprinted 100 yards (see photograph) into the Mount Union end zone to seal the Johnnie’s national championship (see photograph), 24 – 6, ending Mount Union’s 55 game winning streak, and setting the D – III record for longest TD interception.
Brainerd Warrior Head Coach Ron Stolski wrote to Johnnie Captain Zauhar shortly after the historic win. Note the character of Mike Zauhar that Coach Stolski calls out in his lyrical style, the emphasis on what is important learned on the fields of Brainerd and Collegeville and across America with other young men and women, who Captain Zauhar is and how he exhibits those traits, and then consider what the lesson to be learned is, in the words of the skilled educator, Coach Stolski, and then in the living example Mike Zauhar sets for the rest of us:
And so it comes to this: Third and goal from the three. The nation's mightiest Division III team facing the nation’s mightiest team of local boys from central Minnesota.
Third and goal and, we, all of us who know the game, know this is the game's biggest play; its defining moment. It is we and them; you and him.
The snap; the route; the throw; then you leaping, twisting a bit, coming down with the ball, it nesting in your marvelous hand and, in front of you, one hundred yards of green. One hundred yards to football history.
I cannot imagine what you were thinking then. Perhaps nothing; your athlete's heart and spirit was in command and the finest sprint of your life was here, now, for the taking. Did you know it was over? The nation's mightiest team was done for this day? I did, and this is what I was thinking. “Run Mike, run. But do not fear. They will not catch you.”
And I was so very happy. For you, St. John's, your family, your team, for all of us. Mostly, though, for you. As you approached the fifty, tears welled in my eyes and I thought good for you, kid, truly you've earned this sprint, this moment. You've been preparing, training for this all of your young life. From the outset, following the example of Michael.
Zauhar I and II, traits like hard work, discipline, dedication, sacrifice, loyalty and pride have been your companions summer, fall, winter, spring. Your wish to be good has been accompanied by your willingness to work; your quest to be great blessed with the spirit of sacrifice. Your humility disguises the fierce competitive fire within. It was your moment and you were ready for it!
Now all of us get a chance to share. And we will. For me, my pride stems from knowing you; knowing of your sacrifice, pride and desire. And, knowing full well that you realize our finest moments in football and in life's journey come from the knowledge that we've traveled well, that we've prepared for the sprint and that in the preparation, we've learned all we need to know about the race. We are all smiling today, Mike.
I am so proud of you, of your journey.
And then consider this, from lead by example Captain Zauhar, about playing in Brainerd:
“I really love memories from high school, like walking down the stairs on game night. I think everyone who has played for Coach Stolski can remember that feeling of butterflies when walking down those stairs, heading down to the field, the smell of gunpowder as the fireworks go off during the national anthem, and the packed grandstands on a fall evening.”
Captain – Coach – Doctor Zauhar would not tell you, and you would have to dig it out of archives to find it, that he was a three sport high school athlete, practicing and competing throughout his high school years, yet still excelling academically. His athleticism, developed in the different disciplines at Brainerd High School, made him into the national caliber football player he was at St. John’s, athlete of the year in his senior year in high school and an early inductee into Brainerd’s Athletic Hall of Fame. And contributed in making him into the consummate human being he is today.
All of Dr. Zauhar’s accomplishments are unique, of course, but Dr. Zauhar also is a messenger to each of us, carrying forward the lessons to be learned in life’s trials, tribulations and triumphs, of the value of its quiet and lasting moments and of the readiness and ability within the human spirit to respond to challenges, all gifts from beyond us and never to be confused with “self.”
Mike Zauhar: Exemplar of the Warrior Way.
Dustin Borlaug (Class of 2012)
Lance Corporal Dustin Borlaug has served his country as a United States Marine, stationed in Okinawa and on standby for Iraq, for most of the past two years, and has recently experienced a devastating typhoon on Okinawa. Since graduating from BHS, Corporal Borlaug has served in Korea, the Philippines and at bases in California and North Carolina.
It will come as no surprise to many that Corporal Borlaug is a landing support specialist: Dustin Borlaug gets people, supplies and equipment where they need to be, doing whatever it takes, wherever Marines are called upon to be, to complete the mission. Unless another mission is assigned, Corporal Borlaug will soon be aboard ship for 3 months, then be stationed at Camp Pendleton, California in April 2015 (an auspicious number, as his Brainerd Warrior jersey was 15).
Corporal Borlaug has been given peer recognition, having been chosen to serve as an usher at the annual Iwo Jima memorial service in Arlington, Virginia, and there met survivors of the epic battle for Iwo Jima and the iconic raising of the American flag on top of Mount Surabachi. While on duty at the memorial service, Corporal Borlaug was photographed with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Corps’ highest ranking Marine.
As it should be.
Coach Stolski said that Corporal Borlaug was a Warrior in every sense of the word. Beginning in BYAA as a QB, he moved to the defensive backfield and wide receiver early in high school, then flourished on defense, including as one of Brainerd’s vaunted linebackers. As Coach Stolski said:
“Dustin was the ultimate team player, ever willing to do whatever was asked of him to help make the team better. It is no surprise that Dustin is now serving his country as a United States Marine, as service was always FIRST to him.
“Dustin exemplifies the many Warriors across this state, country and world who, on game day, look North to the Warriors and to the Warrior Way. He lives it – and the Warrior family is so very proud of him: His service, his Warrior heart.”
The Warrior Way teaches all that tradition never dies and that the Long Blue Line runs through each and every Warrior, reaches to their football brothers from earlier times, and extends into the Warriors of today and those of tomorrow. When it is “Friday Night,” now thousands of Brainerd Warriors are “there,” on the green of Don Adamson Field, under the rich autumnal moon rising over “The Hill,” and in the mist of fireworks haze drifting across the field toward the Mississippi River.
When the whistle blows to signal kickoff at 7 p.m., Corporal Borlaug is there, too, every game, from the sweltering heat of September through the chilling cold and snow that can arrive days later, play by play, listening, remembering and renewing through the power of the Warrior WAy - in Okinawa, Korea, the Philippines, wherever the Marines, and Warrior Dustin Borlaug, are called to serve.
As a 2008 senior at BHS, Mike Valesano was Defensive Captain and led the team in tackles (212). His play helped the Warriors to their first “Final Four” State championship trip to the Metrodome in 17 years. Mike was selected to play for the Greater Minnesota All Star team and was awarded Defensive MVP for the team at the All Star game. Mike also played varsity basketball and was elected to the National Honor Society.
Enrolled at St. ThomasUniversity, St. Paul, Minnesota, Mike played inside linebacker into his 5th year following a medical redshirt senior season due to an ankle injury/surgery.
The Tommies were undefeated in season play in 2010 – 2012, Mike’s junior, senior and 5th year, winning the MIAC conference title each of those years.
During Mike’s sophomore year, the Tommies played in the D - III national quarter finals. In his junior year, the Tommies played in the D - III national semi - finals and during Mike’s senior year the Tommies played in the D - III national championship game.
Mike Valesano (Class of 2008)
In the national championship year, Mike was selected by his coaches as the Tommie player representative to address both teams and parents/officials at the Pre-Championship Game Banquet in Salem, Virginia. St. Thomas lost to perennial powerhouse Mount Union, Ohio.
The Tommies’ record during Mike’s tenure at St Thomas was 61-7 (89%).
In Mike’s senior year at St. Thomas, he was selected for the national “Good Works Team” because of his community volunteer service, his work while at a Mission in Guatemala, and his volunteer contributions to non-profit agencies. The Good Works Team, which included Heisman Trophy candidates, was honored with an on field appearance during halftime at the 2013 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
While at St. Thomas, Mike served as a St. Thomas football administration assistant worked part-time at a conditioning clinic specializing in preparing potential NFL recruits for their Pro Day tryouts. While there Mike also taught conditioning skills to individuals and groups of senior and junior high school students from around the Twin Cities, including for Stillwater Area High School.
After graduating from St. Thomas in 2013 with a degree in Operational Development, Mike began working as an intern with the Minnesota Gopher football program. He remains there today, not as an intern, but as an operations assistant to the Director of Player Personnel. Mike’s operations responsibilities involve assisting Gopher football players in managing all aspects of their lives, including academic performance, nutrition and sleep, and timeliness and attendance at classes, practices and team events. In addition, Mike is responsible for arranging team transportation and accommodations for away games, bowl appearances and player/family and recruit visits.
Mike is enrolled in a Master’s degree program in Education Administration at the University of Minnesota. He plans a lifelong career in administration and coaching at the collegiate or high school level. Mike is eternally grateful to the many fine football coaches he has had the honor to play for and to learn from, especially Brainerd’s own Ron Stolski.
Joe Haeg (Class of 2011)
Joe walked on to the North Dakota State University Bison football team in the fall of 2011, sitting out the year as a redshirt, practicing with the scout team that helped prepare the Bison for their 1st FCS Division 1 National Championship.
The following season, Joe earned the starting right tackle position as a redshirt freshman, making his first collegiate start at FBS opponent Colorado State. He started all 15 games, helping the Bison to a 14-1 season and their 2nd National Championship.
The Bison's 2013 season opened with a big win over Big 12 opponent Kansas State, where the Bison offense went on an 80 yard, 8-1/2 minute drive scoring the game winning touchdown with 28 seconds remaining in the game. It is called the "Greatest Offensive Drive" in NDSU history. Joe started 14 of 15 games that season, missing only one start due to injury. He earned his first Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week honors October 12th, grading out at 98 percent with 8 knockdowns, in a 41-26 homecoming win over Missouri State. The Bison went on to a 15-0 season, and won their 3rd straight National Championship.
Now a junior and the only returning starter from one of the best offensive line groups in school history, Joe moved to the "blind side" left tackle position for the first time in his football career, replacing All American and current Miami Dolphin guard Billy Turner. The 2014 season opened with a win over FBS opponent Iowa State and Joe earned his 2nd MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors when he graded out at 100 percent with 6 knockdowns, with zero sacks or quarterback hurries.
The Bison are 4-0 heading into 2014 conference play, which begins October 4. They also take with them a 28 game win streak, the current longest win streak in all of Division 1 football.
Joe is majoring in Civil Engineering and just completed a summer internship at AE2S, an engineering firm in Fargo.
John Haberman (Class of 2005)
Riley Cullinane is the RB running down the tunnel. Casey Geraets is the injured player on the left and Joe Edberg on the right, he played Fullback.
John is currently teaching and coaching at Gallatin High School in Gallatin, TN (right outside Nashville, TN). He teaches AP and honors history courses while coaching QBs for the football team.
John's coaching summary in his High School Media guide.
John Haberman is returning for his second season with the Green Wave as the quarterbacks coach after joining us from Millsaps College in Jackson, MS last season.
Coach Haberman grew up in Brainerd, MN where he played high school football for the winningest high school coach in Minnesota high school league history. After high school, John attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. While at St. Olaf, John played quarterback, starting his final two seasons, and majored in Religious Studies and Political Science. Since then Coach Haberman has also coached quarterbacks at Brainerd High School, MN (2010 season) and at Simmons High School, Hollandale, MS (2011).
Photo by John Erickson circa 2005