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Sure, Andy Kaiser could push a five-man blocking sled himself. He's 6-2 and 260 pounds, a starter on the offensive line for Eden Prairie. That blocking sled doesn't stand a chance.

Except offensive linemen don't work alone.

So don't you dare conclude that Kaiser had anything less than a full roster behind him when he — and others — pushed ahead with a plan for his football team to help the football team at Minneapolis North and the people of north Minneapolis.

“The backdrop of all this is we preach at them every day that it's not about winning championships. It's all about being men for others, that's our motto.”
Mike Grant, Eden Prairie football coach

That plan won Kaiser the 2022 Star Tribune All-Metro Sports Difference Maker Award. He accepts the honor, but only on behalf of all involved. "We" shows up in a lot of his statements.

"We thought we could come together and help," he said.

The urge to help north Minneapolis first struck in May 2020, when riots broke out in the Twin Cities after George Floyd was murdered by a police officer. Eden Prairie football players fell in line behind Krystal Queen, mother of Eden Prairie tight end Jermell Taylor, on a fundraiser that led to a check for more than $15,000 going to Sanctuary Covenant Church. The church turned that into food and other needed items, which the football players distributed in north Minneapolis.

When high school football and strife coincided tragically in north Minneapolis nearly two years later, another need to react struck Kaiser and his teammates. Deshaun Hill Jr., sophomore starting quarterback for Minneapolis North, died after being shot at a bus stop in February.

"That really inspired myself and my teammates to go in there and try to make things better," Kaiser said. "I couldn't imagine losing somebody that close to me at a young age. It's devastating."

The plan this time came with a football-specific goal: Lift the football team at North by upgrading its equipment. Queen set up a partnership with nonprofit One City MN and a way to make donations. Kaiser's mother, Allyson, started spreading the word.

The athletes — Kaiser called himself, Taylor, defensive end Will Schreiber and defensive back Jacory Bates "the planners" and said linebacker Matt McFadden "was always there" — ran with it. They worked Eden Prairie neighborhoods, selling their services in spreading mulch. The take, added to donations, was beyond $10,000.

"We thought of ways we could raise money and not just pass out fliers asking for it," Kaiser said. "We had 30, 40 guys helping with the mulch."

The players had run their plot to help past Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant.

"They came to me and said, 'We'd like to do something'. It was just an idea then," Grant said. "I said whatever you want to do I will support you.

"The backdrop of all this is we preach at them every day that it's not about winning championships. It's all about being men for others, that's our motto."

Queen sees benefits for all in the process.

"Kids have the initiative to do something, they just don't know how to do it," she said. "You give them the resources they can use and say, 'What do you want to do?' Let's figure out how we can leverage that. Who knows what will happen in the future."

The players spent about $5,000 on meals they packed and distributed in north Minneapolis in early July. Call the rest an investment. Pad girdles were purchased for the Polars, and soon, likely next week, a five-man blocking sled will be delivered to Minneapolis North. There's that teamwork metaphor again, but it's here that Kaiser diverts slightly from his one-for-all-and-all-for-one thinking. He welcomed having a team behind him but said that is not required.

"Anyone can get involved," he said. "You don't have to be some lifelong activist whose job is to make change. You can just be a normal person, a normal student. Anyone is capable of making change and helping others."