Eureka College Football

Tom Batters
Mike Minehan

During a football game in 2009, his first season at Eureka College, Mike Minehan dislocated his finger.

The bone went through the skin.

Minehan kept playing and didn’t even want to acknowledge the injury until one of the trainers saw some blood.

When the trainer removed Minehan’s glove, he saw the severity of the injury and insisted that Minehan come out of the game at once.

Minehan obeyed the order, but he wasn’t happy about it.

“That’s the type of player he is,” said Eureka coach Kurt Barth. “He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid who will give you everything he has ... He kept asking to stay in that game, even though his finger was hurt so bad.”

Minehan, a Washington High School graduate who played one year at McKendree College before transferring to Eureka in 2009, will be a senior on this year’s Red Devil team.

Barth calls him “irreplaceable.”

At free safety, he is the leading tackler on the team. In fact, he was among the best in the nation in tackling stats last season.

He made 121 tackles, recorded 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions.  

His 12.1 tackles per game ranked second among UMAC Conference players and 11th overall in Division III. He was a two-time UMAC Defensive Player of the Week choice. He made at least 10 tackles in seven of Eureka’s 10 games, and his 24 tackles against Minnesota-Morris on Sept. 25 were the fourth-most in a single game by a Division III player in 2010.

“Our defensive system is set up so that everything funnels into Mike at the safety position,” Barth said. “When he gets a shot at a tackle, he makes it.”

Minehan, who is only 5’8”, packs plenty of punch when he makes a tackle, but he said there is more to it.

“You have to have good instincts, and you have to be able to think fast. If you hesitate, that guy is going to run right by you,” he said. “I love it (making a tackle). I’m short and strong, so it fits into my strengths.”

Minehan laughed when asked about his height (many defensive backs are over six feet tall).

“I’ve heard people say that I’m too short to play safety, but that’s never stopped me,” he said. “I’ll still go out and give it my best shot. I’ll play basketball against taller guys, too. I’ll take the challenge. That’s better than giving up and not trying at all.”

Minehan stays busy over the summer. He summed up his regiment in four words: “Work. Lift. Eat. Sleep.”

“That’s pretty much all I do,” he said, smiling. “I get up in the morning and go to work, then I come here (on campus) and lift, then I get something to eat and lift some more and go to sleep.”

He said he and his teammates have logged countless hours in the weight room this summer, and he is looking forward to the 2011 season.

“We’re all dedicated, and we’re getting stronger and faster,” he said. “Last year, we were so young. This year, we’re focused on getting better and winning some more games.”

The Red Devils were 2-8 last year, but they will only lose two starters.

Minehan is also one of the leading kick returners on the team.

“I like having the ball in my hands,” he said. “I’m going to try to get Coach Barth to put me at running back this year, too.”

Minehan was joking, but Barth said he might actually honor that request.

“He could probably be one of our leading tailbacks, if I wanted to put him there,” Barth said. “He’s so tough to bring down. But he’s such a dynamic player on defense, we’ve been hesitant to do anything that would take away from that. He has meant so much to our program, maybe I’ll try to get him a few carries (at tailback) later in the year.”

Barth said Minehan’s off-the-field traits are even more impressive than his on-the-field accolades.

“He’s a great kid,” Barth said. “He helps out around campus. He’s great with my family and anyone he meets. You won’t find a better role model.”

Minehan is majoring in fitness leadership. He said he would like to become a strength and conditioning coach after he graduates next summer.