MANKATO, Minn. – Former Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson exited the Blue Earth County Justice Center on Monday afternoon with a white towel over his head, blocking his face from people questioning his role in an incident that left a man in critical condition.
After being charged with first- and third-degree assault and spending hours in jail, he climbed into a red SUV manned by his parents and drove away on $20,000 bail. Nelson, 20, allegedly kicked Isaac Kolstad, a former linebacker at Minnesota State-Mankato, in the head during an altercation outside a Mankato bar early Sunday morning.
According to the criminal complaint, an unknown suspect punched Kolstad in the head before Nelson kicked him at least once.
The altercation took place outside of Blue Bricks Bar and Eatery, when Nelson and Kolstad began arguing.
Officers reported Nelson having “bloodshot eyes and an odor of alcohol coming from him.”
Nelson told police that a Blue Bricks bouncer tried to kiss his girlfriend. Nelson recalled being punched to the ground and told police he thought Kolstad was the bouncer.
Kolstad is “fighting for his life,” his father, Blaine Kolstad, posted on a website dedicated to his son's health condition, caringbridge.org. Isaac Kolstad remains in critical condition as of Monday afternoon, according to the website.
Dominic Cannella, a neurosurgeon with the Mayo Clinic in Mankato, told an officer Sunday night that he was not sure if Kolstad would survive. If he does, Canella said he is “not optimistic that he will make a good recovery.”
“We are overwhelmed and extremely grateful for the warmth, support, love and prayers we have received over the last several days. We feel it — Isaac feels it — and we cannot express how important and helpful it has been,” the Kolstad family said in a statement on Sunday.
Mankato police are still looking for another suspect, but multiple witnesses identified Nelson at the scene.
Nelson’s attorney, Jim Fleming, told reporters his client was not the aggressor in the situation.
The maximum sentence for first-degree assault is 20 years.
Football career in question
When Nelson chose Minnesota over rival Wisconsin, he was touted as the Gophers’ signal caller of the future.
The 2011 Minnesota Mr. Football started seven games as a freshman.
But in Nelson’s sophomore season, redshirt freshman Mitch Leidner emerged as a viable option at quarterback and started four games.
Nelson transferred to Rutgers in late January, and in April, Nelson’s personal quarterbacks coach, Terry Shea, told the Minnesota Daily that Nelson’s decision was made in part because he was fearful of losing the starting role.
After enrolling at Rutgers last semester and participating in spring practice, Nelson’s career at the school may be over before he sees game action.
Shea, a former Rutgers’ head coach, said Nelson isn’t a particularly angry person, but is “totally unsure,” if Nelson will return to the football team.
The school has made no official announcement regarding Nelson’s future.
“We are in the process of gathering information on the situation and reserve comment until the legal process is complete,” Jason Baum, a Rutgers athletic department spokesman, said in a statement Sunday.