WAKEFIELD — Eric Lane and Caleb Winkler, of Wakefield-Marenisco High School, recently signed NJCAA National Letters of Intent and Scholarship Agreement forms to play for Mesabi Range Community and Technical College in Virginia, Minn.
During the past winter, Mesabi coach Dan Lind visited with Winkler and Lane at their school.
The two former Gogebic Miner football players quickly realized Mesabi offered a number of things they were looking for. First, it was a good school and it was a small school, which they both were interested in. Both have a chance to get on the football field more quickly than if they went to a bigger school and got lost in the shuffle, and they both like the small-school atmosphere.
The college is only about three hours away, so that friends and relatives can make the trip to watch them play home games.
And both young men said it was important to be playing college football with a buddy from back home.
Winkler is also looking seriously at a welding career and Mesabi has a good program.
Opportunities began to open up for Lane and Winkler after very good football careers capped off by excellent senior seasons.
Lane completed 42 of 91 passes for 1,113 yards and he had eight touchdowns with only three interceptions. Lane possesses a strong throwing arm with very fine touch on his passes.
Winkler was a threat to run for a touchdown every time he touched the ball. He racked up 1,205 yards on 140 carries, which was 8.61 yards per carry. Winkler has speed to burn, great cutting ability and is deceptively strong, but when asked his best quality as a running back, he had a one word answer: vision.
Both were named to the 2012 All-U.P. Division 8 team. Winkler earned first team honors as a running back on the 2012 Great Western First Team, while Lane was the quarterback and punter on the GWC First Team.
In 18 seasons of coaching Bessemer, Bessemer/Wakefield-Marenisco and the Gogebic Miners, coach Mark Mazzon said he does not recall having a backfield with both a 1,000-yard quarterback (passing) and running back (rushing).
And Mark Lane, athletic director in Wakefield-Marenisco and Mazzon, both said that as good as Lane and Winkler were at playing football, they are even better people.
“Great kids, great athletes,” Mazzon said. “They both worked hard and did everything we asked of them. And that’s why they were so successful. And that’s why they were leaders for the younger kids.”
Mark Lane said he thought Mesabi would be “a good fit” for the two young men and both would do “really well” at the Minnesota school.
Mazzon said he gave Lane and Winkler some good parting advice.
“If you’re going to be successful, go in prepared and committed,” Mazzon said. “Work not to fail. Run, lift weights and get ready to go play.”