Ken joins brother Bob in Pelican Hall of Fame—both Vikings, both Gophers

by Louis Hoglund

Ken Shultz, today. As an athlete at Pelican Rapids High School in the 1950s, Schultz also played basketball, track, and baseball. “Our teams at that time were good…and we all responded to whatever was in season at the time.”

Two small-town boys from the far northeast corner of North Dakota were dreaming of being Minnesota Gophers, before they were even teenagers. 

But before those dreams were realized, they became Pelican Rapids Vikings. 

Ken and the late Bob Schultz have the uncommon distinction of being brothers on the University of Minnesota football squad. Both are graduates of Pelican Rapids High School; and now, both of the multi-sport Viking brothers are in the Pelican Hall of Fame. 

Ken graduated from Pelican High in 1955, and Bob in 1954. 

The boys spent their early years in the small town of Thomas, North Dakota. That’s up toward Canada, north of Grafton. 

“Both Bob and I couldn’t wait to get the Minneapolis Tribune sports section…even up in North Dakota, we were following the Gophers,” recalled Ken. “We talked about, some day, going to play football for the Gophers and becoming engineers.”

Remember, this was a time when primitive radio transmission didn’t even reach rural football fans. And the notion of actually attending a Gopher game in the Twin Cities was remote. So the Schultz boys’ dreams of football and higher education were mostly envisioned from newspaper accounts.

But those goals worked out for the Schultz brothers: From the U gridiron and classrooms to a degree in mechanical engineering for Ken; and aeronautical engineering for Bob. 

Ken and the late Bob Schultz in a more recent photo.

“The Schultz brother combination promises to be a strong factor in the football fortunes in 1956,” was the newspaper report at the time. 

It’s difficult perhaps for younger readers to fully appreciate it, but in a time before the Minnesota Vikings (established 1961); when professional football barely made the headlines; playing for the Big Ten Gophers was the equivalent of the “big leagues” in the upper midwest. 

“Kid” brother Ken was actually the “big” brother—a 6 feet three inches, 200-pound end in 1956. Halfback Bob weighed in at 178 pounds, and five feet 11 inches. 

The Schultz family relocated from North Dakota to Pelican Rapids in 1950, when Ken was in eighth grade. 

“We left a school that had six-man football, in the flat land of North Dakota,” said Ken, “and here we were in the heart of the lakes, beautiful trees—and the school was unbelievable. We got a great education in Pelican.”

“The teachers were excellent,” recalled Schultz, “…they really allowed us to grow.”

Though he was a “city boy” in Pelican, he had plenty of exposure to the farm community—which drove the local economy in that era. 

“I did hay baling for Ed Boe (Walt Boe was the local grocer). A lot of the Pelican football players were farm kids, so I had good exposure to the farming community.” 

He also worked at the local Standard Station in the 1950s.

The Schultz sisters were Barb and Maxine, athletes in their own right and also good students. Brother Bob and sister Barb were both lifeguards at the old Mill Pond swimming hole.

“We all were able to go on to college and careers thanks to our background in Pelican Rapids,” said Ken, who is also quick to credit the little town of Thomas, North Dakota. His experiences there and in Pelican forged his view of himself as a “small town guy,” even though his engineering career was forged in the urban Twin Cities Metro area.

1958 newspaper article on Schultz and Gopher football offered interesting retrospective on college sports—then and now

A reprint of an article in the October 16, 1958, Minnesota Daily newspaper, submitted by Ken Schultz, new Pelican Rapids Hall of Famer. “This article has always been important to me because it brings in, I think, the importance of small towns that can help make contributions at large universities,” noted Schultz.
Ken and the late Bob Schultz as U of M Gopher football players and students in the 1950s—a clipping from a newspaper of the era.

The Ken and Bob Schultz story—small town brothers playing Big Ten football for the University of Minnesota—is really quite a remarkable story.

The above newspaper clipping, dated October 1958, is revealing in relation to the big-time collegiate sports today. 

Even in 1958, the above article notes “recruiting wars of big-time collegiate football.” Imagine how coaches and sportswriters of the 1950s view today’s big business in college sports. 

The article, from the 1958 U of M “Minnesota Daily,” offers unique insights on “small town athletes” like the Schultz brothers. 

We found an online reference to the 1958 Gophers; a statement evidently made when Ken Schultz and the 1958 squad were introduced at an alumni event: 

“With all the headlines about football players getting arrested; under investigation for sexual assault; whimsically transferring to greener pastures when the competition gets tough; or making a theatrical mockery of national signing day— allow me to introduce you to the members of the University of Minnesota starting team of 1958 and tell you what we’ve been doing with our lives since then.

“Our coach was Murray Warmath, a great leader and role model. Murray died a few years ago at ninety-eight, and to a man, we would all state unequivocally he was amongst the finest individuals each of us has ever met.”

“…First, and foremost, every one of us graduated, on time.”

—Louis Hoglund, Managing editor