Asmundson carries same attitude to the field as he does the classroom

03/27/02 LaCrosse Tribune
Garnet Asmundson doesn't play indoor football to soothe his ego or to keep alive some pipe dream of playing in the National Football League. And he certainly doesn't do it for the $200-a-game paycheck he collects.

This hulking man - he stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 330 pounds - does it because he loves contact. He loves the adrenaline rush he gets from competing - and winning.

And he's loving his stint with the National Indoor Football League's La Crosse Night Train. The Night Train, an expansion franchise, kick off their home season Friday night with a game against the Lincoln Capitols.

"We commute two hours one way to play a game, and not everyone wants to play for $200 a game," said Asmundson, who lives in the Twin Cities. "If you don't love to play football, you won't play here. I don't know too many D-I football players who are used to riding nine hours on a bus."

You get a feeling that Asmundson, the Night Train's starting center, would play for free. He has four years of indoor football league experience and played semi-pro football for another seven years. A 33-year-old man well into his career as a teacher at Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., he could be playing softball or golf.

No way.

"My wife has a mixed reaction," Asmundson said of his passion for football. "My kids think it's a neat thing. I remember as a kid growing up being around my dad. He played professional hockey for 13 years, so I am used to this type of atmosphere."

Asmundson's father, Duke, played for the National Hockey League's Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs. Garnet Asmundson, who was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, has stayed in close touch with hockey, too, as he is the head varsity girls hockey coach at Simley High School.

He also serves as an assistant football coach at the school.

The majority of his time, however, is spent in school, in what could be the most difficult teaching job in the district. Asmundson teaches at-risk kids in what amounts to a one-room school inside the Simley High School.

"They are the kids who are not making it in the mainstream. Basically, I'm their last shot," Asmundson said. "I teach English, social studies, math, science and phy-ed. If they can't follow the rules, they're out. Discipline is not a problem."
Attitude sometimes is, but Asmundson understands that. He has chosen a career where he deals with kids who simply have no other place to turn. Kids who are not necessarily bad, but need some direction, some help and maybe a pat on the back.

"Some kids have a bad attitude, some have truancy problems and some have chemical dependency problems," Asmundson said. "As long as a person knows you care about them and are genuine in what you say and how you act around them, it will give them a little bit of hope."

The same can be said about playing for an indoor football team, Asmundson said. As long as the players believe in each other, work with each other and genuinely like to play the game, the team can be successful. Asmundson has seen many of these characteristics in the Night Train.

And, he points out, he respects Night Train coach John Schimon, having played for him as a member of the La Crosse River Rats and last summer as member of Schimon's semi-pro team, the Mississippi Rivermen.

"I know John and know what he expects. I also like the town. The people are nice and are very friendly. As hard as it was to go 2-12 with the River Rats, it could have been a lot worse if the fans would have been on us. They were nice to us," Asmundson said.

Schimon calls Asmundson his "rock in the middle" and knew as soon as he had a team, Asmundson would be on it.

He's that rock in the middle we need. Once the team was guaranteed, I knew I wanted him," Schimon said. "He's a smart player knows all of the offensive line spots. And he wants to win."

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