Persistence pays off for NDA teammates Santaga and Ihlenfeldt

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Good things come to those who wait.

Four months after finishing their decorated high school football careers as key members of the Division 3 state runners-up, Notre Dame Academy seniors Jonathan Santaga and Nate Ihlenfeldt can finally say where they'll be playing college football.

It just took a lot of persistence.

"Actually, I counted one time just because I was curious and it was 1,025," Santaga said of the number of emails he sent out in recent months.  "Every FBS school and every coach."

After new head coach P.J. Fleck took over at the University of Minnesota, Santaga accepted an offer to join the Gophers as a preferred walk-on.

A few weeks later Ihlenfeldt, a first-team all-state running back, committed to the University of Washington as a preferred walk-on.

So now that both have landed with "Power Five" conference programs, what positions will they play at the next level?

"I'm not exactly sure right now," Santaga said.  "Initially they recruited me for defensive back, but they also said they'd be open to wide receiver and quarterback.

"They recruited me as a running back so I guess that's where I start," Ihlenfeldt said,  "But any possible way I can get on the field, whether it's defense , special teams... I'll do whatever it takes to get onto the field."

The teammates, who helped lead the Tritons to a 2015 State Championship, continue to train together almost every day to prepare for the transition to the college gridiron.

"Just to have him by my side through all these years," Santaga said.  "I think he and I kind of feed off each other and I think that's helped us out a lot."

These Tritons are proof that good things not only come to those who wait, but those who are persistent and work hard as well.

"I've had the dream of playing Division 1 football since I was a little kid," Ihlenfeld said.  "Any opportunity I had to do that, I was going to take it, and give it my all."

 


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