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A sports training facility associated with current and former NFL players is expanding in Minnesota.

ETS Sports Performance Gym already has 10 locations in the state, with two more coming to Duluth and Forest Lake next month. Both are expected to open Aug. 29 – and those could be followed by ETS gyms opening later this year in Sioux Falls and La Crosse. 

The company was launched by Wisconsinite Ryan Engelbert, and it has since been invested in by current and former NFL players, including Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen and former Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn. 

Thielen trained at the gym to get ready for the 2013 NFL Combine.

Marcus Sherels, a former Minnesota Gophers and Vikings cornerback and return specialist, has co-owned the Rochester gym since 2019. He said the facility focuses on physical training and getting people's minds in the right place. 

ETS offers training tailored to an athlete's needs and the sport they play. ETS works with youth, high school, college, professional and Olympic athletes. The gyms are open to anyone 8 years and older, regardless of ability.

The training also focuses on character development.

"We all know that sports are temporary, but every kid needs to be a good teammate, son, daughter down the road," Sherels said. "It's good to develop skills like discipline, accountability and good work ethic."

More than 475 athletes train at the Rochester gym, according to Sherels. 

"We started in a smaller location just to gauge the market. But then after a year and a half, we outgrew it," Sherels said. "We had to move into a bigger location, and it's been a lot of fun." 

The company went from one gym in 2010 to what will be a total of 19 this fall. ETS gyms in Minnesota:

Engelbert launched the business model after his dreams of becoming an NFL player ended. He made it as far as Cincinnati Bengals training camp in 2007. Three years later he was in businessman-mode, getting ETS off the ground in 2010. 

The mental toughness trainers employ are in the mold of Engelbert, who overcame significant injuries suffered in head-on crash in 2003. He suffered a dislocated hip, shattered pelvis, broken ribs, serious knee injury and a skull fracture.

"I never thought I would never walk again," he recalled thinking after doctors told him he wouldn't walk again. 

In 2004 he was back on the football field as a running back at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where he rushed for 2,620 yards and 24 touchdowns and was a two-time all-conference player from 2002-06. 

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