Former Minnesota State University football player Isaac Kolstad returned to the field on Thursday night as the Mavericks kicked off their 2014 season at home against rival St. Cloud State.
Kolstad is still recovering from injuries suffered nearly four months ago that occurred during an assault in downtown Mankato.
Former University of Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson and Trevor Shelley of St. Peter face charges from the assault.
Kolstad suffered a fractured skull and traumatic brain injuries during the May 11 assault. But according to the Mankato Free Press, he overcame long odds to survive those injuries and is now walking and talking.
Kolstad's recovery continues at a Twin Cities rehabilitation facility. His wife, Molly Kolstad, said at a news conference before the game she is hopeful he will return home this fall.
"Isaac certainly has a lifelong of healing to do," said Molly Kolstad. "But the next step is home."
According to FOX 9, Kolstad's neurosurgeons are impressed with the progress he's made.
"The worst thing they had ever seen – that's what we were told: 'Nobody comes back from this; not going to happen,'" said Molly Kolstad at the press conference.
Yet there they were, the whole Kolstad family on the field. FOX 9 notes that Isaac Kolstad was able to participate in the opening coin toss, wave to the crowd and pose for pictures on the field.
The community celebrates
A packed house greeted Kolstad as he led the Mavericks out onto the field, while members of the Kolstad family raised a #22Strong flag that will fly at Blakeslee Stadium on game days this season.
The story of Kolstad's recovery has captivated the community. According to the Star Tribune, the community, university, football program and Kolstad's employer have teamed up to raise $150,000 to help the family pay their medical expenses.
"I'm so grateful for this team and what they have done for us," said Molly Kolstad.
Maverick players donned a #22Strong decal and Minnesota State painted the number 22 on the 22-yard line, as a way to honor Kolstad.