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Intensity drives big-hitting south Minneapolis football foes to bond as friends

By JIM PAULSEN, Star Tribune, 11/10/20, 7:15PM CST


Similar in many respects, Nyle Dickel of Minneapolis Washburn and Nick Flaskamp of Southwest have blossomed as friends off the field. Then there's the matter of who will make the most tackles this year.

Nyle Dickel of Minneapolis Washburn and Nick Flaskamp of Southwest are good friends off the field and love to hit and make big plays on offense while they're on it. PHOTOS: ©2020 Steve Kotvis, f/go (www.f-go.us)

Not so long ago, Minneapolis Washburn’s Nyle Dickel and Minneapolis Southwest’s Nick Flaskamp were rivals and not much more.

They knew of each other, both linebackers from the southside of Minneapolis, Park Board football veterans who moved on to adjacent high schools in the close-knit world of city football. It would have been virtually impossible to not be aware of each other.

Their similarities don’t stop there. Both Dickel and Flaskamp are intense team leaders, hardworking and gritty, the type of players coaches build teams around. They have nonstop motors, each with a penchant for making his presence known with welcome-to-my-world hits. Each also provides vital offense to their teams, Dickel as a physical tight end, Flaskamp as an equally physical running back.

“They’re really both very similar,” said Marcus Mattox, a senior defensive back at Southwest and a friend of both players. Mattox played youth football with Dickel at Pearl Park and now in his fourth year as Flaskamp’s teammate.

“They’re both aggressive, both big hitters, both outgoing people who are leaders on the field. Really, they’re a lot alike,” he said.

Dickel and Flaskamp (photo courtesy Nick Flaskamp)

Those similarities, along with a large helping of mutual respect, sparked a friendship that blossomed over the summer. Uncertainty about the football season and living a city of protests and unrest after the death of George Floyd led them to see each other in a different light. They started comparing notes in summer workouts and a 7-on-7 league and found so many parallels that a bond was formed.

“I used to tell myself I’m way better than that kid,” Flaskamp said of Dickel. “We were rivals doing the same thing. But then we got some playing time and I saw that he was doing it as well as I was. I’d say we’re friends now.”

Said Dickel, “We’ve gotten a lot closer this year. He works his butt off. We talk all the time. And since we play the same position and a lot of the same teams, we’re always sharing notes.”

One more thing that binds Dickel and Flaskamp is that they are among the leading tacklers in the metro area, according to defensive stats on the Minnesota Football Hub. They know it, and each is determined to end up on top by season’s end. Dickel currently has 77 tackles, good for No. 1 overall in Minnesota. Flaskamp has 69, placing him third, one behind Crosby-Ironton’s Jake Klancher.

It’s a battle both are keen to win.

Dickel grew significantly over the summer, topping out at a college-worthy 6-3, 220 pounds. With playing football after high school as his goal, and no spring or summer camps and combines to attend, he set in motion a plan to get himself noticed.

“I want to make an all-state team this year,” he said. With his forte as a punishing tackler, he figured the best way to do that was to “lead the state in tackles.”

"I’ve always found more enjoyment in making tackles,” Dickel said. “Some people like scoring touchdowns. I enjoy shutting a kid down.”

Flaskamp, who is also an accomplished wrestler with three state tournament appearances, is smaller, at 5-11 and a chiseled 205 pounds. But packs a wallop. That was evident the first time Southwest coach Josh Zoucha saw him wrestle in eighth grade.

“I think he was 145 pounds then and he looked like a man-child then,” Zoucha said. “I told the wrestling coach then ‘Please let him play football.’ He looked at me and said ‘His sport is football.’ ”

Flaskamp made 144 tackles last year to lead the metro area. He’s having a strong year again this year, but his role as the Lakers’ featured running back takes a toll.

“I never get tired during a play,” Flaskamp said. “But after the play, that’s when I feel it.”

Flaskamp and Dickel met on the field on Oct. 30, with Southwest squeaking out a 17-14 victory. Dickel won the individual tackles battle at 19 to 13, but Flaskamp also had 189 yards and a touchdown rushing. The two had numerous collisions on the field.

“I was curious to see how that would play out, knowing that we’re good friends,” Dickel said. “Honestly, it was fun. If he made a long run, or if I made a good tackle, we slap each other on the helmet and then go on to the next play. Where I’d try to hit him again.”

Both players expect to play in college. Dickel already has an offer from the University of St. Thomas, which is transitioning to Division I, and a number of Division II offers. Flaskamp has plenty of D-II offers. Both are hoping strong senior seasons will result in more high-level attention.

In the short term, however, there’s the matter of who wins the tackles battle.

“It’s pushed us to be better each week,” Flaskamp said. “It’s super cool another dude from the city and I are going after this. There’s not a lot of dudes who can ball like Nyle can.”

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