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Park of Cottage Grove's Arlington is back and on track

By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune, 10/19/13, 4:57PM CDT


A concussion set back Park of Cottage Grove’s Elias Arlington, but he has stepped up to lead his team.

Elias Arlington photo by Scott Briggs ORG XMIT: MIN1310151138386488


Back in the spring of 2011, Park of Cottage Grove coach Darin Glazier wasn’t even sure if then-freshman Elias Arlington would be able to graduate on time, much less be eligible to play football.

Now, as a senior, Arlington has emerged as an enigmatic playmaker for the Wolfpack after not playing a game since he was a ninth-grader. He is also on track to graduate with his classmates.

“He’s having a great time,” Glazier said. “It’s so fun to watch him and see the smile on his face. It’s something that quite honestly I didn’t know if we’d ever see him put the pads on again and be out there on the varsity field.”

Arlington suffered a debilitating concussion as a ninth-grader. In a game against East Ridge, Arlington called for a fair catch on a punt return. He bobbled the ball, recovered it on the ground and then was hit late.

He missed substantial classroom time and struggled to catch up in school. Glazier said Arlington wasn’t incredibly motivated to begin with at that point, so things just kind of snowballed on him.

“Things didn’t start off on the right foot for him, and it just got tougher and tougher,” said Glazier, who took over the program in the spring of 2011, when Arlington’s setbacks began.

Arlington came back out to the field as a sophomore hoping to play football again. The coaching staff informed him he wasn’t performing well enough academically to suit up. The coaches let him practice with the football program for a while, but he still wasn’t putting in enough work in the classroom.

In the spring of his sophomore year, the coaching staff sat him down and informed him he wouldn’t be eligible to play again as a junior.

“I think that’s finally when it hit him,” Glazier said.

So they came up with a plan to figure out what he needed to do to become eligible. Arlington stepped up. He completed about 1½ years of work, including online coursework and night school, in one school year.

It was a tough-love relationship between Glazier and Arlington at the beginning.

“At first, I could tell he was trying to get to know me more as a person, not as a football player,” Arlington said. “I think we really have a strong relationship now, from my point of view. Especially from when he was trying to help me out and getting me back on track. He was just a big help.”

This season Arlington, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior, is giving the Wolfpack an offensive spark. Through eight games, Arlington has 706 yards receiving. He’s caught four passes for touchdown and rushed for another five.

His breakout performance came at Park’s homecoming, where he piled up 331 total yards and scored four touchdowns in dramatic fashion. He ran for 81 yards and one touchdown. He caught seven passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. And he threw a 64-yard touchdown pass.

The Wolfpack defeated Woodbury for the first time since 2002, the score was 36-28.

Arlington said he hopes to play football at a junior college and hopefully transfer to a Division I program after a year or two.

“As he knows, our plan right now is that we need to get him walking with his classmates for graduation,” Glazier said. “That’s priority No. 1.”

He looks to be on track to do just that. All of the hard work on the field and in the classroom is paying off, and he’s trying to soak in the moment.

“It’s a great feeling knowing I can play again,” Arlington said. “It’s a great feeling being able to lead this team.”

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