John Marshall graduate Ladu took the long road to college football

Peter Ladu, a 2022 John Marshall graduate, will sign to play football at Concordia University, St. Paul on Wednesday morning.

John Marshall's Peter Ladu (5) keeps his eye on the ball before catching a pass in the end zone for a touchdown during a football game against Austin Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, at John Marshall High School in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — Peter Ladu was afforded one game, it turned out, to prove what he believed to be true.

It was that he’d turned himself into a heck of a high school football player.

Ten days before Rochester John Marshall’s 2021 season opener against Mankato West, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound speedy senior wide receiver was sent to the sidelines after suffering an injury that rocked his world, Ladu breaking his collarbone.

Save for his team’s final game that season, a 40-28 loss to Century in the first round of the playoffs in which Ladu shined with five catches for 77 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown catch, he spent all of that season sidelined, wondering what might have been and what — if anything — still might be in football.

It was devastating. Ladu’s summer had been devoted to building himself into the best football player he could be. He’d gained 15 pounds of muscle, gotten faster and refined his route running and pass-catching skills.


Peter Ladu-2.jpg
Peter Ladu

And now this. As much as Ladu wanted to excel his senior year at JM, he’d also been thinking beyond that.

A big senior season could be a means to an end. Ladu’s hope was to land a college football scholarship.

But with almost no film on him as a senior, other than Ladu roaming the JM sidelines and that one final game against Century, recruiters had nothing to go on.

“When that season ended, I felt lost,” Ladu said. “Mentally, I’d been kind of demolished. That season was going to be a huge one for my (college) recruitment.”

Turned out there was next to no recruitment for him. Ladu reached out to some coaches, but nothing he wanted materialized.

Still, his college football dream wouldn't go away. So Ladu took a different path. Still seeking to draw attention from colleges, he went the prep school route, settling on Liberty Prep in Indiana, where he played football last fall.

Ladu wasn’t crazy about the football there or the position they had him playing, cornerback. He sees himself as a receiver. But having signed with a prep school allowed Ladu to attend college football camps this past summer, where plenty of recruiting eyes were on him.

Ladu attended three of those — the University of North Dakota’s, the University of Minnesota’s and Minnesota State University, Mankato’s.


Mankato showed early interest, but then cooled on Ladu after signing some transfers. It was about then that fellow Division II program Concordia University, St. Paul, got in on Ladu and never let up.

The interest became mutual. Last week, Ladu verbally committed to the Golden Bears. On Wednesday, he’ll make it official, putting his pledge to Concordia, St. Paul in writing on National Signing Day.

Ladu is one of a handful of southeastern Minnesota high school or prep school football players who are using the day to officially sign letters of intent.

The Golden Bears seem to be getting a heck of a prospect. Ladu is now 6-3, 193 pounds, runs close to a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, has a remarkable 37-inch vertical jump and long arms that give him a wingspan of someone 6-7, making it all the easier to grab passes in traffic.

“Concordia wanted me really badly,” Ladu said. “I’m comfortable going there and helping turn the program around (1-10 record last season). I feel like they’re getting a steal.”

As for Ladu, he’s getting new life. With that comes pride, satisfaction and relief.

“This is going to feel very refreshing, that this is a done deal and that I am getting this next chapter in my life to play college football,” he said. “I’m super happy to be joining them.”

Others signing

The only Division I recruits in southeastern Minnesota both signed in the early signing period, Dec. 23. They are 6-foot-7, 335-pound Kasson-Mantorville offensive lineman Reese Tripp and 6-3, 190-pound Goodhue receiver Adam Poncelet.


Tripp is headed to the University of Minnesota and Poncelet to the University of North Dakota. Poncelet had 790 yards receiving and six touchdowns on 45 receptions this season. For his career, he totaled 1,957 yards receiving.

Chatfield vs. Caledonia Football
Chatfield's Sam Backer (21) attempts to jump over Caledonia's Lewis Doyle (1) during a football game Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, in Chatfield.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

• Among the southeastern Minnesota football players signing with colleges on Wednesday is Chatfield running back Sam Backer, the Post Bulletin’s Player of the Year in 2022.

Backer, the second most prolific runner in Minnesota history, will play for Division II power Minnesota State University, Mankato. Backer finished his career having rushed for 7,377 yards. He was a running quarterback the last two seasons for Chatfield. The 5-11, 190-pound speedster rushed for 2,782 yards and 35 touchdowns this past season.

There are a pack of southeastern Minnesota players signing with Division II Winona State University. That includes Stewartville standout offensive lineman Peyton Byrne (6-3, 264). Others headed to WSU are Winona’s Bryan Cassellius (6-0, 185, linebacker, 14 tackles for loss this season) and lineman Wesley Wollan (6-2, 215, eight sacks), as well as La Crescent-Hokah’s Carter Todd (6-4, 190, receiver) and Kingsland's Mason Kolling (6-4, 230, tight end).

Stewartville’s Byrne was a second-team All-State choice. La Crescent-Hokah’s Todd finished with 67 catches for 932 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also ran the ball 60 times for 508 yards and five touchdowns.

Also signing at the Division II level are Byron tight end/defensive lineman Nick Netzke (Minnesota State University Moorhead), Byron offensive lineman/defensive lineman Carter Geerts (University of Minnesota Duluth) and Kasson-Mantorville offensive lineman Ben Nelson (Minnesota State University Moorhead). Netzke is 6-4, 240, Geerts 6-2, 270 and Nelson 6-2, 240. Geerts played in the Minnesota All-Star Game.

Others signing Wednesday are Spring Grove safety Tysen Grinde (Dakota State University), Plainview-Elgin-Millville free safety Kyler Lamb (University of Wisconsin-Stout), La Crescent-Hokah defensive lineman Lucas Hafner (UW-Stevens Point), Stewartville linebacker Colton Parker (UW-Stout), Grand Meadow receiver/defensive back Cael Gilbert (Gustavus Adolphus College), Austin defensive back Tommy Fritz (Dordt University) and Austin receiver/defensive back Manny Guy (University of Minnesota Morris),

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or
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