One of the greatest Gopher athletes of all time, Noel Jenke, passes away, age 73

BleedGopher

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per Pat:


There are occasions when we hear of athletes demanding that their Division I college allow them to play two sports. Noel Jenke upped that when being recruited by the Gophers as a 1964-65 senior at Owatonna High School.

“My dad told Minnesota that he wasn’t going there unless he could play three sports,” said Joe Jenke, Noel’s son. “They agreed, but then the coach [Murray Warmath] made him play spring football rather than baseball.”

Noel Jenke, 73, died in a Milwaukee hospital Thursday. He had health problems in recent years. He had surgery earlier this month, was readmitted last week in serious condition, and was taken off life support Thursday. He had both a negative and a positive test for COVID-19 during his hospital stays.

Jenke was a hard-hitting linebacker and potent lefthanded hitter in baseball. Remarkably, he played Gophers hockey — as a freshman, then three seasons of varsity (34 games) — after arriving from a high school without a hockey program.

There was an Owatonna junior program started by Kenny Austin, a Roseau transplant, and Jenke starred on midget teams that went to national tournaments.

Jenke was part of a tremendous defense that took the Gophers to a Big Ten tri-championship with Purdue and Indiana in 1967. He was a team captain later and drafted in the 12th round by the Vikings in 1969.


Go Gophers!!
 

LesBolstad

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Owatonna legend. Drafted in 3 pro sports! That will never happen again.
 

BleedGopher

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Former Gopher captain, Jim Carter chimes in via Shama:


Friends and former teammates of Noel Jenke were saddened last weekend to hear of his death. Noel, 73, died of unknown causes several days ago in Wisconsin, and the Owatonna, Minnesota native is remembered as one of the Gophers’ greatest athletes ever.

Noel earned seven letters at Minnesota, with three each in football and hockey, and one in baseball. He was an outstanding linebacker on the Gophers’ 1967 Big Ten championship football team. Teammate Jim Brunzell said this via email: “God, what a great athlete and human being. He was one tough linebacker!”

Another football teammate, Jim Carter, played with Noel at Minnesota and in Green Bay with the NFL Packers. “He had lots of heart and he was fun to be around,” Carter texted.

Noel played five seasons in the NFL with three teams, the Vikings, Falcons and Packers. Baseball might have been his best sport but football coach Murray Warmath wouldn’t let him play because of the conflict with spring football. As a senior, and after his football eligibility expired, Noel played college baseball for one season and hit .402. It was 50 years ago last summer he made his minor league debut as an outfielder in AAA for the Red Sox’s Louisville farm team, but he never made it to the majors.

A celebration of Noel’s life will be held for family only tomorrow (Tuesday) at a church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.


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Lincoln gopher

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I think baseball was his best sport, outstanding in high school and legion ball, my older brother played legion ball with him. Hitting .402 in college after not playing for three years is incredible.
 

50PoundHead

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It's sad he never really excelled at the professional level. Because of that, I don't think he gets the acclaim that is truly due to him. One of the all-time Gopher greats.
 

BleedGopher

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Shama chimes in:

The outpouring of condolences following the recent death of Gophers 1960s three-sport standout Noel Jenke has been moving, and look for former teammates from baseball, football and hockey to organize a gathering to celebrate the life of the Owatonna, Minnesota native.


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cemba99

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Off the top of my head I can think of several Gophers who were letter recipients in more than one sport
- Noel Jenke (football, hockey, baseball)
- Dave Winfield (basketball, baseball)
- Lou Hudson (basketball, track)
- Bud Grant (football, basketball, baseball)
- Eric Decker (football, baseball)

I'm sure there are many, many others
 
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Off the top of my head I can think of several Gophers who were letter recipients in more than one sport
- Noel Jenke (football, hockey, baseball)
- Dave Winfield (basketball, baseball)
- Lou Hudson (basketball, track)
- Bud Grant (football, basketball, baseball)
- Eric Decker (football, baseball)

I'm sure there are many, many others
Omar Douglas (football, track)
Archie Clark (basketball, baseball)
Barry Wohler (basketball, baseball)
Paul Giel (football, baseball)
Verne Gagne (football, wrestling)
 
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