Justin Knakmuhs is a man with a plan.
"I had the idea that after college, I would work in the (family's real estate and insurance) agency," he said of his chosen course of study.
He's a senior management major, with finance and marketing minors. He's also a good student, carrying a 3.4 GPA. He was Academic All-NSIC a year ago.
His family's business, Knakmuhs Agency, has its main office in Walnut Grove, as well as offices in Tracy, Westbrook and Garvin.
The son of Kerry and Becky Knakmuhs, he graduated from Westbrook-Walnut Grove High School and at 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, was highly recruited as a football prospect.
"SMSU, Winona State, St. Cloud State and a bunch of Division III schools," he said. "I picked SMSU because of the location, and the facility. It's nice that it's so close to home, because my family can come and watch."
He has three aunts and uncles living in Marshall, and a sister in town, too.
His mother and brother, Matt, work at the Tracy office, Tracy Insurance Agency. Another brother, Nate, works in the Westbrook office and his father works in Walnut Grove. His sister, Andrea Porter, is a chef at the American Legion in Marshall.
"I had an idea I would want to come back home and work, and I figured a management degree would help me out," he said. "When I graduate, I'll be working mostly in Walnut Grove and Westbrook."
He has interned with Todd Bock at Northwestern Mutual in Marshall and has earned his life and health insurance licenses.
"Last year, over Christmas break, I got my property-casualty license. Now I just need real estate," he said.
Knakmuhs will line up at right guard today when the Mustangs take on Pittsburg State in the Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Mo. It's the first bowl game in program history, and he points to one play as being the springboard to the team's success this year.
"The Moorhead game, when we scored on a last-second play. I think back to that and how it could have been a different season if we had lost. If one play goes wrong, we could be
4-7 versus 7-4," he said.
He's glad he picked the Mustangs. "I came with the mindset of trying to turn the program around. It seems like we've taken a step in the right direction. This season will open the door to a lot of recruits who might not have been thinking of coming here. It's a great opportunity.
"We've always had talent, it was a matter of putting it together. I think there's no disputing the fact that once we changed the offense this year - went to more of a quicker pace - that it worked to our strengths. We as a group feel confident we can win any ballgame."
Knakmuhs is one of five seniors on the offensive line and they take a lot of pride in opening the holes for record-breaking running back Tyler Tonderum, one of nine national finalists for the Harlan Hill Award, the Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
"We like to think we played a big part in that," he said. "It's a fun accomplishment for him. We're all proud of the (offensive) records we've broken. It's fun."
He red-shirted as a freshman, something that was difficult.
"You practice but don't play in games. That's always the hardest time in any football player's career."
During that time, through hard work and a
lot of lifting, he added 25 pounds to his high school graduation weight of 275 pounds.
"I got muscle where there used to be flab," he joked.
He's living a dream right now, reaping the benefits of hard work that coaches talk so much about during the course of a season. And he knows what he wants to do once his playing days are over.
"It's fulfilling for me. I'm proud of my background, and love the Westbrook-Walnut Grove area. A lot of people have helped get me here, and I'm thankful for that."