The end of University of North Dakota alum Jim Kleinsasser’s professional football career might also mark the start of Jacob Greenmyer’s career in medicine.
Today in Minneapolis during the final game of the regular season between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, Greenmyer, a 17-year-old senior from Stirum, N.D., who attends North Sargent High School in Gwinner, N.D., was named the recipient of the Vikings $10,000 academic scholarship to UND.
It was the final game for Kleinsasser, a native of Carrington, N.D., who recently announced his retirement after playing 13 years as a tight end for the Vikings. The former UND star and his wife, Christa, started the scholarship, which was presented to Greenmyer during pre-game activities at the Mall of America Field.
In his essay, Greenmyer, a cancer survivor, recounted his medical battles since age 9, how he overcame them and how those experiences led to the idea of pursuing a career in medicine.
“Reflecting on the early stages of my life and the virtues of hard work and perseverance I had based my ethics off of, I realized that the University of North Dakota was the only possibility for my college education,” he wrote. “It has a top tier medical program, and just as importantly I believe it embodies the same values and beliefs that are home grown in North Dakota, attributes I have used on the farm and to fight for my life.”
Attending the game with Greenmyer were his parents (Ron and Chelie), grandparents (Connie and Jerry Zetocha), two brothers (Andrew and Joseph) and his sister (Annah) who watched from a private suite.
Kleinsasser, was one of the best players ever to suit up for UND. Following a four-year career at the University from 1995-1998, he was drafted by the Vikings as a tight end in the second round of the NFL draft. He is the longest-tenured pro athlete in the Twin Cities and was inducted into North Dakota High School Hall of Fame in 2008.
The scholarship – intended for an incoming freshman in 2012 — attracted more than 250 applicants from eight states and the United Kingdom.
Greenmyer was also selected based on his high school GPA and standardized test scores, as well as his personal statement highlighting his career goals, achievements, how he overcame adversity and what the opportunity to study at UND would mean to his future.
Kleinsasser participated in promotional television and radio spots to promote the scholarship. In them, he talked about his love for UND and how his years at the University have helped him in life.
Off the field, Kleinsasser has worked extensively with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, serving with his wife to host the annual fundraising ball in the Twin Cities. He participates annually in the Epilepsy Foundation Clothing Drive and the North Dakota Special Olympics Games.