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Hall of Fame Spotlight: Chris Weinke

Posted: Monday, April 1, 2024 - 8:53 AM

HOF Class of 2024
Chris Weinke Head Shot

Chris Weinke

St. Paul’s Chris Weinke wasn’t sure football was in his plans at Cretin-Derham Hall High School. The day before the freshman football squad was to assemble for its first practice, Weinke had ended his VFW baseball season at the state championship. When he went to bed that night, he wasn’t sure he was going to play, or was even wanted, but the football team. Maybe he would just sleep in.

After all, he figured, his first loves were hockey and baseball so he was content to pursue those sports with gusto.

Word quickly spread through the Cretin football staff as the alarm bells rang. The Raiders had him pegged as the team’s quarterback, even though he had never played the position. In youth football, the strong and imposing Weinke had exceeded the weight limit to play in the backfield. Head coach Mal Scanlan and freshman coach Tom Cody worked through Weinke’s older brother, Derek, to ensure Chris would be to practice, and on time.

“I look back at that as a defining moment of making that decision to go out to that first football practice,” said Weinke, a 1990 graduate.

It also paved the way for three-sport stardom and set the tone as an advocate for students to pursue multiple sports and other opportunities during their high school careers.

“I share that story about my freshman year often,” said Weinke, currently the co-offensive coordinator of the Georgia Tech University football team. “My sports rolled right into the next. I didn’t know any different. I didn’t want to specialize at a young age. I don’t know what I would have chosen if I had to make a decision, so I highly encourage kids to play multiple sports. You only get one chance to go to high school. I always say, be where your feet are. Enjoy every moment. Let’s not worry about what’s going to happen next week or next year. Let’s be the best that we can be every single day. Give it all we’ve got and live to the fullest every day. It’s the same message I share every day with our players now as a college football coach. We have to understand the importance of today.”

Weinke is a shining example of embracing his high school opportunities. His heroics and feats will be recognized as a member of the Minnesota State High School League’s Hall of Fame Class of 2024 that will be inducted on Sunday, April 14 at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront Hotel. Weinke is one of four inductees in the Athletes category.

He led the Raiders to a runner-up finish in the 1988 Prep Bowl. Interestingly, a fellow member of the Class of 2024 is Dave Nelson, the former longtime Blaine head football coach who was on the winning sideline of that Class AA championship, which is still remembered as one of the most dramatic in Prep Bowl history. In 1989, he was a Parade Magazine and USA Today All-American and ranked as the top senior quarterback in the nation. He had more than 70 Division I offers.

In 1988, he scored the winning goal against South St. Paul at the Fairgrounds Coliseum that sent Cretin-Derham Hall to the Boys Hockey State Tournament for the first time in school history. After the hoopla of winning, Weinke and his teammates raced to his nearby St. Paul Como Park neighborhood to watch the high school highlights on the television news.

Weinke was also a powerful first baseman and led Cretin-Derham Hall to two Class AA baseball championships. He was a first-team All-America selection by Rawlings and was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round of the MLB Amateur Draft. Although he had signed to play football with Florida State, he opted to begin his career in professional baseball. Florida State assured him that they would hold a scholarship if he wished to return to college football.

“I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to be surrounded by good people,” Weinke said. Very rarely does a kid get to play in the Minnesota State High School League Hockey tournament, win back-to-back baseball titles, and then truly win the football state championship against Blaine.”

Weinke also is grateful for time spent in Cretin-Derham Hall’s ROTC program. The experience, he says, provided structure and discipline, characteristics that still define him.

“In that program, there was no gray; it was black and white,” Weinke said. "You had to be on time. You had to be disciplined. When I was part of the ROTC program, you had to shine your shoes, you had to shine your belt buckle. There was no in-between. I think it was truly the foundation that has helped me carry over into other areas of my life. There was process, there was no wavering.”

Weinke spent six years in the Blue Jays system before returning to Florida State and collegiate football in 1997. He was 32-3 as a starting quarterback, led the Seminoles to a national championship and won the Heisman Trophy. He went on to play six seasons in the NFL.

He is grateful he decided to get up for that first day of freshman football.

Weinke Action Shot

Chris Weinke, standing alongside Minnesota baseball coaching icon Dennis Denning, was a three-sport standout and 1990 graduate of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. He went on to play professional baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays and then a career in the NFL as a quarterback.

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