MANKATO — In a matter of 8 seconds three young lives took a terrible turn at bar closing time on a warm May morning.
One man's life was almost lost, another man's promising college football career came to an abrupt end and a third man found himself in the national spotlight for allegedly throwing a single, brutal punch before running from the scene.
It started as an argument between former Minnesota Gopher quarterback Philip Nelson, 21, and former Minnesota State University football standout Isaac Kolstad, 25. According to court records Nelson had mistook Kolstad for a Blue Bricks Bar and Eatery bouncer who had kissed his girlfriend.
Witnesses told investigators Nelson, who was underage at the time, pushed Kolstad during a verbal exchange in front of Blue Bricks and Rounders Bar around bar closing time on May 11. Nelson is then brought in one direction by Sam Thompson, Kolstad's friend, and Nick Kaus, Nelson's friend, stayed with Kolstad.
A surveillance video recording shows the 8 seconds that quickly changed the lives of Nelson, Kolstad and Trevor Shelley, 21, of St. Peter: Kolstad runs up to Nelson and throws a punch, possibly in the head, that sends Nelson and Thompson to the ground; Shelley, who didn't know Kolstad or Nelson, throws a punch that knocked Kolstad out before Kolstad's head hits the pavement with a thud; Nelson then kicks Kolstad in the head while he's down.
Shelley is also facing a first-degree assault charge. Nelson, who had transferred to Rutgers to play quarterback, was kicked off the football team. Kolstad, who is not likely to ever fully recover from injuries that nearly killed him, has not been charged.
Nelson's attorney, Jim Fleming of Mankato, filed a motion saying prosecutors don't have enough evidence to justify the first-degree assault charge. A doctor he has hired said most, if not all, of Kolstad's injuries were caused by the punch that knocked him out, his head hitting the ground and the fact that Kolstad couldn't breath because his lungs were blocked by vomit while he was lying on the ground.
Fleming also accused Kolstad of starting the incident by throwing what he described as a "sucker punch."
"This was not a friendly punch," Fleming said in November. "This took down two guys and it was a shot to Nelson's head."