Noah Kuehn was hard to miss on the home sidelines this past season.
“I’m the one who holds up those big, annoying signs,” Kuehn said with a laugh.
Kuehn didn’t have as much to laugh about a year ago. At that time, he wasn’t sure he was still going to be a part of Gopher football.
As a freshman he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. Kuehn said it is common not to get a diagnosis until turning 18 or 19 and he knew he had a chance of having it since his dad has the disease.
“It ended up being a situation where the trainers said they really needed to know,” Kuehn said. “I figured out I had it, but team doctor’s and specific kidney doctors said it was fine to play football. We just needed to take a couple of extra precautions and I didn’t really have any issues for a whole year.”
Kuehn redshirted that first season and made it through without a hitch.
“Then spring ball came and it happened. I had a cyst burst and I woke up with pain in my kidney and I was bleeding so I knew what happened,” Kuehn said. “I’ve seen my dad go through it so it wasn’t alarming.”
Kuehn had to sit for six weeks. Not just from football but lifting and conditioning was off the table as well. Kuehn attempted to come back but at the end of camp had another cyst burst, and was out another six weeks. He tried coming back one more time before having a cyst burst just two weeks later.
“Most people won’t even have a cyst burst in their whole lifetime,” Kuehn said.
Yet he had dealt with three bursts in a just a few months.
“The doctor’s and I sat down and they told me it wasn’t working,” he said. “It was one of those things where I wanted to keep playing, but I knew I couldn’t keep playing.”
Kuehn had been playing football since he was six or seven and wasn’t ready for it to be out of his life. He wanted to stay around the program but there was one glaring problem.
“Right when I was told that I couldn’t play anymore was right when the coaching change happened,” Kuehn explained. “It was a very stressful time because I knew they didn’t know me and I didn’t know them.”
Kuehn sat down with offensive line coach Ed Warinner and discussed the possibility of staying on and helping. Weeks later he met with head coach P.J. Fleck and was told he could stay around the team and help out with the offensive line.
“It was a big relief. Football has always been something that I was around and something that I did,” Kuehn said. “It’s hard enough to lose being able to play, but if I would have been completely out of contact with football in general, I think that would have been much harder.”
The whole experience has the mechanical engineering major pondering his future career path. He never saw himself becoming a football coach but now sees it as a possibility.
“I love to see people get better,” Kuehn said. “When you are a player you are more focused on your own development. Now I’ve been able to focus on how other people are doing and that’s cool to see.”
While Kuehn’s playing career ended early, he has fallen in love with his new role and plans to be back on the sideline holding up those really big signs again next season.
“The ball’s always taken away eventually,” Kuehn said. “So it’s a way for me to still compete and I just love it.”
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