The saga of former Minnesota and Rutgers quarterback Philip Nelson has come to an end – for now.
Charged with two felony assault charges after a May incident left former Minnesota State-Mankato linebacker Isaac Kolstad in critical condition, Nelson accepted a misdemeanor plea on Tuesday which carries a maximum 90-day sentence and $1,000 fine. Sentencing has not been set.
At the crux of the trial was whether it was Nelson’s kick to Kolstad’s head or a punch by a third party that ultimately caused Kolstad’s severe brain injury. Nelson’s attorney James Fleming said three doctors found “a lack of medical certainty” that his client was at fault for Kolstad’s most serious injuries, according to the Associated Press. Prosecution expert Michael B. McGee concurred, saying the punch that sent Kolstad’s head to the ground caused the majority of the damage. Thus, the plea deal. (The other assailant has also been charged with assault.)
Nelson was also hit in the head during the scuffle and sustained a concussion which robbed him of all memory of the incident.
“I still don’t remember what happened that night after I was hit in the head, but I recognize that I let down my family and friends by my actions. I offer my sincere apologies to everyone involved, and I wish Isaac Kolstad the best as he continues in his recovery,” Nelson said.
Nelson threw for 2,176 yards with 17 touchdowns in two seasons with Minnesota before transferring to Rutgers following the 2013 season. Scarlet Knights head coach Kyle Flood dismissed Nelson from the team following his arrest.
“We are just happy that this is finally coming to an end, and Philip is able to get on with his life and get back to his dream of playing football,” Nelson’s father Pat told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We’re going to move forward.”
Kolstad, a married father of two, is still working to regain the skills he had before the May 11 incident, including passing a recent benchmark of showering himself while standing up.
“This case is not simply about a kick in the head. It’s a series of decisions Mr. Nelson made,” Kolstad’s attorney Kenneth White said, noting that his client expects to file civil suits against both defendants in the future.