STORM LAKE - Adjusting from high school football to the gridiron at the Division II level is no piece of cake.
Especially when you're talking about the North Central Conference, widely regarded as the top D-II athletic conference in the nation.
But former Storm Lake High football standout Nick Skibsted, now playing for Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., has made it look easy.
After a year as a redshirt freshman, Skibsted, the son of Storm Lake High teacher and coach Dave Skibsted and Connie Skibsted, has started for the Auggies at offensive center each of the past two seasons.
"There's the physical adjustment because of the size and strength of the guys you're going up against," Nick said Sunday night night. "But there's also the mental part. In college, the playbook is much more complex than what you see for a high school team."
Adjusting to football might not be the most impressive part of Skibsted's transition from high school to college.
A math and education major, Skibsted's grade-point average going into the last half of his junior year is 3.76. Recently, he was named to the ESPN The Magazine's Academic All-Central Region team as well as being an Academic All-NCC pick.
"It can get stressful at times, particularly the academic part," Skibsted said. "Football is almost like a job at the Division II level; you put 20 to 25 hours a week into it. You really have to learn to use your time wisely."
This past fall, Skibsted's day started with a student teaching job from 8 a.m. to 9 :30 a.m. From 10 -11 a.m., the football team would have its daily meeting and he'd be in class from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Football practice would last from 2:30-6 p.m., and after dinner, Skibsted worked as Augustana's intramural coordinator from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.
The question was posed, 'when does Skibsted get the chance to hit the books?'
"From about 11:30 (p.m.) into the wee hours of the morning," he said. The next question was, when does he get a chance to sleep?
"I'm still young," he said with a chuckle, inferring that he doesn't need all that much sleep. "We don't have practice on Mondays so I do some catching up on that day," he added.
On Saturdays this past fall, Skibsted helped lead Augustana to a 6-5 overall mark.
Four teams - North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth and South Dakota - each tied for the NCC title with 4-2 marks. All four went to the NCAA Division II- playoffs.
Augustana finished 2-4 in the NCC, but ended the season on a three-game winning streak, including a 26-23 upset over then nationally-ranked Minnesota-Duluth.
Skibsted was one of the leaders on an Auggie offensive line that averaged 162 rushing yards per game and 226 passing yards per contest. Augustana was fourth in the NCC with 389 yards of offense per game; it also averaged 27 points per game.
"It was a good season overall for us," Skibsted said, adding that the team was just 2-7 in 2004.
Next fall, he added, Augusta loses just one offensive lineman and one running back. It returns quarterback Tommy Flyger, a 6-foot-2 junior out of Sioux Falls who passed for 218 yards per game and ran for 60 more per contest this season.
"We have a very strong junior class, and and next year, we know we can challenge for the NCC title and make the D-II (national) playoffs," he said. "Our expectations are high."
That has always been the case for Skibsted, who also started on Tornado basketball and golf teams during his junior and senior years at SLHS.
Through it all, his dad Dave, the current SLHS golf coach, has been an overriding influenced on his son's accomplishments.
Dave was a three-year starter in the offensive line for Northern Iowa before graduating in 1975. He was an assistant coach for the Tornado football team during Nick's high school years.
"I always wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps," Nick said. "My dream growing up was to play for Northern Iowa, but UNI was Division II when my dad was there so I guess I'm sort of following that direction."
Being the son of an offensive lineman and coach, Nick said by the time he got to Augustana, he was ahead of other linemen in terms of technique and footwork.
As a senior at SLHS, he was 6-foot-2, 235 pounds. He was redshirted his first year at Augustana and used his strong work ethic in the weight room. He is now 285 pounds and has also grown an inch to 6-4.
He added, however, that playing other sports in high school may have been the most important key to his collegiate success.
"You see a lot of kids specializing in high school sports today," Nick said. "I think it's important to play in as many different sports as you can in high school. Being an all-around athlete will make you better at whatever you do."
Skibsted would like to follow his dad into coaching and teaching, but also hopes to work in athletic administration.
His managerial and administrative experience as Augustana's intramural coordinator, his GPA and his football experience will make an impressive resume.
He says he will most likely attend grad school and may work as an Augustana student assistant after his playing days.
"I'd like to work in a town about the size of Storm Lake," Skibsted said.
"I love working with high school kids, so coaching and teaching are in my future."