Northern Star: TJ Chiabotti
For this week's segment, we feature a North Woods running back who recently became the 19th player in Minnesota High School football history to rush for over 5,000 career years.
COOK, Minn. – North Woods running back TJ Chiabotti has always loved the game of football.
“I like running it and hitting people,” Chiabotti said.
And he’s been making his mark on the North Woods football team long before this record breaking season.
“He’s been the guy for a very, very long time for us. Starting almost in sixth grade when the other coaches around here asked if we could move him up to our junior high teams and he’s just a special athlete. The things he can do with a football in his hand, the vision he has makes him a challenge for about every opponent we face. He’s got skills in his skillset that I can’t run a drill for, I can’t coach, and he’s had those forever,” North Woods head coach Joel Anderson said.
This season, Chiabotti has rushed for over 1800 yards, which leads the state, and has scored 22 touchdowns.
“I kind of expected it from how hard I worked this year. My main focus was working on my speed because last year I didn’t feel as fast. I worked out with my cousin, Jared who’s on the team. We both worked on our speed,” Chiabotti said.
And in the regular season finale, Chiabotti became just the 19th player in Minnesota High School football history to rush for over 5,000 career years.
“We’ve asked him to carry the ball 25, 30 times in a game, and we’ve asked him to carry the ball 12. He can shoulder the load,” Anderson said.
But Chiabotti is the first to credit his teammates for his accomplishments.
“We’ve had guys fill in and they’ve been good, they’ve made my job easier. The linemen, they’ve created big holes,” Chiabotti said.
“We’ll give a lot of credit to our offensive line, they’ve been playing spectacularly pretty much all season long and he makes them better as well. His vision to set things up, the ways he sees the field is just phenomenal. More than once, I’ve had linemen come back to me and say coach I don’t know if I blocked that right because he saw the opening and made the cut and it wasn’t necessarily where it was supposed to be,” Anderson added.
As the season wraps up, Chiabotti is hoping he gets the chance to play at the next level.
“I’ve been playing football my whole life and to play college football would be a dream come true. It’s been tricky but it’s been fun. I feel like not many coaches get to see your film,” Chiabotti said.
“Small towns in rural Minnesota kind of get overlooked and that makes it a challenge. Whether it’s the competition level or this or that, our guys will compete at any level within this state,” Anderson added.
But before that, Chiabotti is focused on the team and the postseason, as North Woods opens the section 7A playoffs on Tuesday as the No. 2 seed, hosting East Central.
“We like to have fun but we know when to flip the switch and it’s game time. We have a good team this year and our goal is to win the section,” Chiabotti said.