MANKATO, Minnesota — Former University of Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson apologized in court Monday to a former Minnesota State football player who suffered a serious brain injury in a beating outside a nightclub last year.
Nelson, 21, was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and won't have to serve jail time for his part in the May 11 attack on Isaac Kolstad. Nelson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fifth-degree assault under a deal reached in January in which felony charges were dropped. Another man still faces more serious charges in the attack.
Kolstad, 25, told the court his life has been "changed forever," The Free Press of Mankato reported.
"I can't hold my own children without someone else watching me," Kolstad told a packed courtroom. "My doctors are afraid I will have another seizure and drop them. I can't drive. I can't work. I can't cook my family dinner."
As part of his sentence, Nelson got credit for two days he's already served in jail. Prosecutors had recommended a 15-day jail sentence.
Nelson said in Blue Earth County District Court that not a day goes by that he doesn't think about that May night. He maintains he can't remember kicking Kolstad in the head and said he wants to take responsibility for his actions, the Star Tribune reported.
A prosecution expert concluded that the kick did not lead to Kolstad's severe brain injury. But Kolstad told the court that "Philip Nelson made decisions that night that left me with permanent brain damage."
Kolstad is still undergoing physical and occupational therapy, including for his speech and motor skills, and he spoke haltingly in court.
Kolstad's wife, Molly, told the court that she has forgiven Nelson and talked about her husband's lengthy recovery, saying Nelson should thank her family.
"It's through our hard work that Mr. Nelson is not faced with murder charges today," Molly Kolstad said.
The Kolstads' attorney, Kenneth White, said his clients were disappointed with the sentence and will likely sue Nelson.
Trevor Shelley, 21, of St. Peter, still faces the more serious charge of felony assault in the attack. Shelley is accused of punching Kolstad in the head and knocking him to the ground before authorities say Nelson kicked Kolstad in the head.
Nelson was removed from the Rutgers football team soon after the brawl. He had transferred there from the University of Minnesota.