Arguably the greatest athlete to ever walk the halls of Owatonna High School, Noel Jenke, died at a Milwaukee hospital last Thursday night at the age of 73. 

He had been in the hospital due to a surgery, and, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, had produced both a positive and negative test for COVID-19.

Jenke, who was a charter member of the OHS Hall of Fame in 1996, graduated from high school in 1965 and lettered three times apiece in football, basketball and baseball while also guiding his Park and Rec ice hockey team to a state championship. 

Following a distinguished career with the Indians, Jenke moved on to the University of Minnesota and excelled in football, hockey and baseball. Though he played in an era where multi-sport athletes were much more common in college athletics, the fact that he earned first-team All-Big Ten Conference in two different sports (football and baseball) remains one of the rarest feats in Gopher sports history.

After garnering unanimous first-team All-American accolades by both the Sporting News and Topps during his senior year at Minnesota, Jenke was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the 1969 MLB and reached as high as the Triple-A level. He appeared in 120 minor league games over three seasons and batted .241 with 35 RBIs and five home runs.

Jenke, though, ultimately decided to step away from baseball in 1970 to pursue a career in professional football. Having been drafted by the Vikings in the 1969 draft, he went on to play 15 combined games for Minnesota and Atlanta before finishing his career with the Green Bay Packers.

According to, Jenke remains the only Big Ten athlete to be drafted in three professional sports as he was also selected by the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association.

The People's Press will have further coverage/reaction to Jenke's passing later this week.

Reach sports editor Jon Weisbrod at 444-2375, or follow him on @OPPJonW. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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