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FB's Vinny Pallini gets MIAC weekly award

Mike Ekern photo
Mike Ekern photo

St. Thomas junior receiver-kick returner Vinny Pallini on Tuesday was named MIAC Football's Special Teams Player of the Week. It was the second such weekly award for Pallini so far during his Tommie career.

In Saturday's 76-7 home season-opening victory over NAIA's Trinity International, St. Thomas lost the coin toss, the opponent deferred, and the Tommies' chose to receive.

Pallini promptly returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for touchdown. The 5-9 starting wide receiver from Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, Wis., who was a standout kicker in high school, then booted the PAT for a 7-0 lead.

Thus, Pallini scored points on the first and second plays of the season -- a rare feat in NCAA football. He finished the game making 4-of-5 PAT kicks.

Pallini has helped the No. 3-ranked Tommies win 24 of 27 games so far in his era with three return touchdowns, three receiving TDs, 47 catches, and 1,278 return/receiving yards. As a freshman in 2016 he had a 96-yard kickoff return to the end zone against St. Olaf and kicked that subsequent PAT, too. He is 7-of-8 in career PAT kicks, and also has a 21-yard field goal.

Pallini is the first St. Thomas player to return a kickoff for a touchdown on the game's first play since Fritz Waldvogel did it in 2009, also at home at Palmer Field in O'Shaughnessy Stadium. 

The Tommies also had a punt returner -- junior Will Toonen, ironically, also a Green Bay, Wis., native -- just miss two punt return touchdowns in Saturday's victory. Toonen, a graduate of Ashwaubenon High, twice was tripped up by the Trinity punter as the last man in his path to the end zone. Toonen finished with 145 yards on five punt returns (29.0 ypp).
 
The Tommies ended up with 379 return yards on 13 touches with kickoff, punt and interception returns. Freshman backup DB Juke Glenna of Edina High had a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown and also had a 49-yard punt return deep into Trinity territory.