Courtesy Minnesota State University-Mankato
After three incredible years at Spring Lake Park High School and two seasons of development in the USHL, David Backes' desire was to play for the prestigious Minnesota Golden Gophers. It's pretty much the dream of any kid in skates growing up in the hockey hotbed of Minnesota.

When David got in touch with the Gophers about joining them, their answer was a harsh no. It was a painful rejection for Backes who dreamed of wearing the famous maroon and gold sweater of the Golden Gophers.

"As much as it's painful to admit, I was kind of a Gopher fan," he remembered. When I went to the Gophers, just asking them to extend any offer, whatever it may be to show that they were interested, they declined."

Instead, David was given a unique opportunity when he received a call from Troy Jutting, the then-head coach of the Minnesota State University, Mankato Mavericks. The Mavericks had pooled together local talents from across the Great Lakes region. Minnesota State was only in their infantcy in the highly-competitive Western Collegiate Hockey Association and needed a true blue-chip prospect to give them that extra notoriety on the path toward national recognition.

The decision to join the Mavericks paid off immediately for David who received large amounts of ice time as a nineteen-year-old freshman. There was a mutual trust between David and the Minnesota State coaching staff from the very beginning.

"They came to me as a junior in high school and were willing to offer me a scholarship," he said. "I felt that Mankato was showing me some loyalty and some trust that I was going to produce and kept continuing to develop as a player. I felt that in return, they deserved me playing there."

It was indeed, the right choice for Backes who played in all situations as a freshman. David earned the honor of being named to the 2003-04 All-WCHA Rookie Team.

"In hindsight, it was the best thing for me," he explained. "I was more than excited to go there. When there's a one-year obligation, there's a chance to flee and go elsewhere. It didn't cross my mind. They were willing to extend that arm out to me. I was able to play every game as a freshman and be thrown into the fire on the powerplay and penalty kill."

Courtesy Minnesota State University-Mankato
Minnesota State Assistant Coach Darren Blue felt the Mavericks were equally fortunate to have David on their roster and representing them off the ice.

"David is not only a special player, but a special person," Blue stated. "We were fortunate to get him in there at a time we did. After getting to know David as a kid and a competitor, we were able to offer him a scholarship and a place to play. We were grateful he decided to join us."

Blue considers David as the prototypical student-athlete who wanted to take on all the demands in the classroom, in the community and on the ice. He wanted to be a part of everything and challenge himself in all aspects during his college years.

"The minute he stepped onto campus, not only did he do things the right way as a hockey player – he did things the right way in the community and the classroom," Blue said. "At the time he was able to sign a professional contract with the Blues, he was already top hockey player for us, a fantastic ambassador for our program and he was the top engineering student in our school as well."

Backes was named an academic All-American in his junior year and earned a 4.0 grade-point average as an electrical engineering major and was named to the 2005-06 Men's RBK Division I West All-America Second Team.

"He was very well-rounded and very mature about what he wanted to do," Blue explained. David strives to do everything he does, the best he can. When he came in, he played in pretty much every situation and earned that in his first year. We look and hope we can find more players to follow in his footsteps."

When Backes began playing as a freshman, he was competing against older athletes as a nineteen-year-old. His driven mentality was key to reaching his goals.

"It's kind of like pro hockey," Blue stated. "It's the first time you have a wide range of ages. He came in as one of the younger guys at nineteen years of age. David is very much a perfectionist in the things that he does."

David dedicated himself in the weight room and on the practice ice during his years at Minnesota State. His hard work paid off as he totaled 119 points in 115 games for the Mavericks over three years.

"It's definitely a different schedule," Blue explained. "The biggest thing about college hockey is the development aspect from Sunday through Thursday. We get into the weight room a couple of times a week, a couple hours of team practice everyday plus individual on-ice practice times. Guys like David, who have some pretty lofty goals can take advantage of this."

Blue looks back on David's accomplishments as a rarity for a player on a program that had only joined the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in 1999.

Courtesy Minnesota State University-Mankato
"For a player to do that and get noticed playing in a smaller market, is pretty special," Blue said. "We don't have a big market or the media coverage. The things that he did are pretty special not only for David, but for our program by helping a very young Division I hockey program gain momentum."

After three years at Minnesota State, David was selected by the St. Louis Blues 62nd overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. His development as a Maverick paved the way for the success he has enjoyed at international and NHL levels. David stands as one of the foremost ambassadors of the school.

"As an ambassador for our program, we couldn't have asked for a better person," Blue stated. "Any time something comes up, he's one of the first guys who asks what he can do for us. I don't know if he's ever said no to the things we've asked him to do to help our program. His relationship with our program is special. We're very fortunate that he thinks of us the way he does."

Backes still keeps in touch with his MSU teammates, some of who also made the jump to NHL. Ryan Carter reached the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals with the New Jersey Devils.

"Ryan Carter lives pretty close to me," David said. "We chat and workout every now and then, which is a nice bond to have. I spent every Fourth of July with Travis Morin and hang out in my in-laws' cabin in Minnesota. It's always cool to see guys who make that jump just as I have. Tim Jackman is a guy who I see frequently at events or just hanging around."

David is currently pursuing an applied organizational studies degree in the offseason.