Willmar semi-pro football coach clocked in the face, sent to hospital

Many people, close friends included, witnessed Willmar semi-pro football coach Steve Peppin take a senseless, cold blow to the face at the hands of a man he coached and played football with for the last two years.

"It dropped him, he's a big man, he's 360 pounds, if you know Steve he's 6-foot-6, 360, it dropped him to a knee so it was a pretty ridiculous punch," Jarrett McAllister said.

McAllister watched in pure shock as his best friend, West Central Broncos coach Peppin took a serious blow to the face that put him in the hospital Sunday inside the Willmar Armory.

"One crazy, crazy freak punch, just an uppercut just kind of to the side, and it happened to go through a group of guys and it just hit Steve directly in the nose," he said.

The Broncos are a semi-pro team a part of the Northern States Football League. Peppin, also starting quarterback, and other players were wrapping practice when Willmar police say a verbal dispute broke out.

McAllister said Peppin was sticking up for someone "that was getting talked down on and a punch got thrown and it happened to make contact in the most perfect way. It's just super unfortunate."

Police said the man behind the punch is 25-year-old Keonte Rasheed Johnson. Johnson had been with the Broncos for two years. The former safety/wide receiver was arrested late Tuesday afternoon.

Peppin is now at North Memorial Hospital beginning a lengthy road to recovery. McAllister said he now has plates in his face and will spend at least six weeks with them "wired shut." He is expected to be out of the hospital Wednesday at 11 a.m. Those who are holding down the fort for him here at one of the businesses he owns, Peps Sports Bar, wish him the speediest of recoveries and can't wait to see him back.

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