So here we are at the start of year
three four five of the P.J. Fleck era at Minnesota, and the over-caffeinated ball of energy is 26-19 overall, 15-19 in the Big Ten.
Good, but not great.
We broke the stupid streak against wisconsin. We’ve also beat Nebraska three times. And while it isn’t as good as wiping that dumb smirk of Kirk Ferentz’s face just once, it’s still pretty nice. Bowl wins over Georgia Tech and Auburn have been fun. The program under Fleck has had a 1st round NFL draft pick in Rashod Bateman, who is arguably the greatest WR in the history of the program. 7 more players have been drafted over the past 3 years, and at least one offensive lineman will be selected next year. When that happens, it’ll be the first time a Gopher OL has been drafted since 2006. (I don’t feel the need to bury Tim Brewster or Jerry Kill much more, but for a B1G program to not have an OL drafted for 15 years is completely unacceptable.)
The program is trending in the right direction overall, and that’s great.
But while it’s important, it’s not the most important thing.
There have been no hugely embarrassing arrests under Fleck. Team GPA is at an all-time high. The players continue to spend a ton of time at the U of M Children’s Hospital and at local schools, and helped the community by providing food and other supplies in the wake of the unrest following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.
And it almost always ties back to one of P.J. Fleck’s ridiculous acronyms. Everything has a meaning, and everything is explained. The goal of it all is to mold football players into responsible young men, and every indication so far has been that he is doing a great job. The target of all these messages are the team and the recruits, and they’ve been getting the message loud and clear. Gopher Football is doing an elite job representing the state and the University.
While we don’t see and hear everything, what we do see has been outstanding. Even the dumbest thing he’s done has been with the interest of his players at heart.
Deep down, I’m a cynical broken person who has been burned too many times by things that came to the surface later. Gopher Football has been a magnet for dumb choices for as far as I can remember, and it’s a wonderful change right now that it doesn’t seem that way. So while it’s a bit too much for even me, I’ll continue to smile just a little bit through the scowl when the Energizer Gopher appears in a commercial on my TV for a local pizza place because he’s still too much. But that’s why he’s the perfect person for the job he has, as long as he has it. I hope it’s quite a while.