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Sid Hartman

Sid Hartman brings you the latest on Twin Cities sports.

Hartman: U's Jordahl a scholar and an athlete (and a long snapper)

Payton Jordahl, who has started 50 straight games as the Gophers football long snapper, has never received anything less than an A in his courses for a master's degree in youth development leadership.

A Perham, Minn., native, Jordahl walked-on in 2014 and was given a scholarship by former head coach Tracy Claeys following the 2015 season, when he took over as long snapper as a redshirt freshman.

How did he become a snapper?

“It just happened one day when I was in the ninth grade,” Jordahl recalled. “I saw someone doing it in practice and I said, ‘Let me try.’ I gave it a shot and ended up being pretty good. I ended up getting on the varsity team that year, my freshman year, and I just kind of stuck with it.

“A lot of guys grow up doing it and practicing it and I just did it as a side hobby. Then all of a sudden I went to camp and the coaches said I could do this in college, so I ran with it.”

Jordahl grew up a huge Gophers and Vikings fan, and he talked about his memories of the Gophers struggles against Wisconsin, which came to an end in their final regular season game when they defeated the Badgers 35-17.

“I remember being a kid, I was at the Metrodome watching a game and we were winning and all we had to do was punt the ball and the punter bobbled the snap and they ended up blocking the punt and they returned it for a touchdown,” Jordahl said about the Gophers infamous loss in 2005. “That was how Wisconsin won the game.

“From a young age I have been watching Wisconsin win. So being able to beat them and be a part of it and be on the field was almost like an out of body experience. It was a lot of fun. It was awesome.”

Jordahl said that being able to take Paul Bunyon’s Axe to the U.S. Bank Stadium was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“If there is one sports team I love more than the Gophers, it might be the Vikings,” he said. “I grew up watching the Vikings as well, I loved every minute of it. I actually got to meet a lot of the players, I met the Olympic champion curling team, those guys from Duluth. I got to hold a gold medal in my hand and be at the Vikings game and that was a great experience itself because I love the Vikings.”

Jordahl is considered a pro prospect but he said that while he considers becoming a pro player, he is also thinking about his career outside of football.

“I’m excited about my academic career and furthering that, I'm working on a master's degree in youth development and leadership right now so I have to look at what I want to do with my life physically and mentally,” he said. “I am looking at both of those options right now.

“I am more proud of that than I am of any athletic ability that I have ever accomplished or any of those feats. I take much more pride in being a good person and being a good student than I do in being a good athlete. Being a good athlete is just a result of those other things.

One of the things he takes the most pride in on the field is his relationship with kicker Emmitt Carpenter and punter Jacob Herbers, who is also the holder on Carpenter’s kicks.

“[Carpenter] and Jacob Herbers and the previous punters and holders that I have had, those guys are probably the single most reason why I am motivated to do my job well -- the love that I have for Emmitt and Jacob Herbers, it helps me be motivated to do my job well,” Jordahl said. “Being able to see Emmitt and the success he has seen makes me really happy. He is a great friend of mine and it’s just awesome to see him enjoy doing what he does.”

How has Jordahl liked playing for Fleck at the end of his career?

“It’s amazing. It was difficult at first because they worked us really hard and once you start getting into the hard work you realize how much it helps you in life,” Jordahl said. “He is one of the most honest and trustworthy people I have met in my life.

“He is a man of his word. If he says he’s going to do something he’s going to do it, and he has always followed through with his word. I can respect that in a person a lot. I have really grown to love coach Fleck.”

Yes, Jordahl has snapped 498 times over his 50 career games and he will get one more chance to do it when the Gophers play Georgia Tech on Dec. 26 in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.

“I was talking with my mom just the other day and sometimes the days seem long but the years seem so fast, and the other day when [sports information director] Paul [Rovnak] told me I was playing in my 50th game I thought they were messing with me, I didn’t realize I had played that many football games in college. It has been an amazing experience. I don’t necessarily remember the scores or remember the times that I have played, I just remember the memories with my teammates. Fifty one games for me means 51 times I was able to be with my buddies.”

Hartman: Can Gophers make first bowl game under P.J. Fleck?

The Gophers game with Northwestern on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium has become a huge contest in what once seemed like a lost season for the Gophers after they started 0-4 in Big Ten play. And while the Wildcats have won the Big Ten West the Vegas oddsmakers have seen the line move to being in favor of the Gophers by one point.

Those oddsmakers are usually more right than wrong, even though they haven’t figure the Gophers out, yet. Last week Purdue was favored by double digits in a loss to the Gophers, and earlier this season the Gophers were a favorite against Illinois, a game the Gophers lost 55-31.

Head coach P.J. Fleck was asked what he has seen from Northwestern as he will try and get his team into a bowl game for the first time at the U.

“The Big Ten West champs, they’re 6-1 in the league, they’ve already wrapped up this side of the division with two games left,” he said. “They’re very physical, they’re very experienced, they’re very sound and they don’t beat themselves.”

Is making a bowl game a big priority for Fleck?

“One day at a time,” he said.

The Gophers defensive performance in a 41-10 win against Purdue last weekend was one of their most surprising in several years as they allowed just 233 total yards on 62 plays by the Boilermakers.

What made it so surprising was that the team had struggled so much on defense recently, allowing over 600 total yards in two of their previous three games with a season high 659 yards allowed against Nebraska and then in their loss at Illinois they allowed 646 yards.

That led to Fleck firing defensive coordinator Robb Smith and promoting Joe Rossi to interim defensive coordinator.

Fleck was asked if that change made all the difference.

“I think the one thing we needed to be able to do after change is respond,” Fleck said. “No matter why or what the change is made for, our players had to respond and I thought they responded the right way, coaches and players.”

Another big change last week was the Gophers ability to run the ball, posting 265 yards on 41 carries, a 6.5 yard per carry average that matched their season high.

Fleck said that the offensive line has really come together and that the recruiting effort his staff put in at that position is starting to pay off.

“That is part of the rebuild,” Fleck said. “We knew we had to rebuild a lot of positions. Had to rebuild the roster. I am proud of the way a lot of the guys who have stayed and continue to contribute to this team as upper classmen. We have to continue to recruit at a very high level. 2019 recruiting is going really well, to be able to continue to fill in the gap and replace numbers and build on numbers in 2020. We’re off to a really fast start, as well.

“We have two freshman playing up there right now. We have seven starters on offense that are playing that are freshman right now with Curtiss Dunlap Jr. available for the last two games, if we need him.”

Has Fleck been surprised that Mohamad Ibrahim has been able to perform as well as he has with starters like Shannon Brooks and Rodney Smith out?

“That was his third 100 yard rushing performance of the season, as a freshman,” he said about Ibrahim’s 155-yard performance against Purdue. “The last time that happened was back in 2003 with Lawrence Maroney. Everybody is on call right now, everybody has to be able to step-up. Everybody has to step in and make plays. If you used to be a four or a five on the depth chart you are probably at some point playing already. I’m just proud of the resolve of our football team.”

By the way, I'd like to thank the University for honoring me by naming the press box after me.  It is really appreciated. I spent a lot of time in press boxes over the year, and the Gophers SIDs have always taken great care of me, even when I get a little too excited about the officiating.