HOUSTON – Nine of the Gophers football players arrived in their home state Saturday for the Texas Bowl and practiced there Sunday. For two of them, home will be right nearby this week.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Logan Hutton is only 35 miles from his hometown of La Marque, and redshirt sophomore quarterback Dexter Foreman is about 15 miles from his home in Manvel. Their high schools are in the same school district. Hutton had already left for Minnesota when his alma mater denied Foreman’s Manvel squad a shot at a state title in the 2010 Texas state playoffs.
Seven other Gophers are from Texas, and coach Jerry Kill said much of the program’s success in recruiting that football hotbed comes from wide receivers coach Pat Poore. Poore coached at Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas, and at two schools in Oklahoma in the late ’90s.
“He has a lot of ties with coaches in the area, and that’s always important,” Kill said. “We’ve had success with the kids, and we all know how important high school football is in the state of Texas.”
Two of the 13 players from the high school Class of 2014 who have committed to the Gophers are from Texas: center Conner Mayes (Van Alstyne High School) and linebacker Everett Williams (Mansfield/Legacy High School).
First Texas workout
The Gophers went through a brisk, brief workout Sunday at St. Thomas High School in the Houston area, focusing mostly on special teams. It was their first workout since spending Saturday traveling to Houston.
“It’s always a plus to get outside,” Kill said. “Every day, we have to continue to build up to Friday and keep getting better, but things went pretty well [Sunday].”
Back to the scene
Graduate assistant coach Mike Sherels expects a more routine visit to Texas this year than he had last year for the Meineke Car Care Bowl. His wife, Emily, gave birth to their daughter, Valerie, at Houston’s Texas Women’s Center. He coached her through the birth.
“I’ll take coaching on the sideline and a win compared to the theatrics of last time,” Sherels said.
Man about town
Kill joined his team shortly after practice began, having started his Sunday at Reliant Stadium, where he did a guest segment during the Houston Texans pregame radio show while also catching up with Gophers alum Eric Decker, who was in town as a member of the Denver Broncos.
Decker made it a pretty good day. He caught 10 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown during the Broncos’ 37-13 victory over the Texans.
The Christmas crush
The Gophers stayed at the Hyatt Downtown for last year’s game, an area that was mostly quiet because of the holiday season. Things are different this year, as the team is stationed at the Westin Galleria, which is right in the heart of one of the nation’s busiest shopping malls.
“Oh, it’s certainly busier,” Kill said. “When you walk across and get on the bus, and with it being Christmastime, you’ve got everybody hustling around. The biggest thing is making sure our players stay focused and stay on track and do what they need to do.”