Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
Jerry Kill received a surprise visit on Tuesday, but a heartwarming -- and heartbreaking -- one.
One of Gary Tinsley's professors, Frank Plachecki, and several of his students showed up at Kill's office with flowers, as an offering of condolence for the football players' death, and a few memories of their classmate.
"They came over and told me what a tremendous asset [it was] having Gary in class, and how hard he worked on the education side of it," Kill said. "They talked about him being an entrepreneur, how he was such an inspiration in his classes. ... Fellow students, not athletes. So I think that tells a little bit about Gary Tinsley."
The Jacksonville, Fla., native will be awarded a diploma posthumously next month at Minnesota's spring commencement, a B.S. in business and marketing education that Tinsley was within a couple of weeks of completing. "He is a tremendous role model for us to look at and say, 'Hey, this is what it's all about. We could all step it up and be like Gary.' "
His teammates are dealing with several reminders, too. "No matter where we go, we're going to hear or see something about GT," said quarterback MarQueis Gray. "Even checking my email, I've had my professors and other professors emailing me about how good a student GT was outside the football field. When I come to the complex, I see signs on the door. It's been a grieving process, and we're just happy we have so much support."
The Gophers returned to the football field on Tuesday, though it wasn't necessarily easy for some of them. "It's still kind of hard, because he's not here," said senior receiver Brandon Green. "But when we step across the white lines, we've got to come out and perform. That's what we got a scholarship to do."
They performed pretty normally on Tuesday, starting with a team prayer in one end zone, then getting in a two-hour workout in cold, windy weather. The play of the defensive backs was as subpar as the weather, apparently, because practice was interrupted at one point while the entire secondary corps did up-downs, the jog-in-place-then-plunge-to-the-ground exercise that Kill used as punishment far more frequently last season.
Only a few plays of note, one of them an impressive double-cut run through traffic by running back James Gillum. Matter of fact, Gillum had several nice runs, but part of that was because he was getting so many reps. Donnell Kirkwood did not practice, and David Cobb went inside with an athletic trainer after only a few plays. He returned just before practice ended with ice around a knee.
Best play of the day came on the very first snap of the scrimmage portion: Gray threw a 10-yard out to Green along the left sideline, but Michael Carter timed it perfectly and picked it off in stride, an easy defensive touchdown.
A little later, Max Shortell looped a perfect pass over two defenders and hit Malcolm Mouton in stride, about a 25-yard gain.
The Gophers will practice again Thursday afternoon (3:15 p.m.), then move to TCF Bank Stadium on Friday night (7:15). Both are open to the public. The funeral will take place Saturday at Noon ET at Abyssinia Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. Burial will follow at Edgewood Cemetery.
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