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.

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Posts about Gophers awards and honors

Kiper weighs in on Thompson and Cobb's draft prospects

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: March 26, 2015 - 1:25 PM

Former Gophers safety Cedric Thompson didn’t get an invite to the NFL Combine, but he had a big pro day earlier this month and has drawn steady interest from teams including the Vikings and Texans.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper currently ranks Thompson as the No. 10 safety on this year's board.

“You love the way he plays,” Kiper said in a teleconference Thursday. “His game day tapes are very solid. He’s adequate in coverage. He’s a good tackler, he makes plays, and he’s another guy, very instinctive.

“So when you look at a poor safety group, that’s why I moved him in there [to the Top 10]. If this was a strong safety group, he wouldn’t be a 10. He’d be 17-18. It’s just not that type of year. Those kind of guys make it in this league, guys who can set up a defense that are consistent week to week, that understand how to play the game.

“That’s more important than physical qualifications at safety. So I would say he’s maybe an undrafted free agent or a late-Day 3 pick.”

Williams still top tight end, Cobb at No. 10 for running backs

Kiper has had had Maxx Williams ranked as the No. 1 tight end on the board. The Saints seem like a potential fit with two first-round picks after trading Jimmy Graham. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Saints draft Williams at No. 31.

Cobb injured a quad at the Combine, but has his pro day scheduled for April 13. (Updated.)

“For running backs, it’s about performance, and Cobb had a heck of a year, and he’s a 230-pound running back who’s got a lot of ability,” Kiper said. “This guy isn’t flashy. He isn’t a guy who gives you the wow type of runs, but the chains keep moving with him.”

If Thompson benefits from being part of a weaker safety crop, Cobb could have the opposite situation at running back. This is considered a very deep running back class led by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley.

“I think Cobb -- because running backs drop probably a round or two further than they should -- maybe he goes in the fourth-fifth round. But he’s going to play in this league. We forget all the third-round picks who are really good players, I think if he’s a fourth-fifth, he’s still going to be in that really good group.”

U announces $6 million gift toward Gophers athletics from Robert Eddy

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: February 6, 2015 - 4:58 PM

The University of Minnesota on Friday announced a $6 million gift toward its $190 athletics facilities plan from retired telecommunications executive Robert Eddy.

According to Senior Associate Athletics Director Chris Werle, the school has raised $65 million toward the project, as Eddy's gift had been factored into the running total but hadn't been previously announced in his name. The school is currently soliciting construction bids to build a $150 million portion of the project. Here's a portion of the press release:

The gift will help fund a new Basketball Development Center, which will house men’s and women’s basketball offices, locker rooms and other areas designed to provide the University of Minnesota basketball programs and student-athletes all of the tools needed to achieve greatness on and off the field.

Eddy is a graduate of the University’s engineering department and retired Chairman and President of Sherburne Tele Systems, Inc. A philanthropist and University of Minnesota supporter, the Big Lake resident has donated generous gifts to the Athletic Department and the University.

“Bob has been a proud supporter of Gopher Athletics and our student-athletes,” said Director of Gopher Athletics Norwood Teague. “This most recent gift will provide our men’s and women’s basketball programs with the facilities, training and support they need to compete with the top programs in the conference and the country.”

A member of the University’s Heart Advisory Committee, Eddy created the R.K. Eddy Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Resuscitation in 2013.

“We are grateful for Bob Eddy’s extraordinary support for the University and Gopher athletics,” said University of Minnesota President Eric W. Kaler. “His remarkable gifts demonstrate how University academics and athletics work in concert to impact the health, success and pride of our students, our alumni and the citizens of Minnesota.”

Note: Eddy will be honored Saturday at Williams Arena during the first half of the Gophers men's basketball game against Purdue, and at Sunday's women's basketball game against Michigan State.

Cobb headed to Senior Bowl; Botticelli, Thompson and Wilson to NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: January 8, 2015 - 2:41 PM

David Cobb is one of four graduating Gophers seniors who'll be in action this month in collegiate all-star games. Cobb has accepted an invite to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 24 in Mobile, Ala.

He'll be joined there by Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Michigan State's Jeremy Langford and Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne, among other top running backs.

The Gophers also will have three recent grads in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl -- Cameron Botticelli, Cedric Thompson and Damien Wilson. That game is Jan. 17 in Carson, Calif., and the head coaches are Mike Holmgren and Mike Martz.

The Senior Bowl will be on NFL Network. The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be on ESPN2.

Perkins to be honored at Citrus Bowl Parade, alongside grand marshal Grant Hill

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: December 17, 2014 - 2:41 PM

The Citrus Bowl Parade will run through downtown Orlando on Dec. 30, two days before the Gophers play Missouri, and Wednesday, the honored guests for the parade were revealed.

According to a Citrus Bowl spokesperson, the grand marshal will be former NBA All-Star Grant Hill. Minnesota’s VIP Guest will be Al-Star closer Glen Perkins, and Missouri’s VIP guest will be its chancellor, Dr. R. Bowen Loftin.

Perkins went 19-5 with a 2.87 ERA in two seasons for the Gophers before the Twins signed him as a first-round draft pick in 2004. The lefthander has posted 70 saves over the past two seasons for the Twins, making the All-Star team both years.

Last year’s Citrus Bowl pitted Wisconsin against South Carolina. The parade grand marshal was PGA veteran Justin Rose, and his “VIP guests” were both Heisman winners – George Rogers from South Carolina and Ron Dayne from Wisconsin.

The parade will feature the Gophers and Missouri marching bands, as well as various high school bands and citrus floats. For more on the parade, visit FloridaCitrusParade.com.

Note: Sun Country Airlines added five flights from Minneapolis to Orlando for the bowl game. Details here.

Maxx Williams named AP second-team All-America

Posted by: Joe Christensen Updated: December 16, 2014 - 11:38 AM

Gophers sophomore tight end Maxx Williams was named a second-team All-America by the Associated Press on Tuesday, adding to his list of postseason awards.

The Gophers haven't had an AP first-team All-America since tight end Matt Spaeth in 2006. Defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman was an AP third-team All-America last year.

Williams was on the second team behind Florida State senior Nick O'Leary, who also edged Williams for the Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end.

Williams was also named a Walter Camp second-team All-American, Big Ten Tight End of the Year, and a Capital One Academic All-American.

Williams is an exceptional blocker and led the Gophers with 29 receptions for 471 yards and seven touchdowns.

Here's a look at the AP All-American team.

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