Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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I’ve been interviewing people for a long time. The hour or more I spent with Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant might represent the best on-the-record conversation I’ve had in 30 years.
Grant said he’s contemplating retirement, so he can write books. He may write about race relations, after watching the demographics of Eden Prairie change dramatically during his tenure. He may disappear into the woods with his father, Bud, the legendary former Vikings coach.
He also told me that his father came close to never playing sports or coaching football. When Bud graduated from high school, he told his father he wanted to live off the land, to hunt and fish and forgo college. Instead, he attended the University of Minnesota on the GI bill, subsisted on five-for-a-quarter candy bars and a all-you-can-eat-for-a-buck spaghetti at Café di Napoli in Minneapolis, and lived off the generosity of Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman.
Bud is 87. Mike is 57. Mike says he wants to spend time hunting with his father while he can, and that may mean leaving a program that is trying for its fourth straight and 10th total state championship tonight at TCF Bank Stadium.
``My dad didn’t want to go to college,’’ Mike said. ``He got out of the war he wanted to go hunting. He just wanted to go live in the woods. My uncle tells the story of him and my grandfather arguing, fighting, my Dad saying, `I want to go into the woods and hunt. That’s it.’
``His brother says it’s truly what he wanted to do. He would disappear for days when he was 15 or 16 and be gone hunting and fishing, where he has his cabin now. My grandfather would say, what, you want to be a `Hunyuk’ your whole life? I don’t know what that is. Whatever a Hunyuk is, it can’t be good.’’
I’m writing about Mike’s future and Bud’s past tonight. It’ll be in the Saturday paper and online at startribune.com. If you want to hear our full conversation, in which Mike weighed in on race, Jerry Kill, college recruiting, Red McCombs, Rick Spielman, high school coaching, hungry kids, Tim Brewster, Glen Mason, Jeff Diamond, Sid, Tom Kelly and John Gagliardi, you can find it on my podcast at Souhanunfiltered.com, along with conversations with Paul Molitor, Michael Russo, Mark Craig, Ross Bernstein and Sean Barnard.
Thanks for reading, and listening.
Jerry Kill inherited a terrible football program. On Saturday, his team was far better coached and better conditioned than Michigan, and blew out the Wolverines in the Big Quiet House.
Mike Zimmer took over a losing team, had his top free agent shot in a bar, lost his franchise player to a suspension, and on Sunday beat a talented Atlanta team with a rookie quarterback.
This was one of the most impressive weekends in memory for Minnesota football coaches.
Kill and Zimmer are building programs that should win for years.
You can see Kill's touch in his team's physical play. Michigan's strength is stopping the run, yet the Gophers ran all over the Wolverines. His roster is visibly stronger than it was when he arrived, and his defense could teach NFL teams how to make plays on balls in the air.
You can see Zimmer's touch in the way his teams limit top offensive players. The Vikings made the Rams look more inept than they really are. They limited Jimmy Graham and Julio Jones, keeping either from making game-breaking plays. The only receiver who has dominated the Vikings was Julian Edelman in Week 2, shortly after the Adrian Peterson news broke, and that probably happened because the Vikings figured Xavier Rhodes could handle Edelman one-on-one, and Edelman proved too elusive for him on that day.
Zimmer and Rick Spielman also seem to have done extremely well in the draft together. Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater are keepers.
Kill and Zimmer are teachers who have hired excellent staffs. What might be best for Minnesota football fans is, neither seems to be looking for their next career move. You get the sense both could be here, and winning, for a long time.
I'll be on 1500espn-am at 12:15 from Winter Park. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
What a week. I thought Minneapolis and Target Field put on a great show all week, from the Futures Game through Glen Perkins getting the save last night.
All week, Perkins talked about pinching himself, that he wasn't sure this could be real - a local boy pitching at an All-Star game in his home ballpark.
Here's the link to the column I did this spring on the turning point in Perkins' career:
Or, if you prefer text, here's the text:
FORT MYERS, FLA. – Glen Perkins is an All-Star closer who has spent his entire life in Minnesota. He is the rare Twins player who lives in state year-round, has become a centerpiece of the Twins’ marketing campaign and has vowed to play for them as long as they will have him.
It’s easy to forget that three years ago the Twins considered trading him, and only Perkins’ intervention led to what he calls “a great life.”
Perkins butted heads with his coaches at the University of Minnesota, then quarreled with his Twins bosses. He was on his way to becoming another first-round bust when, late in the spring of 2011, he walked up to Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday,” Anderson said. “He came to me right here and said, ‘Can I talk to you? I was born and raised in Minnesota, I’ve spent my entire life in Minnesota, I want to be a Twin. I want to be a better teammate, I want to be a better pitcher, don’t give up on me.’
“There was some talk of making a trade, then all of a sudden he saw the light.”
Perkins remembers traveling from Fort Myers to Clearwater, Fla., with the Twins and not pitching.
“That’s the first time that had ever happened to me,’’ he said. “I was angry.”
He walked into manager Ron Gardenhire’s office and asked why he hadn’t been informed he had made the team.
“I told Gardy, ‘I want to play here, if you’ll have me,” Perkins said.
Gardenhire said he would call Perkins later in the day. Perkins figured that was a brushoff. He picked up his father-in-law and headed to Sanibel to fish.
“The phone rang before we got to the causeway,” Perkins said. “Gardy said, ‘Pack your bags, you’re going north with us.’ ”
Perkins had a similar experience with the Gophers. The Stillwater High School product made lousy grades during his first semester in college. The Gophers redshirted him, and he spent his second semester “figuring out how to be a college student.” One day, Gophers pitching coach Todd Oakes called him about a rumor that Perkins wanted to transfer.
Perkins said that if he was going to leave, he already would be gone.
“I think that was the moment for Todd where he said, ‘OK, he’s committed, he just needs to figure out how to do it.’ I never had any more trouble.”
Why so much conflict? “I guess it’s a character flaw of mine,” Perkins said.
Now he’s Mr. Minnesota, or at least hangs out with someone vying for that title.
Perkins and Joe Mauer played for the USA in the World Baseball Classic and for the American League in the All-Star Game last year. They could play in the next All-Star Game, at Target Field.
With Mauer having twin daughters and wintering in Minnesota instead of Fort Myers, the two were able to enjoy the Polar Vortex together. “We played hockey,” Perkins said. “Well, it was more like ice dancing. No sequins, though.”
They talked about their kids. They talked about their futures, with Perkins signed through 2016 and Mauer through 2018. They talked about how losing feels, and what winning at home would mean.
“We agreed that if we had crappy season after crappy season it would be worth it if just once we could win it all here,” Perkins said. “That’s the carrot dangling in front of us. The experience of winning a World Series in your hometown — what Kent Hrbek did — makes it all worth it.
“I want to be the closer of this team when we get to the playoffs. I got to see Joe Nathan do that a whole bunch.”
In the last few days, Perkins became the centerpiece for Twins television and radio commercials, and has dined with the Gophers baseball staff, with the team playing in Florida. One conversation changed him from an anti-authoritarian trade chip into a representative of all that is right in Minnesota sports.
“Either I hinted to them that I didn’t want to be here, or they got that impression,” Perkins said. “I think they appreciated what I had to say. For a guy to say, ‘This is where I still want to be,’ no matter how rough the going was, I think they respected that.”
For my column in the Wednesday Star Tribune, I wrote about how impressed I am with Richard Pitino so far as the Gophers.
Here's a stat I didn't get to in the column that demonstrates how well-coached the Gophers are.
Against a quality team with superior size and athletic ability, the Gophers had more steals (8) than turnovers (6.)
That's hard to do in any game. It's really hard when you play an up-tempo style against a quicker team. Florida State had two steals and 17 turnovers, facing Pitino's multiple full-court and half-court defenses.
Andre Hollins had an interesting night. He scored 21 points, all on three-pointers and free throws. Because the long two-point shot is the least-efficient shot in basketball, that's a good sign. The Gophers need to make three-pointers and draw fouls to be effective. Hollins has already adapted.
In fact, 59 of the Gophers' 71 points came on three-pointers and free throws. Part of that was due to the whistle-happy refs, who did what they could to ruin the entertainment value of the game. But it's also by design.
Pitino is a sharp coach, and he has smart players to work with. This will be an interesting season.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow with Judd&Dubay. I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Here's the good news for local college football fans: Two of the best games of the day are in Minneapolis and North Dakota.
Here's the bad news for national college football fans: Two of the best games of the day are in Minneapolis and North Dakota.
College football might be the most compelling and atmospheric sport in existence when it's good. Today is evidence that it's not very often good.
It's late September. The weather is beautiful. This is the best time of the year to be a college football fan, when you can sit in the stands on a gorgeous fall day even on our wintry tundra and enjoy a game.
So how can Gophers-San Jose State be one of the better games of the day?
Because college football, despite constantly threatening to reform itself, still packs its schedule with throwaway games.
Colorado State-Alabama? Please.
Ohio State-Florida A&M? C'mon.
Georgia-UNT (and I'm not even sure which UNT that is, University of Northern Toledo? University of Nonsensical Theology?) Stop it.
College football is the rare sport that can be great and chooses often not to be.
So I'm lucky to be in the press box at one of the more interesting games in the country today, even if it shouldn't be.
After two weeks on the road, I"m back in the 1500ESPN studio for Sunday Sports Talk tomorrow, 10-noon. We'll run the Gardenhire Show from 9:30-10 then move on to our show, with Scott Korzenowski and Tom Linnemann. Working on a surprise guest.
Heading to London to cover the Vikings on Sunday.
Thanks for reading.
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