Hartman: Ex-Notre Dame stars Sullivan, Carlson reunited

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 16, 2012 - 7:13 AM

The Vikings center witnessed several memorable catches by the team's new tight end in college.

Nobody on the Vikings was more excited than center John Sullivan when tight end John Carlson, his four-year teammate and roommate at Notre Dame, signed a five-year contract for $25 million to play for the Purple.

"We both got out of Notre Dame and were drafted in 2008, went through the pre-draft process, which was at Notre Dame, and he's a good friend of mine, a great guy. I'm incredibly excited to just be with him once again," said Sullivan, a real class act.

Sullivan also signed a five-year, $25 million contract four months ago, so his and Carlson's contracts will run the same length. The Vikings were paying tight end Jim Kleinsasser only $3 million last season in the final year of a three-year, $9 million contract.

Sullivan was asked to grade Carlson as a tight end.

"From my experience he's great," Sullivan said. "I'm not a scout. I leave that up to the scouts in our scouting department -- I would say that about anybody because it's not my job to evaluate players. But he's a great guy and he can help us tremendously, I have no doubt. The aspect that I can vouch for is his leadership and his character, he's second to none. He's great, a standup person, the type of guy that you want on your team."

Sullivan said he remembers a number of great catches Carlson made during the four years they were together in South Bend, but one sticks out.

"I remember against Stanford in 2006, maybe, that he made a diving catch in the end zone and it was a 'Wow' moment," Sullivan recalled. And his memory was correct: Carlson made a spectacular one-handed grab to seal the Irish's 31-10 victory over the Cardinal that year.

Sullivan said Carlson will help the Vikings on and off the field.

They remained close friends after Sullivan went to the Vikings and Carlson to the Seattle Seahawks.

"I'd see him every offseason, played against him a couple times, saw him last year during the preseason," Sullivan said. "Actually he was over here [Wednesday night, when Carlson signed with the Vikings] and we had dinner. I'm very excited that he was in town and they were able to get a deal done."

Carlson won All-State honors in tennis, basketball and football at Litchfield (Minn.) and was one of the top high school athletes in the state.

Even though Carlson didn't play last year after a shoulder injury led to surgery, the Vikings scouts must have liked what Carlson can contribute.

NCAA absence

If the Vikings wind up moving, as I believe they will if a new stadium is not built, insiders who are lobbying for the stadium say some of the blame will be on House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, who refuses to do anything to help pass a bill for a stadium that also would provide a site for national events such as NCAA basketball tournament and the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, this area doesn't get any NCAA opening-round or regional basketball tournaments like we used to on a regular basis because NCAA officials refuse to book here because they don't know whether the Metrodome will be available in the future. So instead, preliminary NCAA tournaments went to cities such as Omaha, Louisville (Ky.), Portland (Ore.), Columbus (Ohio) and Albuquerque (N.M.) among others.

A new stadium would bring tournament games back to the Twin Cities as there were in 1986 (first and second rounds), 1989 (Midwest Regional), 1991 (first and second rounds), 1992 (Final Four), 1996 (Midwest Regional), 2000 (first and second rounds), 2001 (Final Four), 2003 (Midwest Regional), 2006 (Minneapolis Regional) and 2009 (first and second round).

Jottings

• The Gophers basketball coaching staff considered Wednesday's 70-61 victory over La Salle in the first round of the NIT impressive because the Gophers played on a foreign floor and defeated a team that beat NCAA participant St. Bonaventure and lost to another NCAA team, Temple, by one point in overtime.

• The three main Twins who left in free agency after last season have started spring training with their new clubs to mixed results. Joe Nathan has pitched only two innings for the Texas Rangers but has given up three earned runs on two hits -- including a home run -- and has walked two and struck out one with a 13.50 ERA. Michael Cuddyer is hitting .294 (5-for-17) with four RBI and one triple for the Colorado Rockies. Jason Kubel is hitting only .167 (4-for-24) with two RBI and two doubles in 10 games for Arizona.

• The Gophers football team lost its third outstanding Cretin-Derham Hall player in recent years to Notre Dame when wide receiver James Onwualu announced Thursday that he is going to sign with the Irish. Previously, wide receiver Michael Floyd picked Notre Dame over Minnesota and so did tackle Ryan Harris, and both started there. Some recruiting analysts consider Onwualu the top recruit in the state's 2013 class after he accounted for 1,092 yards and 17 touchdowns as a receiver/running back for the Raiders last season.

• University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler threw out the first pitch at the Metrodome last Saturday when Stony Brook, where he previously was president, lost to the Gophers 7-1. ... Meanwhile, several Gophers baseball players are sidelined because of injuries, including pitchers Lance Thonvold and Tom Windle, third baseman Kyle Geason and outfielder Trip Schultz.

• Mark Dienhart, former Gophers athletic director and now senior vice president at the University of St. Thomas, has been notified by NACDA (the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics) that he has been selected to receive a lifetime achievement for athletic fundraising at the convention in Dallas this summer. ... Dienhart's daughter, Carolyn, is the starting point guard for the St. Thomas women's basketball team that has qualified for the NCAA Division III Final Four this weekend in Holland, Mich.

• Norries Wilson, the former Gophers offensive lineman who was head football coach at Columbia for the past six seasons, has joined Rutgers as the running backs coach.

• Both South Dakota State's men's and women's basketball teams made the NCAA tournament with overtime victories in Summit League championship games.

• The Penticton Vees, led by eight Minnesotans, had their 42-game winning streak come to an end Saturday night with a 5-2 loss to Prince George in the British Columbia Hockey League, ending their regular season with a record of 54-4-0-2. The Vees will now play Chilliwack in the first round of the 2012 BCHL Fred Page Cup playoffs.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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