For friends who’ve tried catching Gophers center Jon Christenson’s attention on Facebook and Twitter recently, apologies — the pre-med student swore off social media a long time ago.
Basically, the only time he’s on the Internet is when he’s studying for his biochemistry degree at the McNamara Academic Center. And these days, he’s busy preparing for the Aug. 29 season opener against UNLV.
Christenson, who walked on with the Gophers out of Minnetonka High School and crashes in his brother’s basement to save money, has a theory about time management.
“I believe that everything you do — mentally, spiritually and physically — should be to get yourself better,” he said. “And nothing leaves you neutral. Either, it’ll push you toward your goals, or it’ll push you away from your goals. I just believe that Facebook and Twitter are a distraction for me.”
Christenson turned 21 in June and is entering his third year at the U. He’s on track to get his undergraduate degree in May and plans to spend the following two years getting a master’s degree in public health. After that, it’s on to med school.
In his family, that will just make him part of the club.
His father, Kurt, has a doctorate in physics. His mother, Margie, was a double major — elementary education and Biblical studies. His older brother, James, has his undergraduate degree from Minnesota and is working toward a doctorate in biochemistry.
The Christenson brothers have an aunt and uncle who are both physicians. Their paternal grandfather had a doctorate in ministry, and their paternal grandmother, Evelyn Christenson, was a best-selling author.
Her books — including “What Happens When Women Pray,” and “Lord, Change Me!” — have sold about 10 million copies.
“She was an incredible woman,” Jon Christenson said.
The family reunions have produced some interesting games of Scrabble over the years.
“A lot of words in Latin,” James Christenson said.
But the brothers — James, Jon and Peter, a junior center at Minnetonka — never felt pressure to become advanced scholars themselves.
“We were supposed to use our gifts to the best of our abilities,” James Christenson said.
For Jon, that meant pursuing his dream of playing for the Gophers, too. He wasn’t heavily recruited by Tim Brewster’s staff, so he narrowed his choices to Ivy League schools such as Brown, Dartmouth and Harvard.
When Jerry Kill’s staff took over the Gophers during Christenson’s senior year at Minnetonka, they offered him a preferred walk-on spot.
“Right then and there, it was so clear — this is where I was supposed to be,” he said. “It was unbelievable. It happened like three days before signing day.”
At the time, Christenson weighed about 265 pounds. He has since bulked up to 305. He redshirted in 2011 and played in 10 games last year, starting three at guard and three at center. The Gophers rewarded him with a scholarship.
After suffering a high ankle sprain late last season, he had offseason surgery but was back to full strength for the start of preseason camp. At center, he’s in charge of recognizing the defensive scheme and calling out blocking assignments for the line.
The Gophers know those jobs are in good hands.
“He’s definitely in the team picture as far as the smartest guys I’ve coached,” said Matt Limegrover, the offensive coordinator who doubles as offensive line coach. “I kind of pride myself on being a smart guy, but I can’t tutor him.”
This fall Christenson’s class load will include anatomy, microbiology and cell biology. Between school, football and what he calls his “spiritual walk,” he decided Facebook and Twitter had to go. He misses staying instantly connected with friends, but he’s always been more of a face-to-face guy, anyway.
How does he get his news?
“You know, to be honest with you, I don’t,” he said. “I’ll go home after a couple weeks, and my mom and dad will be talking around the table about something that happened, and I’ll have no idea what’s going on. I guess I’m kind of in this U of M bubble right now.”
Movies? Television? He just doesn’t have time. He hadn’t even heard about the royal baby until a reporter told him this week.
“Friends are constantly explaining stuff to me,” he said. “They’ve been culturing me lately with some Will Ferrell movies that I’ve never seen, that they keep quoting. They help me get cultured and catch me up on the news, for sure.”
It’s the least they can do. Christenson has enough on his hands.