P.J. Fleck dove into his Gophers introductory news conference with all the boldness, fervor and run-through-the-wall excitement that has come to define his career. If his track record is an indicator, Fleck isn’t all talk, either. This is what he brings to Minnesota:
Big promises: “I’m going to promise you a lot because that’s the way I live my life,” Fleck said in the opening remarks at TCF Bank Stadium Friday. Among the promises he shared: Big Ten West crowns, Big Ten Conference champions and winning the Rose Bowl.
Story book season: Fleck’s Western Michigan team came out of nowhere to go perfect (13-0) before the bowl season and earned a No. 12 national ranking. They made it from Kalamazoo to the Cotton Bowl, where their run ended in a loss to No. 8 Wisconsin on Monday. Fleck is credited for one of the greatest turnarounds in college football after his team finished 1-11 during his first season in 2013.
Row the Canoe?: The social media hashtag “RTB” that follows Fleck everywhere stands for his “Row The Boat” motivational mantra. Why rowing? “We can’t see the future but we can see our past,” he said in 2013. He said Friday he plans to bring the slogan with him to Minnesota and possibly incorporate it with the history behind “Ski-U-Mah” involving canoes.
King of the too’s: Fleck said Friday his whole life has been about overcoming the “too’s” in his life that included being too small. Despite his size, he was Northern Illinois’ top receiver his senior season in 2003, surpassing 1,000 yards. He spent two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, mostly on the practice squad or injured reserve and appeared in one NFL game. Now, at age 36, he will embrace the challenge of being “too young” for this job as the youngest coach in the group of Power 5 conferences.
Inspired by Jerry Kill: Fleck was one of two coaches retained at Northern Illinois when it hired a new coach by the name of Jerry Kill in 2008. Fleck said Kill taught him how to care for players even more than he thought possible.