Micah Dew-Treadway didn’t fit in when he joined the Gophers this past spring.
But that’s exactly what coach P.J. Fleck wanted.
“I made it very clear when we recruited him and brought him here,” Fleck said. “ ‘You are going to help lead the defensive line. … You’re coming here to set the tone for the whole thing.’ ”
That was a daunting task for the defensive tackle. While he spent four years at Notre Dame and is now pursuing his Master of Education in youth development leadership, he played only two seasons, making two tackles in 21 games. His 2015 season was a redshirt, and he missed 2016 because of a broken foot.
Yet Fleck said the established players have adapted to Dew-Treadway, instead of the opposite.
“It wasn’t easy at first,” Dew-Treadway said, crediting Fleck for giving him a key pep talk during spring practice. After that, the transfer noticed his new teammates “gravitated toward me and looked up to me.”
Senior defensive tackle Sam Renner called Dew-Treadway a “great addition,” not only because of his 6-4, 315-pound frame and ability but also because he’s a “great person” who understands championship culture and can bring that attitude to the nose guard spot.
The Bolingbrook, Ill., native will have two seasons to guide the defensive line, as the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility once he arrived in Minnesota to make up for his 2016 injury. Dew-Treadway said he still has deep roots at Notre Dame, but he also endured “some really down times.”
“The circumstance was the circumstance,” Dew-Treadway said. “It happens all the time in college football. But I mean, I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to grow and be in this culture with everything that it gives you.”
This time choosing a school had much less “glitz and glamour” than his high school recruitment, Dew-Treadway said. While most of it was just candid conversations with Fleck, the player did have some familiarity with the program. He was teammates with Jacob and Julian Huff, both graduated Gophers, at Bolingbrook High School.
Since arriving at Minnesota, Dew-Treadway has formed a friendship with senior defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere, someone he talks to all the time about everything. The two, along with running back Rodney Smith, are in the same graduate program and end up sitting next to each other in every class and working on group projects together. Dew-Treadway even helped DeLattiboudere plan his recent school supply drive at a Gophers practice.
“Me and Micah did actually click as soon as he got there,” DeLattiboudere said of his “extremely intellectual” teammate. “As soon as we started talking, I was like, ‘I really like this dude.’ ”
Those two should be starters on the line, with Dew-Treadway likely taking up the nose tackle spot. The Gophers need to replace three of their top defensive tackles, and Dew-Treadway’s performance has impressed new defensive line coach Jim Panagos. Determined to rotate players, Panagos expects “big things” from Dew-Treadway and the others at his position, sophomores Jamaal Teague and Noah Hickcox.
“He’s been tremendous,” Panagos said. “I don’t care what happened other places. I care what happens now. Since the day he walked in, he’s been elite in everything he’s done.”
Fleck is similarly pleased with Dew-Treadway’s adjustment to the Gophers, calling it “the perfect match.”
“Micah Dew-Treadway has made our entire defensive line level rise in everything, on the field, off the field, expectation, energy, fun, excitement, discipline, at practice,” Fleck said. “He deserves a lot of credit.”
Fleck went on to describe Dew-Treadway as “real,” which is also a word the player used for Fleck. This weird mind-meld the pair has was seemingly instantaneous from the first chat.
“I was just voicing my expectations upon him. And when he told me that he was going to hold me to all those expectations, that to me, it just makes sense,” Dew-Treadway said. “It was just more of him understanding what I wanted, as a player, as a man.
“And it fit.”