P.J. Fleck said during his introductory press conference that he hopes to complete his coaching staff in the next few days and that he will consider holdovers from Tracy Claeys’ staff.
Here is my one suggestion to Fleck: Retain linebackers coach Mike Sherels.
Sherels embodies everything about Gophers football. He loves this program, this school and this state.
Sherels’ love of coaching and his players provided him motivation as he battled a health crisis that nearly took his life this season.
He returned to coaching only a few weeks after a series of intestinal problems required four surgeries that saved his life. His story resonated with the entire state and made him a finalist for FWAA Courage Award.
“I want to go and be there for my players,” Sherels said in disclosing his health crisis with me.
This is not about sympathy though. Sherels would want no part of a pity party.
He deserves to be on Fleck’s staff on merit.
Sherels is a respected position coach and dogged recruiter. He helped develop a nucleus of talented young linebackers that gave the Gophers defense more versatility this season. That position group should be the strength of the Gophers defense next season and beyond.
Sherels brings institutional knowledge as a former player and now assistant coach and is well-liked by state high school coaches.
As a player, he became a two-time team captain as a walk-on, the only player to receive that honor in program history. He won team awards for his courage and love of the game and for his unselfishness and concern for the university.
His presence would be invaluable to a coaching staff that is entirely new to this market, an important consideration especially within the locker room.
Remember, Sherels was the only coach who players invited into their meeting as they deliberated a bowl game boycott. That’s because they trust and respect him.
I won’t pretend to be unbiased when it comes to Mike Sherels. I’ve known him since 2003. In 22 years of covering sports, I’ve never encountered anyone that I respect or admire more than him.
He represents everything that is great about college football.
Fleck would be wise to add him to his staff.