P.J. Fleck has come up with several interesting twists toward the end of spring practices, to determine how many gassers the team has to run.
He's had Emmit Carpenter, the reigning Big Ten kicker of the year, line up long field goal attempts, making everyone run if he missed. He's had punter Ryan Santoso try to pin a punt inside the 10-yard line. One time, Fleck summoned offensive tackle Donnell Greene to catch one of Santoso's towering punts. Greene had it in his hands, but missed, so everyone toed the line.
On Tuesday, the Gophers invited students to come watch practice. About 300 of them turned out, including basketball players Amir Coffey and Eric Curry. Toward the end, Fleck asked for one "confident" student to come take part in a challenge.
Isaiah Whitmore, a junior from Coon Rapids, quickly volunteered.
Fleck tasked Whitmore with catching one of Santoso's moon shots, knowing if he missed, the entire team had to run.
Watching from the sideline, I thought, "This poor guy."
Santoso boomed another high kick. All the players watched in suspense. Whitmore settled under the ball -- and caught it. And then, he took it to the house, with the entire team running behind him to celebrate (see the video below).
It was fun to watch. Whitmore played football in high school and later for Augsburg before transferring to the U. He plans to try out for the Gophers this fall.
"He’s going to have an opportunity in the fall, I can guarantee you that," Fleck said. "I mean, it wasn’t just the catch. It was the triple major [Whitmore had told Fleck he's majoring in three subjects], first of all. And then he takes the punt and everybody goes nuts. And then he sprints to the opposite end of the field and scores, and he ran by our football team. He ran through every angle, so we might have to give him a shot soon."