fleckbadmintonGophers football coach P.J. Fleck has made no secret of his “Row the Boat” mantra. There are reminders everywhere, including Twitter — where the coach uses the hashtag #RTB to punctuate his social media messages.

But on Tuesday, maybe RTB had a double meaning: Row the Boat and … Rock the Badminton?

You see, Fleck was on his way back from speaking with the Gophers men’s gymnastics team when he spotted a bunch of students playing badminton. Fleck was wearing dress clothes, but that didn’t matter. Apparently, he needed to play.

And he didn’t just want to play anyone.

“I remember him asking, ‘who’s the best player here?’” said Dan McGill, a University freshman from Lakeville. “And people were kind of hesitant because some didn’t know who he was, so I just asked if he wanted to hit around.”

McGill, a self-proclaimed huge football fan, was happy to raise his hand. But even though Fleck might have wanted to play the best one there — a mentality consistent with the approach he takes to coaching — he might not have known the buzzsaw he was walking into.

McGill had a few advantages, of course: he was dressed in athletic clothes, for starters. And he is an avid player. Fleck was probably a little rusty, since McGill said the coach asked him to remind him of a couple rules before they started.

They ended up playing a game to nine points — with some of it captured on video and posted on social media (frame grab at the top of the page courtesy of Sarah Woodruff with Gophers football).

McGill said he wasn’t sure if the final score was relevant and that he isn’t trying to be cocky, but … the scoreboard says McGill 9, Fleck 3.

But McGill did say Fleck is a “very good player” and was quite competitive during their match — “or elite, should I say?” McGill added, with another nod to one of Fleck’s frequent words.

The two played for about 10 minutes and shook hands, with McGill noting the coach was very “genuine and kind” during their interactions.

I can only hope this becomes a thing whereby Fleck randomly challenges students around campus to various athletic feats.

Maybe we could call it the Fleckathlon or the Elite Olympics. I’m completely serious about this, especially if it means I could play, too.

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