Jonah Pirsig came to the Gophers football program from Blue Earth Area High School in 2012 as a highly touted offensive line recruit. He spurned offers from several high-profile programs to stick with his home-state school. Looking back almost five seasons later, Pirsig reflected on the journey with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q Is your perspective on this year’s Holiday Bowl altered by the fact that it’s your last one as a Gopher?
A I think the first few bowl games, I maybe took for granted a little just how special they are. As a senior, I’m realizing it’s my last game in maroon and gold, and I really want to soak it all in. We’re going to a good bowl game and it’s going to be a great place to play.
Q How do you begin to reflect on five seasons, including a redshirt season, and all that has happened in that time?
A My senior year of high school I think the Gophers went 3-9 and people from my hometown and even my friends were questioning me and asking if I was sure I wanted to go to Minnesota. But I really believed in Coach [Jerry] Kill and what he was going to do. Once I got here, I could feel it even more. Everyone in this organization feels like a family. That might sound corny and cheesy, but it’s true. And I think this year has been one of the best years in terms of that. This team has come a long way. I’m really excited to see what this team can do in the next few years. … Part of it for me was the challenge of coming here and trying to turn the program around — and make it a place where offensive linemen want to go.
Q You came in at the same time as quarterback Mitch Leidner. He’s your roommate and I imagine someone you’re pretty close with on the team. How has that relationship grown and what’s it been like to see some of the things he’s gone through?
A I’ve been really fortunate to be able to live with him and be close to him ever since I got here. Being around someone who loves football and wants to work hard as much he does makes me want to do the same. There were times when both of us were struggling with our love of the game and didn’t know if all of this was worth it, but every time that happened we just looked at each other and knew we had to do this, and helped each other out.
Q You have two career paths ahead of you: the potential to get drafted in the NFL but also teaching kindergarten. When people see that you’re 6-9, 325 pounds, what do they think of?
A I think some people think I’m joking about elementary education. I love football, but I also love teaching. Whenever football is done for me, I’d like to give teaching a shot at some point in my life. I have two loves.
Q What’s the hardest thing about dealing with kids that age?
A I think initially they’re a little scared of me. But after a while they figure out I’m a big teddy bear and just one of their big friends.
Q Have you allowed yourself to think more about the NFL draft?
A A little bit, but I’m really just focusing on the last game and trying to soak it all in. The NFL and the draft will get here. I can’t be doing B before A. I really want to finish my career here on a high note.