Brennan Armstrong, a quarterback from Shelby, Ohio, dropped his verbal commitment to the Gophers in late October 2017 and reopened his recruitment. He wound up signing with Virginia.
A month later, the true believers detected what they perceived as the reason for Armstrong’s cold feet over playing in Minnesota’s cold weather:
He had to know the Gophers were pushing for Vic Viramontes, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in junior college football in the entire United States of America. Viramontes had played at Riverside City College in southern California.
This revelation that he was headed to Minnesota came on Monday, Nov. 27, 23 days before the first early signing period authorized by the NCAA. Viramontes offered his plan with this Tweet:
“I would like to announce that I am officially committed to the University of Minnesota. #RowTheBoat’’
Viramontes had visited with coach Phil Fleck one day earlier and that’s all it took for Vic to grab a paddle for the Dinkytown Dinghy and choose the Gophers over Kansas and Ole Miss.
The enthusiasm for Viramontes was fueled to a considerable degree by the fact that he had once verbally committed to Michigan, although later information surfaced that the Wolverines’ offer was based on him making a position change.
Viramontes ended up at Cal, redshirted, and then spent the 2017 season at Riverside, totaling 3,212 yards and 43 touchdowns in combined rushing and passing.
Six-foot-1, 230 pounds – solid as a rock, and a dual threat, baby. The Gopher Holers took this with their usual post-Fleckian calm. The early responses in the Viramontes section of the message board included:
“HUGE get for Gophers. RTB.’’
“So QB box is checked. Now … where do we get some receivers to catch those passes?’’
“You can’t spell Victory without Victor, right? Corny, I know, but wow this is a much-needed shot in the arm.’’
“AWESOME!! Just great news!!! Clearly our best QB recruit … maybe ever. Who has committed to the Gophers and looked better on tape than this guy?’’
A couple of days later, Viramontes told the Star Tribune: “I just love playing football. Whatever the defense gives me, I take.’’
Fleck held his signing day news conference on Dec. 20 and didn’t exactly calm the winds over the El Nino that would be sweeping in from California in the form of Viramontes.
Rapidly and loudly, Fleck said:
“This guy’s unbelievable. You read his high school stats: over 4,500 passing yards and over 4,500 rushing yards, and he accounted for 95 touchdowns. When you talk about a leader who commands the huddle, commands the team, this guy is exactly that. His film makes you say, ‘Wow!’ ‘’
A while later, Sid Hartman, who has covered the Gophers since Bob Sandberg was the quarterback, must have detected some unneeded caution over the idea that Viramontes would turn out to be the second coming of Sandy Stephens.
Sid’s notes included the following: “Vic Viramontes, the California junior college quarterback the Gophers have recruited, must be pretty good or Michigan would not have offered him a scholarship before he eventually signed with Cal in 2016.’’
There was actually some of that caution back on Nov. 27, from a Gopher Hole legend that goes by the handle “short ornery Norwegian.’’ Amid the Viramontes hysteria, he offered these sentiments as part of a message:
“Look, I hope this kid is as good as some of you believe he is. But, it’s a big jump from JUCO to the [Big Ten]. Let’s try to temper expectations until we actually see this kid play against [Big Ten] competition …
“This goes back to the same old thing that bugs me … A player commits to the U or signs, and everyone gushes about what a great player the U has landed. Every writeup from Daniel House [a Gopher Hole contributor] makes the player sound like a first-ballot Hall of Fame candidate …
“Before you start filing a permit application for the victory parade, let’s see what happens.’’
A poster with the handle “Halsey Hall’’ – a desecration of a wonderful wit – immediately assailed the Norwegian with a message including:
“This kid is really going to be good. I can’t believe his tape. He even played defense in high school and looks like he could play there in the [Big Ten]. BUT, he’s too good at QB. He’s the best QB we have recruited since Mike Hohensee (also a California JUCO).
“He is going to turn this program around.’’
As it happened, the turnaround was by Viramontes. It was revealed last weekend that he had turned around and went back to Riverside City College, where he hopes to turn himself into a linebacker worthy of another round of FBS recruitment.
Chalk one up for short ornery Norwegians everywhere.