Among P.J. Fleck’s go-to phrases when discussing his football players is how he wants them to grow in four areas: academically, athletically, socially and spiritually.
Fleck’s final category — spiritually — prompted a question during the coach’s Tuesday news conference. “Can a player without faith play for you?” a reporter asked.
“Absolutely,” Fleck quickly responded, “because the way we talk about spirituality is just believe in something bigger than yourself. ... Doesn’t have anything to do with religion.”
It’s understandable that Fleck would want to clarify that the way he emphasizes spirituality was not an endorsement of a particular religion.
Fleck also used quarterback Conor Rhoda, who won the starting job as a fifth-year senior who played little before this year, as an example of a player who has grown in all four of the areas he emphasizes.
“A holistic person becomes a holistic player, it’s not the other way around,” Fleck said. “… He’s failed enough in his life to continue to grow, and he has the ability to carry over and make the academic life, spiritual life, social life, athletic life all fit together, and in one. There’s not one part of Conor’s life, in my opinion, that’s more important than the other.’’