By now you’ve heard P.J. Fleck is the new head football coach at the University of Minnesota. The young, energetic coach exhibited his unique and boisterous personality at yesterday’s introductory press conference at TCF Bank Stadium.
Some high school football coaches around the state already have a relationship with Fleck and the former Western Michigan staff, many of whom are expected to join him with the Gophers.
Many others encountered Fleck at the Minnesota Football Coaches Association clinic last spring where he was a featured speaker.
He impressed Minnesota coaches in both settings.
That’s nothing new for Fleck, though, who made a lasting impression on Owatonna’s Jeff Williams years ago while recruiting as a wide receivers coach for Northern Illinois.
“Energetic young buck visited my office a decade ago recruiting,” Williams tweeted Friday via the Owatonna Football account. “Hung on to his card because I thought he might go big.”
Former DeLaSalle coach and Gophers letterwinner Sean McMenomy, now head coach at South Caldwell High School in North Carolina, said Fleck's energy and passion is going to be great for the university.
“He is who he is…there’s no ghosts,” McMenomy said. “He’s recruited a couple of my guys [including Gophers lineman Chad Fahning] and they fell in love with them. He reaps what he sows. You can tell he puts a ton of time, effort, and focus into what he does, and you’re seeing the results.”
Robbinsdale Cooper coach Willie Howard attended Fleck’s Friday press conference. He has arguably as much interest in the Gophers new leader as any coach, with former Hawks star Philip Howard already on the team and Class of 2017 offensive tackle Eric Abojei verbally committed to the university.
“I think the transparency is biggest thing for me as a coach,” Howard said. “To be able to see if its somebody you’re going to put your son with for the next four, five years. To be able to walk away from this, and know no matter what’s happened in the past, this is somebody that generally cares about his kids.”
Another former Cooper player, Malik Rucker, transferred to play for Fleck at Western Michigan after starting his college career at Iowa. Howard said Fleck’s energy and attitude clearly rubbed off on the assistant coaches at Western Michigan, which was a big reason why Rucker left Iowa City for Kalamazoo.
One of those assistant coaches is a Minnesota native. Former Farmington receiver Matt Simon, who was coached by Fleck at Northern Illinois, has been the Broncos wide receivers coach since 2014.
Tigers coach Adam Fischer said he originally contacted Simon shortly after getting hired at Farmington in early 2015 and received an immediate response. He then met him in person when Simon recruited defensive lineman Tanner Sundt last year and was even more impressed with Simon's authenticity.
“He’s passionate about Minnesota and he takes a ton of pride about where he was raised,” Fischer said. “I know I would love to have him back, and I think his presence in the upper Midwest would be great for recruiting.”
Fischer also attended the MFCA clinic in March. He said he was impressed with the way Fleck was focused on finding players who were competitors first. Fischer also said he liked Fleck's desire to find successful people and philosophies outside his program to continuously challenge his players and further improve the team.
“The two big takeaways were how detail orientated he was about everything,” said Farmington coach Adam Fischer about Fleck’s speech, “and the passion and energy he has for football. I think he’ll bring a tremendous amount of energy and I’m excited for the U of M.”