MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When P.J. Fleck runs through the tunnel and onto the field of TCF Bank Stadium for his first game as head coach of the Gophers, it will be the culmination of a lifetime of working his way up to this point.
“I’ll be honest with you, because I’m not one of those coaches that ignore what you’ve done in your life. Just my wife was walking through the grocery store the other day with me and somebody stopped us, and somebody was very positive and somebody else stopped us and was very negative, and it was just amazing,” Fleck said. “And we kind of got talking about our career and our path and all the lives we’ve touched and all the lives that have touched us, and you kind of reflect back on your life a little bit.”
It’s been quite the journey for Fleck, from undersized, under-recruited receiver, to playing in the NFL, to building Western Michigan into a winner, to becoming a head coach in the Big Ten — and to be one of the youngest in the country to do it.
“And that’s a big deal to me. That’s a big deal. That’s a big deal to our staff and, you know, I’m never going to downplay that,” Fleck said.
“We play in the greatest conference in college football and you get to be one of the 14 head coaches in that league and be with some of the greatest football coaches that have ever lived. That’s an honor. I mean, I am humbled and honored to be in this conference, but just running out in the stadium, that’s not the time to think about it. There is a game to play, and that’s how I’ve always approached it. The time prior to games, prior to seasons, that’s when you kind of celebrate that stuff or even just think about it and reflect, but in the season, you don’t have any time to reflect about anything except getting the job done at hand, and when we run out of the tunnel, that won’t be a moment where you stop and everybody looks around and you have a tear in your eye, that is not the time to do that.”
There’s a game to win.