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Minnesota Football: At Big Ten Media Days, P.J. Fleck champions “a committed team”

“They don’t have any time for silliness.”

2022 Big Ten Conference Football Media Days Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

In his opening statement Tuesday morning after taking the stage for Big Ten Media Days inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Minnesota head football coach P.J. Fleck shared his excitement as he heads into fall camp with what he describes as “a fun team” and “a committed team.”

What does he mean by “committed,” exactly?

He talked about the distinction between ‘have to’ and ‘want to’ when it comes to the unrequired work that it is going to make each player better and make the team better as a whole, reserving praise for the players that the team looks to to be leaders.

“Our leadership on this team is fully committed to all of it,” Fleck said. “They want to do the ‘have to’ stuff. They can’t wait to do it. They’re off the field on their own doing unrequired work. They’re doing unrequired things together. This team is fully committed to each other.”

“They don’t have any time for silliness. They go right in, get their work done, and get better.”

Fleck and the four Gopher football players he brought with him to Indianapolis certainly looked the part, with starting center John Michael Schmitz even sporting a maroon suit coat and gold tie.

Schmitz, a three-year starter who spurned the NFL to return for a sixth year and anchor the Gophers’ offensive line, is one of several veteran players Minnesota will lean on this fall as they look to secure a division crown and make the team’s first trip to the Big Ten Championship.

Absent from Big Ten Media Days was running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who was a fixture on Minnesota’s sideline last season even after tearing his Achilles tendon in the season opener. But Ibrahim is back and “really to roll” according to Fleck, who also confirmed that Trey Potts has been cleared to play after recovering from an unspecified ailment suffered at midseason last year.

Prior to his injury, Ibrahim was the bell cow on offense for Minnesota, earning Big Ten Running Back of the Year honors in 2020 after rushing for 1,076 yards and 15 touchdowns in an abbreviated season. Skeptics question whether he’ll be able to perform to that level again after suffering an injury that often prevents athletes from regaining their pre-injury form.

But Fleck made it clear that he believes Ibrahim will be a key member of the Gophers’ football team this fall, explaining that he ultimately returned to write “a different ending” and that his decision to come back had a ripple effect across the program.

“He decided to come back not only for himself, but for his teammates. And I think that spread throughout our entire team,” Fleck said, listing off the other seniors who opted to return. “John Michael Schmitz coming back. Tanner Morgan coming back. Chris Autman-Bell coming back. They made choices based really on what Mo was going to do.”

To see what Mo is going to do next, fans will have to wait until September, when they’ll find out whether this team’s commitment to each other translates to results on the field.