P.J. Fleck is a unique character in the world of sports. His enthusiasm, quick-witted fast speaking style is not something easily discovered as attributes of a head football coach. The man Fleck is has made him a winner to this point in his career, and now he has his highest profile job yet, and will be responsible for turning the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team around.
Fleck started his head coaching career at Western Michigan, going 1-11 in his first season, followed by two 8-5 campaigns. In 2016, the Broncos won their first 13 games, ultimately falling to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl 24-16. The guy is a winner, Fleck can turn programs around, by being himself.
A reporter asked if some of the things Fleck does are antics, as he is highly visible on social media. Fleck said no, he’s been the same person his entire life. “If you go back and talk to my friends on Carriage Hill Lane they’ll tell ya I was the same way. Same guy in boxing, me against you. They always gave me the left-handed boxing glove. Why’d they give me the left handed glove? Because I was fun to beat up. And they loved watching me get my butt kicked because I just wouldn’t quit, and eventually I’d just wear ya down. It was just different.”
Different. Fleck is definitely different. He does not strive to give the same style coach speak as the majority of head coaches, both collegiately and professionally. Simply, he isn’t boring. Because Fleck is a good speaker, he has become somewhat understood, and is at times disliked because of who he is, even if who Fleck is doesn’t disrespect his opponents or the game of football.
Fleck’s best advice came from his wife, and she pointed to another coach as a comparison, she compared him to Jim Harbaugh. She told Fleck to be himself, just like the Michigan coach. “Harbaugh is not for everybody, and I’m not for everybody.” Fleck said.
Harbaugh isn’t the only source of inspiration Fleck will be taking with him to Minnesota, he also is a fan of legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler. Fleck will be reciting one of his most famous quotes to inspire his team. “Bo Schembechler said it best, those who stay will be champions. We said that at Western Michigan, I’ve told our (Minnesota) team that.”
It remains to be seen how events will unfold for Fleck in Minnesota. What is a fair assertion is that Minnesota will become more competitive both on the field and in recruiting with Fleck at helm. His history of making a program a contender is evident, and there’s no reason to think he won’t succeed in Minnesota, being himself.