EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (KMSP) - Just hours after officially accepting the job as the next head football coach at the University of Minnesota, PJ Fleck landed at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, Minn., where he took a few minutes to speak to Fox 9 about the difficult decision to leave Western Michigan and his message to the Gophers players. FIRST REPORT - PJ Fleck hired as Gophers football coach
“Ski-U-Mah meets Row the Boat! It’s phenomenal! I’m so proud to be here. I just want to say thank you to everybody in the state of Minnesota for having me here. This is truly a blessing, it’s a dream come true, and I look forward to getting to know everybody in our beautiful state, and especially around our incredible university that we have.”
What made Minnesota the right choice?
“It starts back when I was a kid and I dreamed of either playing or coaching in the Big Ten. And then to be picked and selected as the head football coach at one of the most prestigious institutions in the entire country and work for the administration that we’re going to work for. I think that was one of the biggest things – getting to know Mark Coyle on a personal level was really big for me.”
When was the final decision made?
“Late, late, late last night, early in the morning. There was a lot of things to iron out, a lot of decisions to be made. Kalamazoo, Michigan is a very special place to me. My players that I just got done coaching are like my sons and I’m like their dad. That’s very hard to break that relationship now. That was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. I turned a lot of opportunities down to be with those kids, but they’re mature enough to understand that, and they don’t need me anymore. They’re going to be tremendous as they continue to move forward and so will Western Michigan University.”
Does ‘Row the Boat’ continue at Minnesota?
“It’s going to be blended with Ski-U-Mah, I promise you that. Somehow, someway – I’ll tell you how it’s all connected, because I promise you it’s all connected.”
Where do you start at Minnesota?
“Right now I’m just eager to talk to our football team here at the University of Minnesota. I’m very excited for it. We’re going to do it in a very unique way, with Facetime. I think that’s really key because they’re all over the country right now – they’re back home. I just want to get in front of them, I want them to see my face and for them to understand that I’m here for them, and that we’ve hit the ground running and that now everything I do from this point forward is about them, for them, and I’m here to serve and give."
What is your message to the Gophers players?
“The first words to them is guys, you didn’t pick me. You had no choice whether I came or not, but I picked you, and I couldn’t have picked a better group.”