MINNEAPOLIS - P.J. Fleck is all about recruiting the top talent and finding the right fit to bring the best players and people to the University of Minnesota football program.
There’s not a better way to sell that than by having players who flourished under Fleck getting selected in the NFL Draft. The Gophers made history over the weekend, with Rashod Bateman and Benjamin St.-Juste getting drafted. Bateman was selected No. 27 overall by the Baltimore Ravens. The Gophers hadn’t had a first round pick since Laurence Maroney in 2006, and they’ve never had a receiver taken in the first round.
St.-Juste was taken in the third round, No. 75 overall, by the Washington Football Team. For the first time since 1978, two Gophers were selected among the top 75 picks. History made.
"We only had two guys eligible to be drafted, and both guys, it just shows you can accomplish anything you want here at the University of Minnesota. It was a big day for us, it really was. Those are the reasons why you coach. Those things last forever," Fleck said after Saturday’s Gophers Spring Game.
We’re starting to see Minnesota’s top talent head to the NFL. Last year, it was Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tyler Johnson both being selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They’re now both Super Bowl champions.
Bateman, the 2019 Big Ten Receiver of the Year, was with friends and family back home in Tifton, Ga., when his name got called Thursday night. Mo Ibrahim almost called him, but the Baltimore native opted not to get his former teammate confused and excited seeing a Baltimore area number.
"I grew up a Ravens fan so I was rooting for him. When he got picked, I was excited. I waited like 5, 10 minutes and called him. He was excited, he asked me what places he should go eat at and stuff like that," Ibrahim said.
Chris Autman-Bell was thrust into the No. 1 receiver role with the Gophers last season after Bateman opted out of the final two games. Bateman is one of his closest friends, and Autman-Bell posted a video of himself on Instagram running down the hallway at his home when Bateman was drafted.
"I sprinted down the hallway out of my room. I was screaming, Ben came the next day. I was also screaming for Ben too. Seeing my guys, especially Bateman, and knowing he came in after me and left before me, that’s just awesome. His time came, it was awesome seeing my brother get drafted. As soon as they get that number selected, I’ll be buying jerseys for sure.
Bateman posted a picture to social media Monday afternoon, sporting a Ravens' jersey with No. 12 across his chest and No. 13 on his shoulders.