Yes, P.J. Fleck actually once thought about playing a different sport at a rival B1G school
Leading Minnesota to their first double-digit-win season in 16 years in 2019, P.J. Fleck has done a lot of good for the Golden Gophers since taking the job in 2017.
Appearing on Mike Hill’s ‘On the Bench’ podcast on Tuesday, however, he shared his college football career, and likely his coaching career in the industry, as well, almost never happened.
Instead, he nearly played basketball for one of Minnesota’s fiercest rivals, the Wisconsin Badgers.
Imagine this for a second: P.J. Fleck playing PG for Bo Ryan and @BadgerMBB. 🤯
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 10, 2020
Fleck was a three-sport standout at Kaneland High School in Maple Park, Illinois, participating in football, basketball and track and field. Recording 95 catches for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior, he was an integral part of the Knights winning back-to-back state championships in 1997 and 1998.
Of course, Fleck ended up passing on the opportunity to walk-on at Wisconsin, electing to continue his student-athlete career in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) as a wide receiver for the Northern Illinois Huskies, where he caught 179 passes for 2,162 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well as adding another score on the ground, from 1999-2003.
Following two years in the National Football League on the San Francisco 49ers’ roster, his first foray into college coaching was as a graduate assistant for Jim Tressel’s Ohio State Buckeyes in 2006.
Returning to the MAC for his first head coaching job with the Western Michigan Broncos in 2013, Fleck guided the Kalamazoo-based program to a 30-22 (21-11) record in four years, culminating in a Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic appearance against, coincidentally, Wisconsin in the 2016 season.
In his fourth year in Minneapolis, Fleck is 24-17 (13-17 B1G) with the Golden Gophers, including a 1-2 mark thus far in 2020.
Minnesota will host the Iowa Hawkeyes, who are also 1-2, on Friday at 7 p.m. ET on FS1.