June 19, 2024

P.J. Fleck in awe of Tanner Morgan’s maturation process

Minnesota Golden Gophers Football

Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan glances towards the sideline during the fourth quarter against Iowa Saturday November 14, 2021 at Kinnick Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

INDIANAPOLIS — Minnesota’s head coach is starting to have a lot in common with his veteran quarterback.

P.J. Fleck is approaching his sixth season with the Golden Gophers, and Tanner Morgan has been on the roster his entire tenure. The two look similar in stature and they both share shiny bald heads. Now the two have even more in common, and that’s marriage.

Morgan tied the knot with his wife Sarah earlier this month. Fleck believes the newlyweds have started a trend with the Golden Gophers. All-Big Ten offensive lineman John Michael-Schmitz has been engaged since January and will soon be following pursuit. Fleck married his wife Heather back in 2016 when he was Western Michigan’s coach.

Now he’s finding himself welcoming his players to the party, and Fleck is perfectly fine with that. Most importantly, he couldn’t be more proud of his signal-caller and admires how he’s carrying himself.

“I know this, Sarah is an unbelievable person and they’re going to be an unbelievable couple,” Fleck said. “You can call them a power couple if you want, they’re faith-based, they have a really strong bond and been together for a long time.”

That means she has supported Morgan through the ups and downs on the gridiron and off the field. Morgan threw for 30 touchdowns in 2019, when he led Minnesota to an 11-win campaign. Sarah remained his rock and kept him motivated over the past two seasons, despite his slip in production. She even kept him mentally strong when he lost his father to brain tumor complications in July of 2021.

Morgan responded in a major way last season, and led the Golden Gophers to nine victories, including a bowl win. Now Morgan is one of the most experienced gunslingers in the Big Ten approaching fall camp, and Fleck believes he’s due for his best season yet. Offensive Coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca is back in Minneapolis after a one-year stint with Penn State. Fleck emphasized how thrilled Morgan was about Ciarrocca’s return.

The Golden Gophers’ offense was hit hard by the injury bug last year, especially in the backfield. However, Fleck was proud that his squad persevered and fell one win short of clinching their first-ever berth in the Big Ten Championship Game. Now the players are back healthy and there’s depth on the roster. Morgan now has the luxury of handing the ball off to bruising rusher Mohamed Ibrahim, who missed the final 12 games of 2021 because of a leg injury.

That means Morgan can play more loose and not have to do as much to extend plays. Fleck is proud that his players are taking initiative and conducting their own practices. In his eyes, that’s a sign of a determined team. He even noticed that Morgan is dialed in everywhere he goes.

The two were riding in the van on their way to Big Ten Media Days, and Fleck was surprised by how Morgan responded to him after he asked the gunslinger how his marriage was going.

“He (Morgan) told me great,” the 41-year old coach said. “And I was like ‘okay,’ because he answered that way too fast.”

Fleck is fully confident Morgan can multitask being a student-athlete and marriage. After all, Morgan already has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree. That’s pretty impressive for a 23-year old. Fleck even made a promise to Morgan’s late father that he’ll be in his son’s corner long after his playing days are over. Fleck knows with a strong wife, a man is capable of accomplishing anything.

“I hope she (Sarah) is okay with him being a coach too, because I think that’s what his calling is going to be one day.”