Ihmir Smith-Marsette Claims PJ Fleck, Gophers Over-Pressured Him to Commit During 2017 Visit
It’s recruiting season and that means PJ Fleck, along with the entire Minnesota Gophers football coaching staff, is out on the recruiting trail. But it wasn’t 2024 or 2025 recruits who were making news on Thursday.
Instead, it was former Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver, and current Carolina Panthers restricted free agent, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who was talking about how the Gophers recruited him back when he took a visit to Dinkytown as a high-schooler in 2017.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette accuses Fleck of over-pressuring him to commit in 2017
The picture ISM paints isn’t a good one. He says the Minnesota staff was very aggressive about trying to get his commitment on the spot, before he left town. So much so that they said, if he didn’t accept it now, it might not be there once he leaves campus.
Former Iowa WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette was verbally committed to the #Gophers for 2 days before signing with the Hawkeyes in 2017.— Tony Liebert (@TonyLiebert) January 25, 2024
Very interesting look into what the recruiting process looked like from PJ Fleck and Minnesota.
“[Minnesota makes it seem like] everything is gonna be like tailor made just for you. And that’s just, that’s the talk to every single recruit and honestly how you gonna do that for every single recruit?
[PJ Fleck] is just like, ‘alright, now I get you in my office, it’s like, ‘hey listen, kid that really doesn’t know anything about anything, this offer is right here, right now. If you don’t take it, I can’t promise you it’s gonna be there if you walk out that door. And you know, being one of those kids that really don’t know anything, it’s like, ‘well if I don’t accept this, I don’t know what’s after this.’ You get what I’m saying?
And then you got your family in your ear talking about how this is the best thing for you, which you know, that’s a whole different conversation. It’s just tough, like hearing him basically like, ‘it’s us or nothing and everything’s gonna be great for you’. I don’t even know one kid from my class that went there and made it.”
Can we get a fact-check, please?
Alright, so I have to interject here for a moment, before I continue Smith-Marsette’s transcript from this interview. Not to defend PJ Fleck, I’ll do that momentarily. I have to stop because ISM is just flat wrong on that last part.
2017 was Fleck’s first ever class at the University of Minnesota. While it certainly wasn’t PJ’s best class, it included collegiate successes like Tanner Morgan (all-time UofM passing leader), Mohamed Ibrahim (all-time UofM rushing leader), Blaise Andries and Chris Autman-Bell; not to mention alumni-turned NFLers like Esezi Otomewo, Boye Mafe and John-Michael Schmitz.
The latter two were drafted in the first two days of their respective drafts. Not only that, but Minnesota’s next class (2018) included Rashod Bateman, Daniel Faalele, Brevyn Spann-Ford, Terrell Smith, Mariano Sori-Marin and Thomas Rush, among others.
Both the 2017 and 2018 classes were what launched the Gophers into their best season in program history, especially through the air (2019). That season helped make Rashod Bateman a 1st round pick and Tyler Johnson a 5th-rounder during the 2020 draft.
Smith-Marsette was drafted by the Vikings #157 overall one year later (2021). I’m not saying ISM is lying about what happened during his visit, but he’s wrong about how well Gophers wide receivers did while he was in school at Iowa.
Minnesota Gophers allegedly kept pushing ISM
Ihmir continues on and talks about how he ended up committing to Iowa. Long story-short, he got home and didn’t like how everything went down so he flipped on signing day and went with Iowa.
“I told [Fleck] I’ll commit and he was like, ‘alright’. I was just gonna tell him that and get on the flight back to New Jersey and just like not let anybody know that I’m committed there and stuff. But on my way to the bus, to go to the airport, they were just saying like, ‘hey, we got this photograph that we want you to post and let the whole world know [you are committed to Minnesota].
I was like, ‘I’ll post it when I get home,’ and it was just like, ‘OK.’ And then they stopped me and they’re like, ‘hey, we want you to put that out right now, just to let everybody know you’re coming here and you’re locked in here.’ And I just kept shaking it off.
I shook them off probably like 2-3 times and then finally, right before we’re about to leave, like everybody getting dropped off at the airport, they stopped the bus, they pulled me off and said, ‘yeah, go ahead and show us that you put that up so we could just like, you know, have everybody know that you’re committed.
I posted it on Twitter and I got home and I just sat down and was thinking like, ‘I really don’t wanna go there,’ and it was just [weighing] heavy on me. So I was like, ‘fuck it, I’m going to Iowa, that’s my choice’. Then I deleted the commitment [tweet] and signed with Iowa.”
Interesting story… but…
It’s important to point out that the recruiting tactics allegedly used by Fleck’s staff back in 2017 are likely 100% different than how they recruit now. 2017 was pre transfer portal and pre NIL, etc, etc.
That doesn’t make anything right or wrong, it’s just the facts. It’s highly unlikely Fleck is pressuring anyone like what ISM said above, in today’s atmosphere.