Players Past and Present Defend PJ Fleck, Gophers Culture

PHOTO: ANTHONY SOUFFLE – STAR TRIBUNE

Earlier this week, former Minnesota Gophers defensive tackle, Val Martin, took to Twitter and went hard at PJ Fleck and his Row The Boat program. He called his move to Dinkytown, via North Carolina State, the worst thing he’s ever done and dubbed PJ a car salesman.

When confronted by Minnesota fans or questioned by media, Martin doubled, tripled, quadrupled… (etc.) down. To his credit, Val never backed down from his original tweets. He even posted anonymous messages he was receiving from former Gophers under Fleck. Nobody else was willing to run the Gophers program down in a public space, but others clearly have many of the same animosity Martin does, regarding their former coach.

Fleck haters come out to hate (anonymously)

Minnesota Daily News sports editor and GopherHole.com contributor, Tony Liebert, reached out to an anonymous former Minnesota Gophers football player who had more of the same complaints.

Val Martin’s Twitter exchange with Minnesota fans, and some Gopher football players (see below), lasted about 48 hours. It included multiple screenshots, dozens of tweets, even more replies and a couple of live streams. Nobody else put their name on the hate they spewed for Fleck or his program. There’s obvious and legitimate reasons for their anonymity, but the fact is still worth noting.

But for every PJ Fleck hater, there’s a ‘row or die’ protege who points to the Minnesota Gophers’ culture as life changing. Over the hours and days that followed Martin’s Twitter barrage, we saw both former and current players come out in support of Fleck and his culture.

Former and current players defend Fleck’s culture

Current Gophers who came out publicly for Fleck, include (QB) Tanner Morgan, (K) Dragan Kesich, (LB) Mariano Sori-Marin, (EDGE) Thomas Rush and (DT) Trill Carter; who Martin claims punched him in the face at a practice last season.

Former players who voiced support include (LB) Carter Coughlin, (LS) Austin Sullivan (LB) and Jack Gibbens, who came in the same 2021 transfer class as Val Martin did.

But nobody came out of the Fleck support gates hotter than former backup punter, Matt Stephenson. He and Martin had a lengthy back and forth where Stephenson tried to debunk many narratives Val was trying to sell. One of those narratives is the idea that backups don’t matter to PJ Fleck, his assistants or his program.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan