The Scoops: 'It kills me' to no longer be with Gophers, Jim Gjere says
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Homecoming Saturday will have a different meaning for former Gophers starting right tackle Jim Gjere.
For the first time since retiring in August because of post-concussion symptoms, Gjere will be at TCF Bank Stadium to cheer on his former teammates against Northwestern.
I sat down with Gjere on Wednesday afternoon for almost an hour. The Irondale High School product first suffered a concussion in the spring of 2011, then had another one in the loss at Michigan last October.
"I remember walking out to the line on one play (in that game), and I couldn't remember the play," Gjere said. "I turned to my guard and he had to repeat it twice. ... I just wasn't processing it."
With lots of rest, he overcame his 2011 issues and was medically cleared to take part in this year's spring practices and August two-a-days. But it was just five days into fall camp that his symptoms recurred.
"I had no motivation to do anything," Gjere said.
After an emotional talk with his parents and trainers and coaches, he made the decision to walk away.
"I have to find stuff to take mind off of football, because I do miss it," Gjere said. "Every time 3:30 rolls around, I think about the guys at practice. It kills me to not be out there with them."
Gjere got emotional, reminiscing about running through the tunnel onto the TCF Bank Stadium field and the bond he had with his offensive line.
"We've become so tight," Gjere said. "It'll be tough to get that feeling anywhere else."
Gjere has an open invitation to attend practice, but he said it's too hard to. He does see his teammates in the mornings in the players' lounge and is a class-checker -- an extra guy to do anything the coaches and support staff ask of him.
He's still on scholarship, scheduled to graduate in the spring 2014 with a degree in marketing and business.
"I want to be able to brush my teeth when I'm 27," Gjere said, "and if I had taken another hit, who knows what would've happened?"
Gjere's mom will soon be arranging for him to talk to groups about his experience, something he's looking forward to.
He says his athletic career is "on hold," but if something arises, clearly, it'll be a non-contact sport. He was a star pitcher in high school, so could see himself asking baseball coach John Anderson for a tryout. But he first said he needs to be fully symptom-free.
Minnesota Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman has been around tough, hard-nosed guys Olin Kreutz, Bryan Cox, Brian Dawkins and Jon Runyan during his 16 years in the NFL.
But none compare to the player Sugarman spent a lot of time with last spring and summer.
"Adrian Peterson is a freak of nature," Sugarman said recently.
On Sunday, Peterson will return to the scene of his two torn knee ligaments last Christmas Eve -- FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
The fact he was able to avoid the physically unable to perform list and be available for this week's matchup comes as no surprise to Sugarman.
"He said from the get-go he would accomplish the goal (of playing in Week 1), and thankfully and safely, he did it," Sugarman said. "... As long as he didn't have any doubt that he would accomplish it, neither did I. It was fun to work with him and watch him attain his goal."
Sugarman bounced back and forth between Houston and the Twin Cities with Peterson, accompanying him through just about every obstacle during the 8½-month rehab.
"As an athletic trainer, you do your job behind the scenes," Sugarman said. "The reward is to experience what I did (when Peterson returned). You watch a guy you worked so closely with attain a goal and have success. That's what it's all about."
According to Daniel Edozie's AAU coach, Donley Minor, the 6-foot-8 juco forward "fell in love" on his official visit to the "U" campus a couple weeks ago.
It wasn't long thereafter that he gave coach Tubby Smith a verbal commitment beginning with the 2013-2014 season.
But then Smith saw Edozie play in a jamboree last Saturday and pulled the offer, Minor said.
Recruiting is a dirty business, and instances like this happen far too regularly. In the long term, it's probably in the Gophers' best interest to find someone else, as Edozie doesn't strike you as Big Ten-caliber. But it's hard to not feel bad for him.
This also raises a larger issue: what sort of disconnect is there with Smith and his assistants? One of them evaluated Edozie and made him an offer. Did Smith not know about this? Was something lost in translation?
"U" officials can't comment on the record about recruits, but one didn't deny Minor's story.
• Elliott Eliason, not Trevor Mbakwe, is the expected starter at center for the Gophers when they open the regular season on Nov. 9 against American at Williams Arena.
• One Gophers football insider predicted quarterback MarQueis Gray, out since injuring his ankle and knee Sept. 15 in the win against Western Michigan, will get some snaps on Saturday.
• The forecast for Saturday is calling for heavy rain in the early morning and possibly when the game begins at 11 a.m.
• It's not the $10-per-ticket deal we saw for the home game against Syracuse Sept. 22, but the Gophers have discounted a lot of seats for this game.
• Baseball Hall of Famer Paul Molitor wants a full-time job on Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's staff, but he was told it won't work out. What's interesting is that I'm told he has owner Jim Pohlad's backing. Pohlad is deferring all power to general manager Terry Ryan, who is allowing Gardenhire to have lots of say. It's unfortunate a happy compromise can't be reached, since Molitor is more brilliant than many current bench/hitting/first base/third base coaches.
• Miami Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson, a free agent after the 2013 season, is one of many names that could interest the Twins this offseason. Florida is expected to trade him. Johnson's agent, Matt Sosnick, has an excellent relationship with the Twins' front office. He represents Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit. In other words, the Twins might be willing to sacrifice a top prospect or two knowing they could find a way to retain Johnson for the long term.
• Ex-Twins catcher Mike Redmond has interest in the vacancies on Gardenhire's staff, but so far, there's been no contact. Redmond is managing the Blue Jays' Single-A affiliate in Dunedin, Florida.
• The Atlanta-Journal Constitution opined in Thursday's edition that the Braves should do everything within reason and slightly beyond to trade for Willingham. While they have young arms that could tempt Ryan, he was adamant in a recent conference call with season-ticket holders that Willingham is close to untouchable this winter.
• Don't mistake the empty seats at Mall of America Field for Vikings game to a lack of interest. The local TV ratings are still dominant, often having five to eight times the audience of any other sporting event, sitcom or newscast.
• DeLaSalle High School football coach Sean McMenomy on the recruitment of his quarterback and star basketball player, junior Reid Travis: "Brad Stevens from Butler stopped in. Other than that, all of the Big Ten schools have stopped by, as has Gonzaga. Ohio State, Florida State, Rutgers, North Carolina State and Stanford are the new guys contacting me about Reid in football. Reid is going to Wisconsin next weekend to watch the Gophers and Badgers and do a dual football/basketball visit like he did at Iowa (Sept. 29). We're trying to finalize the Alabama/Auburn visit right after the Prep Bowl as well."
• One Wolves insider predicted they'd be busy at the trade deadline in February, when presumably point guard Ricky Rubio is back. With Rubio, Alexey Shved, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea, there's a lot of redundancy.
• Wild forward Zach Parise has planted the seed with his dad, ex-North Star J.P. Parise, about dog sitting the family pug in the event him and his wife are off to Switzerland in the very near future. Zach said the biggest obstacle to him playing overseas during the NHL lockout is finding insurance.
• Toronto Maple Leafs forward James Van Riemsdyk is a newcomer to the St. Louis Park Rec Center scrimmages. Apparently, getting the requisite ice time in Toronto is made difficult by the overwhelming numbers of fans and reporters who are constantly at the rinks. That's not an issue in St. Louis Park. In fact, Parise is encouraging fans to show up. They typically workout/scrimmage Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon.