Monday, Aug. 20, 2018

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Streveler Proves U Critics Wrong

July 15, 2018 - (0) comments


Chris Streveler’s success, including now in the Canadian Football League, is a lot different than what the former Illinois high school all-state quarterback experienced with the Golden Gophers.

Like light years different.

Streveler enrolled at Minnesota in January of 2013 and participated in spring practice. By the spring of 2016 he was transferring to South Dakota, ending a Gopher career that included one meaningful game playing quarterback. Before Streveler transferred, he had been switched to wide receiver in an attempt to get him playing time and use the athleticism that helped produce over 1,200 rushing yards during his high school career.

In two seasons at South Dakota Streveler threw for 6,081 yards and 54 touchdowns. He was named Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year following last season. That wasn’t enough, though, to make an NFL team draft him. Instead, he signed a CFL deal with Winnipeg where earlier this season he became the first quarterback coming straight out of college to start a league game since 1994.

Injury and retirement thinned the Blue Bombers’ quarterback roster this year and prompted naming Streveler the starter for the first three regular season games. Streveler had impressed in the preseason including in his first game when he completed 10 of 10 passes, with an 80-yard touchdown pass.

Streveler started the first three regular season games for the now 2-3 Blue Bombers. He has also seen game action since then. He has completed 57 of 91 passes, with six touchdown passes (tops on the team) and two interceptions. He is the team’s second leading rusher with 228 yards and four touchdowns.

At Minnesota Streveler, whose completion percentage in high school was 68.8 percent, was labeled a quarterback who couldn’t pass after the one start of his career for the Gophers. He attempted seven passes and completed one as part of a game plan against San Jose State that clearly mandated running the ball. Streveler rushed 18 times for 161 yards and running back David Cobb had 207 yards on 34 carries in Minnesota’s 24-7 win in September of 2014.

Critics thought the Gophers had a running back disguised as a QB. They saw him as a dart thrower, perhaps as likely to toss an interception as a completion. Streveler played behind Mitch Leidner, the 2014-2016 starter who had his own critics. Leidner never found the consistency needed to maximize Minnesota’s offense.

Turns out Streveler could have been the type of quarterback talent that has often been nonexistent at Minnesota for decades. Since 1987 the Gophers have had two highly honored quarterbacks with end of season Big Ten recognition. Rickey Foggie was named second team All-Big Ten in 1987 and Adam Weber earned the same honor in 2008.

Streveler found opportunity at South Dakota where he listened to his coaches including head man Bob Nielson. In a June 3, 2018 story in the Winnipeg Sun, Streveler said “…the amount that I learned in those two years, from those guys, it took my game to a level that I didn’t even know was there. If I hadn’t gone to South Dakota I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be here right now.”

Among Streveler’s receivers in Winnipeg is former Gopher teammate and wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky. In the San Jose game it was Wolitarsky who caught the one pass from Streveler—a modest seven-yard completion.

Oh, how things have changed.

Worth Noting

Wolitarsky has eight receptions for 136 yards and a Blue Bombers best three touchdown catches.

Dick Jonckowski

Dick Jonckowski’s biography came out last week and copies of the book are available by calling him at 952-261-3013. “It’s All about Me—Dick Jonckowski, a Minnesota Treasure” includes his trademark jokes and nearly 50 color photos of celebrities from Hulk Hogan to Red Skelton. The popular banquet emcee and longtime Gopher public address announcer collaborated on the biography with Jim Bruton who has authored other sports books with Minnesota connections.

Jose Berrios, the Twins’ 24-year-old pitcher who participates in his first MLB All-Star Game Tuesday night, earns $570,000 this season, according to, the website that tracks baseball salaries.

Joe Mauer, the Twins’ 35-year-old first baseman, hasn’t played in the All-Star Game since 2013. He has six career All-Star Game appearances including three consecutive from 2008-2010.

Murray’s Restaurant owner Tim Murray has visited all 30 MLB stadiums and 22 facilities no longer being used. On July 27 he will watch the Twins and Red Sox at Fenway Park, and then two days later he will be at Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees and Royals.

Condolences to former Gopher wide receiver and now local TV personality Ron Johnson on the passing of his father July 10. His dad, also Ron Johnson, was 62 and played defensive back for the NFL Steelers.

Appointment viewing: the NFL Network and Fox 9 will televise the Kirk Cousins-Vikings versus Case Keenum-Broncos preseason game from Denver August 11. Fox 9 will televise all four of the Viking preseason games starting with the Broncos.

The NFL Network will televise all 65 NFL preseason games.

Vikings single game tickets go on sale Thursday starting at 10 a.m. and are available only through Ticketmaster online. Tickets start at $20 for preseason games, $58 for regular season.

Former Gopher assistant football coach Dan O’Brien, now head coach at St. Thomas Academy, has ex-U star Rickey Foggie as his quarterbacks coach, and two promising sophomore offensive linemen in Michael Bagley and Joel Vascellaro. Michael is the son of Vikings front office executive Lester Bagley and Joel’s parents are WCCO TV anchors Frank Vascellaro and Amelia Santaniello.


Another View on Wolves’ Butler-Towns

July 12, 2018 - (0) comments


Media reports that Timberwolves leader and best player Jimmy Butler is “fed up” with the alleged nonchalant attitude of teammate Karl-Anthony Towns are prevalent, but are those rumors true?

I asked Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones if he is aware of a rift between Butler and Towns? “No,” he answered.

So Butler and Towns get along?

“They do,” Jones told Sports Headliners on Monday. “As you can see, we won a lot of games this year so I think everyone got along just fine.”

Jones said there were “no chemistry issues” on last season’s team that won 16 games more than the 2016-17 club. Butler, a guard-forward, joined the Wolves last offseason through a trade with the Bulls. As one of the NBA’s best two-way players, he made a major impact on and off the court. The Wolves earned their way into the playoffs for the first time since 2004. In the locker room the intense veteran made his presence known.

Before last season NBA general managers named Towns the player they would want most to start a franchise with. During the 2017-2018 season, his third in the NBA, the Wolves’ 22-year-old center averaged 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds. However, there have been reports that Butler, the team’s leading scorer at 22.2 points per game, is not only critical of Towns’ lack of intensity, but that he also has the same feelings about another young Wolves player with high potential, forward-guard Andrew Wiggins.

Tyus Jones

All of this leaves Wolves fans uneasy because Butler becomes a free agent after the 2018-19 season. If Butler doesn’t want to be here, that’s certainly not true of Jones who also will be a free agent next year.

Jones expects his agent to begin talks about a new contract this summer and the Minnesota native admitted it would be difficult to leave Minneapolis. “It would be hard,” he said. “I’ve said since the beginning, when I was drafted here, this is a dream come true. I grew up a big Timberwolves fan.”

Jones has been a reserve in his first three seasons with the Timberwolves, who acquired him from the Cavs on draft night in 2015. Last season he played in all 82 regular season games but his minutes were limited and he averaged 5.1 points per game. He has career averages of 4.4 points and 2.8 assists, but has earned praise from coach Tom Thibodeau.

The 6-foot-2 Jones, who entered the NBA at about 185 pounds, looks more muscular this summer. “Put on some weight,” he said. “Just trying to focus on making good weight (muscle).”

The 22-year-old former Apple Valley star and prep All-American weighs about 190 pounds now. He is working on a summer development program with intentions to not only become stronger but quicker, and “improve all aspects of my game.”

His gym time included an appearance Monday evening in the Twin Cities Pro Am league at DeLaSalle High School. He played for Team Tyus, the team he sponsors in the summer time league that has players of varying ages and abilities.

Wolves fans might have concerns about next season’s team but Jones is upbeat. “(I) feel good about it,” he said. “We took a big leap this year. We’re going to continue to try to do that. Each year you want to improve individually and as a whole (team). So making the playoffs and ending that drought was our goal. Now this year it’s try and take it a step further.”

Crandall, Travis, Talked U Transfer

It’s not that well-known but the Golden Gophers might have started next season with high profile grad transfers and Minneapolis natives Geno Crandall and Reid Travis in their starting lineup. Crandall’s decision to choose Gonzaga over Minnesota is a national story this summer and the former North Dakota guard told Sports Headliners about the background to his process in choosing a school that included communications with Travis who is leaving Stanford to play his final season of college basketball at Kentucky.

Crandall describes Travis as his “best friend,” and the two have played basketball together since they were five years old. They played on state championship teams in high school at DeLaSalle. Earlier this year the two texted about playing for the Gophers in their hometown. “We talked…about it and gave it some thought,” Crandall said.

Crandall averaged 16.2 points per game last season for the Fighting Hawks, leading the team in scoring. The 6-foot-3 Crandall was second-team All-Big Sky for the second consecutive season. Travis averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds for Stanford. The 6-foot-8 forward was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection.

The Gophers have a roster talented enough to prompt speculation they could earn their way into the NCAA Tournament next season. But with Crandall and Travis they could have been a Big Ten title favorite. “Oh, yeah, no doubt,” Crandall said.

Crandall believes Travis was influenced in choosing Kentucky because of the program’s national exposure and reputation for sending players on to the NBA. Those were factors that resonated with Crandall, too, in choosing Gonzaga.

The Zags are expected to be a top 10 team nationally. Crandall’s goal is to help the Bulldogs earn their way through the 2019 NCAA Tournament to the Final Four in Minneapolis. He knows how special it could feel playing for a national title in his home city.

Gonzaga has an opening for playing time in its starting backcourt. The path to playing time appeared more direct to him than at Minnesota where the Gophers have experienced players at both point and shooting guard. Those players include grad transfer Brock Stull from Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The decision to choose Gonzaga wasn’t easy. He thought a lot about both Minnesota and Xavier where former Gopher assistant coach and DeLaSalle player Ben Johnson now works.

“Honestly, it was probably the toughest decision I ever had to make in my life,” Crandall said. “The first time around, coming out of high school, it wasn’t such a hard decision because I didn’t have too many offers, or too many programs that I really loved.

“But it was an extremely tough decision to say no to the hometown team that I grew up watching. (Minnesota) coach (Richard) Pitino, I think he’s really building something special. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem in the cards for me for what I was looking for my last year…”


Jerry Kill: New Rule Helps Gophers

July 10, 2018 - (0) comments


A Tuesday notes column:

The NCAA’s recent decision allowing Division I college football players to play in up to four games and still preserve their redshirt status will help the Golden Gophers starting this fall.

In prior years a player lost his redshirt status just by taking one snap in a game. Effective this season coaches will have more roster depth because they can use players that in the past were sidelined so they could redshirt, allowing five years to complete four seasons of eligibility.

The five years and four seasons status remains, and former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill likes the rule change. “I think you get banged up (with injuries) and it gives you a chance to look at some of those freshmen for four games and it doesn’t count as a year,” he told Sports Headliners on Monday.

Kill rebuilt Gopher football from 2011-2015. He and his staff upgraded the coaching and the talent. Although Minnesota became a winning program, Kill struggled to build adequate depth. That’s a challenge that also faces second-year coach P.J. Fleck going into this fall where he will have a much anticipated freshmen class.

When injuries hit most of the programs in college football they often don’t have the talent in reserve they would like. “It hurt us in a couple bowl games we played because we had no depth,” Kill said. “It made it tough on us. I think there’s no question that it helps Minnesota, and I think it helps everybody else, too.”

Kill is the new athletic director at Southern Illinois and has made a number of hires including Jeff Jones and Andy Harris. Jones worked for Kill at Minnesota as director of player personnel, and now is an administrator with Southern Illinois, his alma mater. Harris, who was involved with equipment when Kill was with the Gophers, is director of equipment operations with the Salukis.

DeLaSalle gym

Jamar Diggs, who runs the Twin Cites Pro Am summer basketball league at DeLaSalle, sees a variety of players including those still in high school. Among the youngest players who have impressed him is DeLaSalle High School guard Tyrell Terry who is headed to Stanford in 2019. “His skill set is through the roof,” Diggs said.

The Capital Club will have golf executive Hollis Cavner, who is bringing a PGA Tour event to Minnesota next year, as its speaker July 26 at Town & Country Club in St. Paul. Kate Mortenson, who heads up the 2019 Minneapolis Final Four Local Organizing Committee, speaks to the group August 14. More information about the Capital Club is available from Patrick Klinger,

Klinger founded the Capital Club in November of 2014, almost five years ago. The club focuses on well-known speakers who provide perspective on what they do.

Jay Weiner, whose byline was seen on the Star Tribune sports pages for years, announced on Facebook he starts a new job this week in communications for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Most recently he worked for seven years as a speech writer for University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler.

Jeff Seeman, a Minnesota native and U alum, is returning for his 17th season as an NFL official. His father, the late Jerry Seeman, was one of the most revered officials in league history.

The Vikings are one of four NFL teams with the latest reporting date to training camp for veteran players. The Vikings, Broncos, Cardinals and Chargers all report to camps on July 27.

The Vikings rookies report to the TCO Performance Center in Eagan on July 24, three days before the veterans.

Jose Berrios will be on the American League All-Star pitching staff for the game against the National League All-Stars later this month in Washington, D.C. Berrios, 24, will be a first-time All-Star but he is likely to be selected multiple times in what looks like a long and promising career. Former Twins pitcher Jack Morris described Berrios as “almost unhittable” at times earlier this year.

Berrios, 9-7, beat the Royals last night while pitching seven innings and giving up one run. It was his 12th quality start of the year and the ninth time he has pitched seven innings or more.

Berrios could be pitching to former Twin Wilson Ramos in the D.C. All-Star Game. The Rays’ catcher has also been with the Nationals since Minnesota traded him to Washington on July 29, 2010 for relief pitcher Matt Capps. The Twins have struggled to solidify their catching for years, while Capps was gone after the 2012 season.

It’s not every day baseball fans can watch a 53-year-old player but former MLB star Rafael Palmeiro is with the American Association’s Cleburne Railroaders who take on the St. Paul Saints tonight at CHS Field.

The 2018 Schwan’s USA Cup youth soccer tournament at the National Sports Center in Blaine will generate $36 million in economic impact during its nine-day run, July 13-21. The economic impact from visitors staying overnight will be $28.1 million alone, according to a statement released yesterday by a Cup spokesman. Visitor spending will also generate a projected $233,515 in local tax revenue.

The 34th annual tournament will draw 1,150 teams, representing 20 different countries, 20 states, and four Canadian provinces. The tournament is the largest soccer tournament in the Western Hemisphere.


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