Monday, Aug. 3, 2020

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Gophers’ Assistant Coach Star Recruiter


Joe Harasymiak was hired as a University of Minnesota assistant football coach around Christmas in 2018. Since then he has been a gift to Minnesota’s fast-rising program with both his coaching and recruiting.

Harasymiak and his safeties were major contributors to Minnesota’s 11-2 record in 2019-2020 that ended with an upset win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl on January 1. The bowl victory gave the Gophers two wins against top 10 teams, having also defeated Penn State in Minneapolis. It was the first time since 1904 the program had 11 wins.

Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. was a unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year. Chris Williamson, a safety and transfer from Florida, was selected in the April NFL Draft—one of five Gophers drafted. Another safety Jordan Howden, who struggled as a freshman in 2018, made a game-saving interception in the end zone when Minnesota upset No. 5 ranked Penn State. Minnesota finished second in the Big Ten with 14 interceptions.

Key staffers don’t just coach for head man P.J. Fleck. They’re expected to deliver in recruiting, too. Pursuit of new talent is close to a 24-7 mandate under the hyper-energetic Fleck, and Harasymiak has delivered including with four-star recruits.

Running Back Ky Thomas and wide receiver Daniel Jackson, four-star players from Kansas, are part of Minnesota’s 2020 recruiting class, and Harasymiak was the assistant coach who led the way to their accepting scholarships with the Gophers. Now Minnesota has 15 verbal commitments for the class of 2021 and four of those players are four-star recruits. Two of the four are preps Harasymiak is taking the lead with in making them Gophers.

Both players are cornerbacks and pursued by blueblood programs but as of now are committed to Minnesota. Avante Dickerson from Omaha is the highest ranked of Minnesota’s 14 verbal commits by 247Sports, and if he becomes a Gopher will be among the most hyped recruits in the internet era. Steven Ortiz from Goodyear, Arizona is highly valued, too, and among schools that have chased him is Pac-12 power Washington. Both Dickerson and Ortiz could play as freshmen.

Kansas, Nebraska and Arizona might be surprise talent sources to Gopher fans but that’s changed with the recruiting expertise and energy of the 39-year-old Fleck and 33-year-old Harasymiak. Among those who have noticed is Ryan Burns, the Minneapolis-based recruiting authority and publisher of

“I mean these are just areas traditionally Minnesota hasn’t recruited well in, and all he’s done (Harasymiak) is get four four-stars from areas that aren’t very familiar to Minnesota’s recruiting territory,” Burns told Sports Headliners.

Yesterday came news Minnesota received a verbal commitment from three-star Covington, Georgia safety Darius Green. Per 247Sports, Gopher assistant coach Paul Haynes is the primary recruiter on Green with Harasymiak also contributing.

This winter Fleck rewarded Harasymiak by upgrading his title including naming him co-defensive coordinator. Harasymiak’s salary also jumped from a reported $215,000 to $380,000.

Ryan Burns

Still, Burns has written that Harasymiak is on a one-year contract and is concerned about keeping the talented young assistant at Minnesota. “He needs more money in his pocket if he is going to stick around,” Burns said.

Prior to joining the Minnesota staff, Harasymiak was head coach at Maine for three seasons. His 2018 team advanced to the school’s first ever Football Championship Subdivision national semifinal. He was named the FCS National Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.

Vikings Optimistic on Hosting NFL Draft

The NFL Draft continues to grow in popularity and the Vikings are optimistic they and other local groups can host the annual April event within the next few years. Viking executive Lester Bagley, who specializes in public affairs, said it’s possible the league could award this area the draft in 2024, 2025 or 2026.

Bagley’s optimism can start with the Minnesota track record of hosting acclaimed Super Bowls. As recently as 2018, the Vikings and other local organizations have impressed NFL decision makers with their success in carrying out Super Bowl infrastructure, logistics and hospitality.

A draft here would be in downtown Minneapolis, likely using U.S. Bank Stadium and outdoor areas either close to the facility or the nearby Mississippi River. Bagley estimates 80,000 or more visitors will come to town for the three-day draft.

The 2020 NFL Draft was the most watched ever, drawing more than 55 million viewers. Because of the COVID-19 virus, the draft didn’t have a host city. Las Vegas, originally scheduled to host the event, will be the 2022 site. Cleveland will host in 2021 and Kansas City in 2023.

The Vikings and others made their intention known to host a future draft in August of 2019, but Bagley said as of now there is no development from the NFL to report.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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