John Michael Schmitz knows how to make a commitment.
First, the Gophers’ center said in mid-December he would spur the NFL draft and stick around Minnesota for a sixth season in 2022. The Illinois native then injured his lower leg in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix on Dec. 28, but even a protective boot didn’t deter him from proposing to his girlfriend Daniella — his best friend since sixth grade — the next day.
Just before the proposal in Arizona, the planned spot within Papago Park had another proposal set at the same time. Schmitz’s mom and sister tried to stake out the spot and tipped John Michael off to the conflict and they called an audible to a slightly different location.
“Honestly, it was a great spot; I really enjoyed it and it was a special moment,” Schmitz said earlier this week.
Schmitz is used to adjust to audibles. Quarterback Tanner Morgan “gives me two seconds to make a call and you got to be fast with it,” Schmitz said.
Morgan, who got engaged during the bye week of the 2021 season, said he talked to his center before Schmitz popped the question. “Telling him you are probably going to be more nervous than you are in a game,” Morgan said. “I love, too, that he’s in a boot in the picture … which I think is amazing.”
BE THE BEST?
Schmitz is the highest-graded returning center in the country at 88.5 in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus College. But with last year’s Rimington Award winner, Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum, off to the NFL, Schmitz declined to make the center of the year award his stated goal for this fall.
“I’m honestly just focused on the team, and the individual success will come,” Schmitz said. “Right now, it’s all about the team.”
Schmitz’s role is more vital in 2021, with the four other starters gone. That was a group that would hear the identification of the defense and would immediately know the line call. It’s not as seamless now.
“It’s more like helping these young guys along and communicating a lot more, making sure everyone is on the same page and they are working five as one,” Schmitz said.
A DANDY IN DIXON
Gophers defensive coordinator Joe Rossi is using Michael Dixon as a wildcard, and the third-year player from Georgia showed Saturday how disruptive he can be. During a team period, Dixon burst through the line of scrimmage for a tackle for lost yards.
“He’s as physical as can be,” linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin said. “…He’s extremely athletic, extremely versatile. We are so excited, the different things we can do.”
With Justus Harris gone, nickel back is a spot where Dixon might step up.
Chris Autman-Bell gave an off-the-field example of how Dylan Wright has been progressing in his second year at Minnesota.
“He’s actually putting the work in to get better,” Autman-Bell said. “He’s meeting with (receivers coach Matt) Simon. He’s meeting with Tanner. I walked with him and Tanner early morning yesterday at like 7 in the morning, (then a) meeting and going over film and stuff.”
linebacker braelen oliver and receiver Daniel Jackson collided during a passing drill Saturday. Oliver landed awkwardly, both stayed down on the turf and neither player returned to practice. … The U had more than 20 recruits with Division I offers on campus Friday, a much larger number than they usually host outside of junior days. … Western Kentucky transfer cornerback Beanie Bishop stole an interception away from receiver Larry Wright on Saturday. …Defensive end austin booker had a TFL on a fourth-down goal-line stand. Teammates and head coach PJ Fleck went berserk. … A few hundred fans lined the U’s indoor practice facility for Saturday’s open practice. … The next chance to see the Gophers is the spring game at 1 pm April 30 at Huntington Bank Stadium.