There is a famous story about legendary basketball coach John Wooden and the first thing he did with new players. He taught them how to put their socks and shoes on and how to tie their shoes.
Former Bruin and NBA great Bill Walton said doing that properly would be "everything we would need to know for the rest of our lives." It was important for Wooden to not only tell his players what he expected of them and how he expected them to handle themselves, down to the smallest detail of tying their shoes.
"Today's an educational system," Kill said. "Not so much talking at them, but talking with them to teach them what it is to be a college football player. It's not anything new. It's just how you do it and what you do to make sure they take something from it and learn."
Golden Gopher football players got head coach Jerry Kill's version of that shoes/socks talk Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers took part in an eight-hour orientation session and unlike many other orientation sessions, this one included some hands-on demonstrations. Those demonstrations included how to keep and maintain their lockers, as well as where to be and what to do during practice sessions.
Kill said one of the reasons for making parts of Sunday's session more active was to help keep the team's attention. Perhaps the most entertaining of these sessions included members of the Minnesota Marching Band teaching both the new coaches/staff and the student-athletes the Rouser and other Minnesota songs and traditions.
"Sometimes if you put somebody in a room for two hours they don't learn very well," Kill said. "So, we put them out here, let them sing the fight song. They need to learn the Rouser. It's an educational system of what a privilege it is to play here at the University of Minnesota. It's important. This is their school. You need to know the alma mater, you need to know the Rouser. This is where you play. Those things are important."
Perhaps the most meaningful of the presentations came from a handful of former players. Ray Hitchcock, Darrell Thompson, Steve Lundeen, Ray Hawes and Mike Sherels spoke to this year's group of Gophers about Minnesota's rivalry games with Iowa, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin. They also explained to the Gophers how much the former players and alumni want to see them succeed.
"It means the world to us," Lundeen said about having the opportunity
to speak with the team. "We are really optimistic. We are really
thrilled that we have a football guy who is going to bring back the
tradition. We're filled with optimism. Personally -- and I think I speak
for my generation -- it's great to be included. I believe we can draw
on our experiences and some of the traditions we had and the winning
ways we had way back when that will bode well for us."
-By Andy Seeley, Associate Director of Athletic Communications