In a packed DQ Club Room at TCF Bank Stadium on Thursday night, 11 former Gopher student-athletes officially took their place in the University of Minnesota’s “M” Club Hall of Fame at the varsity alumni club’s annual induction ceremony. Each of these 11 are now among 345 student-athletes representing 27 different sports in the Hall of Fame.
“The University of Minnesota is a special place for my family and me. It’s a special place for a lot of people,” said Athletics Director Mark Coyle in his remarks to open the event. “All of you in this room tonight, letterwinners and hall-of-famers, you are the reason this is such a special place to so many people. That is your legacy and I’m honored to be here tonight to celebrate that legacy with you.”
In addition to these 11 inductions, emcee Dave Lee also had the privilege of introducing Dick Mattson, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for his 48 years working for Gopher Athletics, and Dick Jonckowksi, who was awarded an Honorary Letter for his three-decade career as a public address announcer, primarily for Gopher men’s basketball and baseball.
This year's class of inductees, which featured student-athletes from 10 different sports and six different decades, included:
- Greg Eslinger (Football) - Two-time consensus First Team All-American, 2005 Outland Trophy (nation's best interior lineman) and Rimington Trophy (nation's best center) recipient.
- Dave Gumlia (Men's Golf) - The program's first two-time All-American and a key player on Minnesota's 1963 Big Ten championship team.
- Tim Harrer (Men's Hockey) - First Team All-American and WCHA Player of the Year; only person to score 50 or more goals in a season in program history.
- Amber Hegland (Softball and Women's Hockey) - Four-time All-Big Ten, All-American, holds program's career batting average record. Recorded 35 points in 36 games in one season playing hockey.
- MaryAnne Kelley (Women's Gymnastics) - Three-time All-American and First Team All-Big Ten; second Gopher gymnast ever named Big Ten Gymnast of the Year (2002).
- Jared Lawrence (Wrestling) - Individual national champion and four-time All-American, one of just six wrestlers in program history to accomplish both.
- Howard Nathe (Baseball) - All-Big Ten as both a pitcher and an outfielder; helped Minnesota win 1960 national title by playing both positions.
- Pat Neu (Wrestling) - National champion during a 44-6 senior season; two-time Big Ten finalist.
- Al Nuness (Men's Basketball) - Two-time All-Big Ten player and the first African-American, full-time coach at the University of Minnesota.
- Clay Strother (Men's Gymnastics) - Four-time individual national champion and 11-time All-American; competed for Team USA at the 2006 World Championships.
- Jeff Wright (Football) - First Team All-Big Ten and program's single-game, single-season and career interceptions record co-holder; played seven season for the Minnesota Vikings.
The “M” Club remains one of the oldest and largest varsity alumni organizations in the country, with a history dating back more than a century. Its Hall of Fame reflects that extensive past and expansive membership. Inductees include student-athletes, coaches and administrators who wore the Maroon and Gold since the earliest days of Gopher Athletics in the 1880s.
The T. Denny Sanford Athletics Hall of Fame, which is located inside the John and Nancy Lindahl Premium Entrance at TCF Bank Stadium, features Gopher Athletics memorabilia from throughout the school's athletics history. Just inside the Hall of Fame doors, its membership has their names added to a wall honoring legends from all eras of Gopher Athletics. The public is welcome to visit the Hall of Fame before and after Gopher football games and during special events.
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