We are starting a new summer series, “Forever a Gopher," where we catch up with former Gopher football players. This week we chatted with Don Pollard who spent the 1985-86 seasons at Minnesota as a linebacker after transferring from community college. He has stayed close to the Gophers and still lives in Minnesota where he has taught at Nokomis Montessori School for the past 27 years.
Gopher Sports: You have been working at Nokomis Montessori School for the past 27 years. Is that the first job you got after graduating from Minnesota and can you tell us about it?
Don Pollard: It’s the first and only teaching job I have ever had. I like the kids. It’s always a pleasure to see them smiling and having fun. Everybody gets along here. We work really well together. We are all here for the kids and that’s the main thing.
GS: Awhile back some couple Gopher football players actually came and visited the school. What did that mean to you to see some current student-athletes stop by and hang out with the kids?
DP: That made me feel really good. The kids really enjoyed having the football players here. The principal and the staff all enjoyed it. It showed a lot of commitment by the Gopher football players and head coach P.J. Fleck.
GS: What do you remember most about your time as a Gopher football player?
DP: I remember building relationships with my teammates and going to a couple bowl games. I was the first in my family to graduate from college and a little unknown thing is I was only the second (African American) to graduate from the College of Education Physical Education department. I didn’t know that until my professor told me how proud they were of me for graduating.
GS: What was your proudest accomplishment on the football field?
DP: Going to two bowl games. I think the last time they had went to a bowl game was 1977. Also have huge memories form beating Michigan. I remember going into Michigan and beating them 20-17 and the place went silent (in 1986). I think they were No. 1 or 2 in the country when we beat them.
GS: Do your students know that you used to be a college linebacker?
DP: Some of them do. The ones that are into sports think that’s pretty cool.
GS: You went to school in Minnesota, work in Minnesota. What does this state mean to you?
DP: It means a lot. People are friendly here, get along and are willing to help out. It’s a good place to live.
GS: Is there any advice you would give to current Gopher football players?
DP: Make sure that they have a plan. Everybody is not going to make it to the pros. You have to make sure to get your education and when you are going in to figure out what you want to do, make sure it really is what you want to do. Don’t go in and get a degree but realize when you finish that you don’t really want to do this. After football, you are going to have to have a life job. So you have to plan for what you want to do when football is over.
GS: Do you still watch Gopher football and keep eyes on it?
DP: Oh yeah. Went to plenty of games last year, still pull for them. Love the Gophers.
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