Early on the morning of his official commitment to the Golden Gophers, Cody Poock was already out on a frozen lake. It was December 2013 and he was relaxing after spending his first college football season at Iowa Western.
“I got a text from my junior college coach that said, ‘Hey, can you send me a picture of you signing?’ and I had honestly forgotten about even doing it,” Poock said. “So I went to my car and grabbed the papers from the car while I was ice fishing.”
Thus, the linebacker signed his National Letter of Intent in an ice house. He only caught a few perch that day, but the photo of him in a winter hat putting pen to paper circulated on Twitter and instantly endeared him to many Minnesotans.
Poock has been an avid fisherman since childhood. His most memorable catch occurred years before the Gophers reeled him in.
“Back when I was younger when I used to fish every day, this guy let me fish off his dock, one of my buddies’ dads,” Poock said. “There was a stream with muskies and northern everywhere. I caught a big old northern out of there. I think it was like 45 inches or something like that. That was when I was younger when I could barely even cast a pole.”
Whether or not that northern estimate is accurate, Poock refused to divulge his fishing secrets and said he is the best fisherman among some of his outdoor-oriented teammates, including quarterback Mitch Leidner and offensive linemen Matt Leidner and Jonah Pirsig. Mitch disputed this claim.
The Leidners won the Goal Line Club’s Golden Gopher Fishing Classic earlier this summer. Poock was not in attendance, but Mitch naturally said he would beat his teammate in a head-to-head contest.
While the group may not come to a consensus on who is the best, they can all agree that fishing is one of their favorite pastimes. The quartet of teammates used to live together and decorated their walls with fish mounted on plaques, and all like to spend free time outdoors.
A native of Okoboji, Iowa, Poock does the bulk of his fishing at home. Even when he is back home a few hours south of campus, he primarily catches the official state fish of Minnesota, walleye, along with crappies and perch.
The Land of 10,000 Lakes was a good fit for Poock to spend his college years, because “you can go fishing virtually every other mile.” He has been up to a friend’s cabin in Chisago Lakes and enjoyed fishing for bass and bluegills.
Poock said he doesn’t care to ice fish on extreme subzero days, but he has spent the night in a mobile ice house before. It’s difficult to narrow down his favorite season for fishing.
“I like the hot summer days,” Poock said. “Or summer evenings when there’s no wind and you can go out on the dock and just cast around with your buddies. But I also enjoy ice fishing because it’s pretty casual. You and your friends can go out there and play some cards and things like that. Those are good times as well.”
When he’s on land, Poock spends his land tracking down opposing ball carriers instead of fish. Last season, he was second on the team with 99 tackles as a redshirt sophomore. Poock was voted the Gophers’ Linebacker of the Year and received All-Big Ten Honorable Mention.
Keeping a balance between football and everything else will be important to Poock’s sustained success. As a senior at the most scrutinized position in the game, Mitch Leidner recognizes the importance of outside hobbies like fishing both for himself and for teammates like Poock.
“It’s nice to get away and to be able to get your mind off of football.” Leidner said.
A boat, a dock or an ice house provides a change of pace from the gridiron, the weight room and the classroom. Poock said what he most enjoys about fishing is “the tranquility.”
“It’s peaceful,” he said. “You just go out there with a couple buddies and sit on the end of the dock and cast, or sit in the ice house and play cards and wait for one of the bobbers to go down. It’s peaceful out there. You can just relax.”
Sometimes the relaxation and companionship alone are enough to make a fishing outing successful. But for someone like Poock, who spends so much time trying to help the Gophers win, it’s hard to fully switch off those competitive instincts.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “If we’re not catching anything in 45 minutes, we’re gone. We’re going to a different spot.”
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