Are you ready for some football?
Do you have some big plans for celebrating New Year’s?
Jonah Pirsig certainly does.
The former Blue Earth Area Buccaneer football player has some really big plans.
He and his University of Minnesota Golden Gopher football teammates will be in Orlando, Florida, on New Year’s Day to take on the Tigers of the University of Missouri in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
The game will be televised on ABC television with a noon kickoff.
Pirsig, a 6-foot-9, 320 pound offensive lineman for the Gophers, will actually be leaving very early on Christmas morning to travel to Florida with the team.
“We had Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Christmas Eve) off,” Pirsig says. “Then we are flying down to Orlando on Christmas Day.”
While it might seem odd to be traveling on Christmas when the game isn’t for another week, Pirsig says it is actually a better deal than the past two seasons.
“We played in bowl games that were right after Christmas the past two years, on Dec. 27 and 28,” he says. “So this was my first time being home for Christmas in a couple of years.”
The team will be spending the week in Florida doing practices and holding team meetings from 11 a.m. to about 3 p.m. each day, Pirsig says.
“Then we have the rest of each day to either go somewhere the team has planned, or off on our own. The team is pretty excited to get out of this weather and have a great week.” Pirsig’s family will be headed to Florida to go watch him play in the Citrus Bowl.
“They haven’t missed a game all year, even the away games at TCU, Michigan and Nebraska,” the former Buccaneer says. “After every game somebody was there to greet me, it was great.”
He says his father, David, mother, Kristin, sister, Whitney, and grandfather, Edward, are all planning on going, as well as a few friends from the Blue Earth area.
Pirsig is listed as a red shirt sophomore. That means he still has two more years of playing football for the Gophers.
“Last year I mainly played on point after touchdowns and field goal tries,” he says. “But this year I played in all 12 games. I started in six of them, the first two and the last four.”
He admits playing is a whole lot more fun than standing on the sidelines watching the game.
“It makes all the hard work at practice and getting up at 5:30 a.m. for lifting (weights) worthwhile,” he explains. “Besides, it is just a lot of fun to play football at this level.”
The Gophers were 8-4 this season, the same record as last year. But, Pirsig says, this year was actually so much better.
“We played a better caliber of teams this season, and we knew it would be a tougher schedule this year and harder to win,” he explains. “So, it made it so much more fun when we did.”
He specifically mentions the Michigan game, in Ann Arbor.
“There were 110,000 screaming fans there,” he says. “But, by the second and third quarter the Michigan fans were getting quiet and we could hear the Minnesota fans who were there cheering for us.”
Minnesota went on to defeat the Wolverines 30-14 and claimed the Little Brown Jug. The Gophers also beat up on Iowa 51-14. And, they defeated Purdue in a squeaker 39-38 and Nebraska 28-24.
“After the Nebraska game, a bunch of us were dancing in the locker room and Coach Kill joined in with us,” Pirsig says. “It was pretty funny to see.”
Pirsig has nothing but high praise for Kill and the other Gopher coaches.
“What they (coaches) have managed to do in four years is nothing short of amazing,” Pirsig says. “This has been a great year and it has been special for me to be a part of it.”
Pirsig, an elementary education major, was highly recruited when he was a 6-foot-9, 300-pound high school lineman for the Buccaneers.
“I was a bit confused as to what I should do at first,” Pirsig says. “Then it just hit me. I wanted to play in Minnesota. I?wanted to keep wearing the maroon and gold.”
He knew his chances of going to a bowl game would be greater if he went somewhere like Wisconsin or Iowa, but as it has turned out, he has been to a bowl game the past two years and now is headed to the big time, one of the better known bowls played on New Year’s Day.
“All the guys on the team are really excited about this,” he says. “Especially the seniors.”
Pirsig explains he didn’t really get to know the upper classmen on the team his first two years, but now some of the seniors are his good friends.
“It is hard to believe this is the last game we will be playing in together,” he says. “It makes me realize I will really miss them next year.”
Pirsig says the team comeraderie has really been important this year.
“We hang out a lot together besides being together at practices and traveling to games,” he explains. “It is sort of like a big family.”
And, that translates into success on the football field, he feels.
“Being together outside of football makes a team have a special relationship, one of being friends and not just teammates,” Pirsig says. “That helps you trust your teammates, that they will do their job and they know you will do your job the best you can.”
Pirsig’s roomate for the first two years was one of the best tight ends in the nation, Maxx Williams. This year his roommates have been quarterback Mitch Leidner and his brother, Matt Liedener, a walk-on center.
There are 10 other players out there besides yourself, Pirsig says, and football is a sport where everyone has to work together in order to be successful.
And, the Gophers have been very successful this season.
Their four losses were all pretty close and came to quality teams.
“We fought hard against Wisconsin and Ohio State, two great teams,” the Gopher lineman says. “And I think we played well against them.”
Now the Gophers are ready to cap off a terrific season with a New Year’s Day appearance in the Citrus Bowl.
“I am really excited about playing in this game,” he says. “I can’t wait for Thursday.”
Neither can Gopher football fans around Minnesota and especially in the Blue Earth area, where all eyes will be on No. 79.