You'll often read stories about a recruit who is lobbying other prospects to join him at a school. And it's commonplace for players to go on team-building adventures once they are at a program (like the Ohio State running backs' recent paintball excursion, for instance).
But I've never heard of a situation quite like what happened this summer with a group of committed Minnesota recruits in the Class of 2016. As Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune explains in this story, it all started when linebacker prospect Carter Coughlin realized he didn't know most of the other players in his class who have pledged to the Gophers. So he went about changing that.
"Eden Prairie’s star linebacker told his dad he needed to use the family’s cabin in Pequot Lakes for a weekend in June," Scoggins writes. "Coughlin wanted to invite a bunch of strangers with a common connection to the lake for a getaway."
“'I thought that having the guys up to the cabin would just be killer,' he said."
The group fished, went tubing, went head-to-head in some football competitions and talked over late-night bonfires. It sounds like summer camp, only it was just for future Gophers. (This story would have been perfectly Minnesota had the players gone ice fishing, but it's summertime).
Minnesota's coaches, of course, can't talk about recruits until they sign and couldn't have organized an outing like this. All credit goes to Coughlin, who is already showing leadership well past his years. And the Gophers coaches must absolutely love that a class which won't even hit campus until next year is already becoming a tight-knit group. None of these guys will be playing college football for a while, but this can only help future chemistry.
“Honestly, I think that’s what a championship team looks like,” Coughlin told Scoggins. “It’s a team that has each other’s backs. We’ve got a pretty sweet bond going.”
This has to be especially encouraging for the program because Coughlin and six of the other commits are home-grown. The Gophers have had trouble keeping the best players in the state over the years, with Ohio State freshman defensive end Jashon Cornell being the latest blue-chipper to cross the borders.
There's still a long way to go before Jerry Kill and his staff can completely reverse that trend. And perhaps this summer trip will end up being nothing but a interesting anecdote. But it does feel unique. If one day Coughlin and his class are leading the Gophers to a championship, we might be able to trace it back to his family's lake cabin.