Bloodied and bruised, Gophers tight end Ko Kieft is the poster of “the attitude of this team”
September 22 — Shortly after Ko Kieft had eight blocks knocked down from Colorado defenders in the dominant Gophers 30-0 victory on Saturday, tight end U tweeted a surprising selfie. It showed blood running from his nose, down his face and into his thick beard.
The photo was reportedly taken after a shower in the visitors’ locker room at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado, but it was actually from training at training camp in Minnesota in August. “It’s an image, I think, that all the guys have and are floating towards each other which is even better,” quarterback Tanner Morgan said.
For U players, this photo has become part of an inside joke, part of a tribute to how the tight end of the mostly blocking sixth year goes about its business. “It’s just a state of mind or some kind of joke of mindset,” Morgan added. “That’s the reality of who Ko is. The way he plays football, and over time you see it kind of makes you laugh. It’s who Ko is, but even in training. when his nose was bleeding. He was always doing his thing, or in the game, when his nose is bleeding or whatever. That’s no excuse. He always goes, playing … 100 percent. Full tilt. It’s a pretty elitist image, I think. “
Kieft has totaled 23 knockdown blocks in three games this season, according to the U. He had nine pancakes against Ohio State in Game 1 of the season, including one that caught the attention of former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz.
“Good TE from Minnesota googly moogly with an amazing pancake !!!!!!,” tweeted Schwartz, who played six years in the NFL, including 2012 with the Vikings. Schwartz included two wide-eyed emojis with a clip of Kieft leading a Buckeye back and to the side before strangling him in the grass.
Kieft, who is listed at 6-5, 265 pounds, has started to turn heads in the NFL Draft community. Ryan Roberts from RiseNDraft.com tweeted: “Ko Kieft… might be the best blocking winger in the 2022 NFL Draft Class. Dude can overwhelm at (point of attack).”
Kieft has a degree in Kinesiology and is working on a Masters in Sports and Exercise Science, with the goal of someday becoming a strength trainer. The last part may have to wait.
“I think he’s going to play in the NFL,” Fleck said on his KFAN radio show Tuesday. “People forget – you don’t have to go out there and catch 50 balls to do it. There are NFL teams out there looking for people who can do what they do. is literally blaming people over and over again. “
Kieft has just six career receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. His only catch this season came against the Buffaloes, a nice reception from 4 yards that allowed a first try.
Kieft’s nosebleeds are not necessarily due to contact in the field; he has a history of it because of his deviated septum. But they certainly look tough and fit in alongside his roommate, former U linebacker turned mixed martial arts fighter Bailey Schoenfelder, who is 2-0 in his budding cage fighting career.
Kieft believes the rule and style changes have removed some of the physical style of the game, but he wants to keep that tough edge. “(I’m trying) really to incorporate that into my game, especially in blocking the race,” he said. “It’s something I appreciate and it helps our offense a lot.”
The Gophers are 24th nationally in attacking rushing, averaging 218 yards per game. They continued to hook up after losing Big Ten Defender of the Year Mo Ibrahim to injury during the season opener. Minnesota will use seven or eight offensive linemen on a play and had an O lineman line in the back for an even bigger jumbo rush package.
“It’s really the attitude of this team,” said Fleck. “That’s what you want to be able to have, put the ball down and let’s go. Ko Kieft is someone who reflects that directly.”
Kieft’s catch against the Buffaloes came second and fourth in the third quarter, he caught a pass after three yards and cut it up for the first down. It’s part of Kieft’s goal to be more of a “complete tight end” this season.
“Much harder than it looks,” Morgan explained. And the grab gave Kieft confidence, Fleck sharing Kieft’s response: “He said, ‘Keep throwing the ball at me. “” It could happen more this season, but Kieft’s real value is his dominant blocking of the race.
Morgan described Kieft succinctly after the Ohio State game: “Violent. I mean, he’s violent. He’s a guy who loves to play football.”