Among those taking great pleasure in Minnesota’s 9-0 football team is a former Iowa quarterback.
“I certainly catch some flack from my old teammates,” Matt Sherman said this week from Indianapolis, there because Minnesota’s men’s basketball team was playing Butler. If Sherman has his way, he’ll be back in Indy next month for the Big Ten football championship game, which the Gophers would have a great chance of reaching if they defeat Iowa Saturday in Kinnick Stadium.
For 12 years, you see, Sherman has worked for University of Minnesota athletics. He is a senior manager of business development for Gopher Sports Properties, Learfield IMG College.
“I’m a sales guy for lack of a better word,” Sherman said. “I work with 65 or 70 companies in all different facets, getting them involved with Gopher athletics.”
Sherman is from little St. Ansgar in northern Iowa, nine miles from the Minnesota border. He played at Iowa from 1994 to 1997. He started games in each of those seasons, and was the Hawkeyes’ No. 1 quarterback for his last three years. He started three bowl games, two of them victories.
While Sherman now sells Minnesota, he hasn’t sold out as a Hawkeye.
“I’m so thankful to the University of Iowa and Coach (Hayden) Fry for what they did for my life,” he said. “I met my wife in Iowa City. Her parents worked at the University of Iowa.”
It was another ex-Iowa quarterback who steered Sherman north.
“Chuck Hartlieb was my mentor after college,” said Sherman. “I was trying to figure out what to do after arena football (he played for the Iowa Barnstormers in 1999 and 2000). He had some relationships in the Twin Cities and connected me to the medical sales world.”
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From there, Sherman used connections he made himself in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Like Greg Gerlach, who played quarterback at Drake. Gerlach is Learfield/IMG College’s vice president/general manager in Minneapolis.
What Sherman saw at the Gophers’ TCF Bank Stadium last Saturday was a packed stadium that was rocking for a genuinely big game. Minnesota played superbly in a 31-26 win over formerly unbeaten Penn State.
“Minnesota was able to match Penn State’s physicality,” Sherman said, “We haven’t been able to say that in a number of years. We needed to start fast and certainly did.
“The atmosphere was the kind we haven’t seen in TCF. Typically, the fans don’t stand the entire game.”
Teams have more fans when things are going great. Sherman knew this from his playing days, of course, but it’s more pronounced in an area like Minneapolis-St. Paul with many sports/entertainment options.
“In a city in a pro market,” he said, “when teams win people come out of the woodwork. More people are engaged, obviously.
“Some of my friends are Gopher fans, but maybe they’re bigger hockey or Twins or Vikings fans. But I got a lot of texts from them Saturday night and Sunday about the Gophers. Things have changed in the city in a positive way.”
The salesman in Sherman knows you have to capitalize on the high times, saying “You’ve got to enjoy the ride right now because nothing is guaranteed.
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“But I’m a big fan of (Gophers athletic director) Mark Coyle. He’s another Iowa guy. He played football at Drake, too. I’m really so impressed with his leadership. The trajectory is great right now and we’re enjoying the moment.”
Sherman has a work meeting Saturday morning in Minneapolis so he won’t be in Iowa City for the game. He said he typically dresses “in Johnny Cash black” when the Gophers play the Hawkeyes.
“I stay in a corner and my colleagues stay away from me,” he said.
Saturday, Sherman will host a watch party of 15 or 20 people in his heated garage. If the Hawkeyes win, he won’t be despondent. But if the Gophers prevail, the product he sells to corporate Minnesota will have even more luster.
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