Gophers WR Autman-Bell: On a sixth year, Fleck and more

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  • P. J. Fleck
    American football player and coach
  • Tanner Morgan
    American football quarterback

There's a catchy name for them — The Encore Four — but each key member of the Gophers offense that decided to return for a sixth season arrived at his decision differently.

Wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell joined Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast to describe his process for making that decision and what it means to have another year with QB Tanner Morgan, running back Mo Ibrahim and center John Michael Schmitz — as well as head coach P.J. Fleck and returning offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca.

Here's Autman-Bell ...

On the decision to return for a sixth season: "I talked to my mom week in and week out. I was here and there on the decision about what to do. After the Wisconsin game, I went in and talked to (wide receivers) coach (Matt) Simon and Coach Fleck, an hour conversation with each of them. I think I made the right decision to come back. I want to get better within myself. Be a better player. Be a better leader. And just take that last step in development so I can go into a future in the NFL with the right mindset. … I'm just grateful to have another chance to come back. I can get my master's degree (in youth studies). Everything works out in coming back for a sixth year."

On following P.J. Fleck to Minnesota after committing to Western Michigan while Fleck was there: "It was a huge journey. Me and Coach Fleck joke about it all the time. I committed to him. He was my first offer. He gave me the first chance to play at a Division I level. … Then he left for Minnesota, and we joke about it all the time. I told my mom, 'I'm not going wherever he goes. If he leaves that's on him. I'm a Western Michigan Bronco.' And as soon as he called me, I said I was flipping regardless. It was a funny night, but I made the right decision. … Coach Fleck is like my dad away from home. I go to him about anything, I talk to him about anything and joke around about anything."

On what Fleck is like every day behind the scenes: "Whatever you guys see is what you get. That guy is 100% truth no matter what. He's energetic, passionate, loving. He's a guy who's going to get it done regardless. … It's a certain standard with Coach Fleck, and it's high all the time. He's never coming down from that standard."

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