Standing over 6’7 and weighing in at 295-lbs, Jimmy Gjere has rare size for a high school junior. He is not just a frame though, the Ironside (Minn.) offensive tackle possesses the athleticism to play both basketball and hockey as well. In fact, had a few things gone differently, he may have never made it to the gridiron.
“Hockey was my first sport,” he explained, “I don’t know how I got into [football]. I think one of the dad’s back in the day said ‘hey you should try out for football.’ Back then, they had the weight limit, so I had to play up a grade. I never got to play with own class and friends, so I quit for 6th and 7th grade, In 8th grade, the coach said come out, don’t have to play up anymore, so I came back and I played tight end for that year and my 9th grade year. My 10th grade year, I converted to offensive tackle.”
His forthcoming football success would have been tough to see at this point. Gjere stood 6’1, 185-lbs and says he constantly looked forward to the day he could break 200-lbs. Then, nature ran its course.
“My knees started hurting every day. Every other week, my mom would wake up and say ‘did you grow?’ I’d walk into the kitchen and hit my head on the doorway and my dad said, ‘yep you’re growing.’”
Recently measured at 6’7 ½ with his shoes off, Gjere says those doorways have been a problem ever since. What has not been an issue are opposing defensive ends, who he has handled on his way to becoming one of the nation’s top offensive tackle recruits. As he grew and improved, the letters and recruiting interest followed suit.
“September 1st is the day I received the offer from Minnesota. It was real slow for other schools. But word got out and then Wisconsin offered and a lot of schools started sending letters and invitations to camps.”
While schools from across the country recruited him, Gjere knew he had a good thing right there at home.
“Back in early March, I went in there and said Coach, I’m ready to be Gopher. I chose them because of the feeling, the atmosphere of it, the coaching staff and the feeling you get. My family can go and watch, they’re never too far away, but it’s far enough away. I grew up watching Minnesota, watching the hockey team win championships in ’02 and ’03 and I grew up wanting to be a Gopher.”
Gjere did take his time however. He waited five months after he got the Minnesota offer to commit, but he says there was never any doubt.
“I wanted to see what else was out there,” he explained, “but in my head, I had pretty much committed. That was my dream.”
Now all he has to do is live up to the expectations of being one of the top rated players in the Minnesota recruiting class. He is already taking the steps necessary to do that as he hopes to be up to 310-lbs by the time he steps onto campus. He also is continuing to improve his footwork. How is he doing that? With his first love of hockey.
“The number one thing is that I have somewhat quick feet for my size. Thanks to hockey, I have some respectable feet. You have to have flow and balance and it’s a different group of muscles than football.
Conditioning wise, basketball helped more, but agility and quickness, I’d say hockey.”
So might he try to play both sports at the next level?
“No. I don’t think I’ll be going past high school with hockey.”