While much of the talk leading up to the No. 15 Michigan football team’s trip to Minnesota surrounds the head coaches (Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and recently retired Minnesota coach Jerry Kill), the players will still have the biggest impact on the game. Among those players is Golden Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner, who is playing the best football of his career with 1,310 passing yards and seven touchdowns as a junior.

As a quarterback in a run-first offense for a football team in a hockey-first state, Leidner often gets overlooked, but not here. Leidner spoke with the Daily about building momentum as a program, alcohol at stadiums, bonding with the team in the wild and getting rid of social media.

The Michigan Daily: Michigan had a down year last year, but was it still big to get the win and the Jug at Michigan Stadium?

Mitch Leidner: It was huge. It was huge for the state of Minnesota, it was huge for recruiting and huge for our football team. Coming back from a game like Michigan, we were so excited — the adrenaline took us all the way back to our complex. We had a bunch of Minnesota fans lined up to greet us. It was an unbelievable feeling.

TMD: Why don’t you have social media?

ML: I had a Twitter last summer. I got one and had it up until like three games into the season when finally — I wasn’t using it at all three games into the season and a lot of people were talking trash so I was like, “What is this? C’mon!” So I just deleted it. And then I had had Facebook since high school, and before our bowl game I was just like, “You know, I’m just going to be done with social media.” And I deleted that too. I don’t know, life’s been pretty good since. I haven’t had to waste any time. I get all my homework done since I’m not scrolling through my Facebook feed. Unfortunately, you guys (the media) don’t have a choice.

TMD: After a couple strong seasons, it seems your team is gaining popularity among fans again. How have things changed with the wins?

ML: It’s been awesome. When I first got to campus, people didn’t like the football players too much, to be honest with you. It wasn’t that much of a thing. It was hockey, basketball. Football, it was just like “Eh, you guys suck.” So basically, we start winning some games, and to have people in class, teachers, professors be excited about your games and other students, it’s a really cool feeling. It’s something I hadn’t really experienced since high school, to be honest.

TMD: To go with that momentum, Minnesota got its own stadium close to campus and, after some debate, decided to sell alcohol at the stadium this year. You won’t benefit from it, but did they make the right call?

ML: Yeah. People are usually in the parking lot getting pretty ripped up anyway, but I think it’s a great thing to serve it at the stadiums, because I think it gets your fanbase a little more crazy and gets ‘em louder, so I’m all for that, especially at home games. That’s too bad that the rest of the teams aren’t doing that.

TMD: Do you feel like your team has to battle the hockey team for prominence on campus? Hockey is pretty big in Minnesota.

ML: I think the hockey team not winning a national championship last year kind of helped us out a little bit. We were playing on Jan. 1, and because those guys didn’t win the national championship, it felt like people got a lot more excited about us and football was bigger than hockey for a bit. But you never really know. It’s a hockey state, that’s the way it goes. I like playing a little pond hockey myself here and there. But we all get along. It’s not like there’s any tension or bitterness between the sports.

TMD: Minnesota has a different culture than the coasts or the South where a lot of Minnesota’s players come from. Do they have to adjust to the culture at all?

ML: It was funny. Josh Campion, our right guard, he lives up in Fergus Falls, which is in northern Minnesota, and we brought quite a few guys up there back in late June, and it was just fun seeing all the guys floating down the river and stuff like that, and to see KJ (Maye, the team’s leading receiver) up there exploring nature and having a good time. We had a lot of fun. Guys like to get out and go to the lakes. That’s a big thing to do in Minnesota in the summer time, and I think guys have been enjoying it.

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