P.J. Fleck had never been to Fayetteville, Ark., to watch quarterback Drake Lindsey play. But the Gophers coach was so impressed from film alone that he extended the strong-armed Class of 2024 prospect a scholarship offer this past spring.
It didn't take long for the 6-foot-5 Lindsey to commit to the Gophers after visiting Minneapolis. Fleck and co-offensive coordinator Greg Harbaugh flew to Arkansas earlier this month to see Lindsey getting off to a hot start to his senior season.
"I was super happy they got to come watch," Lindsey told the Star Tribune. "They just found out about me in early April this year, so they hadn't got to watch me in person."
Lindsey, who had four touchdown passes with Fleck on the sidelines, has been lights-out throwing the ball during his team's 3-0 start. He's thrown for 820 yards and 11 TDs on 62% pass completions, but the work he does leading into the game is just as impressive, his coach says.
"I talked to Coach Fleck and Harbaugh about his preparation," Fayetteville coach Casey Dick said. "He just puts himself in an outstanding position to have a great week on Friday. We've seen him make that big leadership jump that he needed to this year."
The Gophers weren't going to wait for Lindsey to make that jump before making him feel wanted. They were the first Power Five school to recruit and offer him a scholarship in the spring, which led to landing potentially the biggest steal in Fleck's 2024 recruiting class.
Lindsey threw for 3,620 yards and 37 touchdowns with just three interceptions in 2022, but he was a three-star prospect who appeared to fly under the radar.
"I definitely felt like I should've had more offers," Lindsey said. "But everything works out for a reason. I'm super blessed that they did take a [chance] on me. I always wanted to play big-time football, Power Five football, and make a name for myself."
Lindsey's family name was already well known at Arkansas. His grandfather, Jim Lindsey, was a member of the Razorbacks' undefeated 1964 national championship team and played in the NFL for the Vikings. His uncle and father also followed in their dad's footsteps to play football there. Lindsey's sister, Loren, is a sophomore guard on the Arkansas women's basketball team. Two of his cousins played there.
That extensive history of Razorbacks athletes in his family made it seem like staying home to play football was his destiny, too.
Fleck and the Gophers gave Lindsey a chance to follow a different path.
"Growing up, Arkansas was always the dream spot for me," Lindsey said. "But when I went to Minnesota I fell in love with the area. And the first time I talked to P.J., I knew that was the coach I wanted to play for. His energy is unmatched. And his love for his players and all the people around him made me feel at home."
Lindsey's recruitment was slow to pick up, in part, because of injury. In 2020, Lindsey missed his freshman season after tearing a patellar tendon. He made a full recovery to be the backup quarterback for Fayetteville the following season before excelling as a first-time starter last year.
A big factor in Lindsey's improvement was his adapting to a tremendous physical transformation. He's grown from 6-3 to 6-5 and went from just under 170 pounds to 230 since his sophomore year.
"He's done an unbelievable job taking care of his body with the weight room and nutrition," said Dick, the Fayetteville coach. "He certainly has got all of the tools. Even from when I was playing that position, the game has changed. He's done a great job of taking [his opportunity] and running with it."
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis is leading the Gophers offense this season. He made Lindsey feel at home on his recruiting visit.
"Athan was my host and we actually related a lot," Lindsey said. "He's a special kind of guy. I feel like he's going to be a great quarterback and leader. He's really starting to develop, too."