Micah Dew-Treadway had a conversation with a few of his Gophers teammates recently about a game during his freshman season of college football. His team faced Ezekiel Elliott that day.
Yep, that Ezekiel Elliott, the former Ohio State running back who is entering his sixth NFL season.
Dew-Treadway is still a college student.
The nose tackle is a veteran in P.J. Fleck's program and especially old by traditional college football standards — he turns 25 in January. He spent four years at Notre Dame before arriving in the Twin Cities for what has become three more.
"There was a kid on my team [at Notre Dame] that we used to joke about playing seven years," he said. "And now I'm playing seven years. It's crazy how that happens."
This isn't a real-life re-enactment of "Animal House" character Bluto Blutarsky bemoaning "seven years of college down the drain." Dew-Treadway owns a degree from Notre Dame and his master's from Minnesota. Every student-athlete was essentially given a free year of eligibility last school year from the NCAA after COVID-19 disrupted everything about college sports.
It took him roughly two seconds to jump on the offer of a seventh year on campus.
"Really no debate," he said.
He listed three reasons why: Opportunity. Fulfilling a dream. Playing another season with his teammates.
One redshirt season, one medical redshirt season and one NCAA season eligibility do-over due to COVID enabled him to reach seven years. He fills the role of a wise elder in the locker room.
"I try to help the younger guys so they're not running around with their heads cut off," he said.
His heavy lifting as a student is mostly done. He majored in a program called Film, Television and Theater at Notre Dame. He loves working behind the camera in videography and possibly might pursue something in that field after his football career ends. He earned his master's in youth development leadership this spring. He enjoyed networking with Minneapolis leaders who work with kids.
Fleck welcomed back his graduates with open arms after the NCAA cleared the way. He views their eagerness to return as a sign of a healthy program.
His own college career at Northern Illinois lasted five years, the usual length. He smiled at the idea of being a college student for two additional years.
"Well," he said, "I hope we would be able to call you 'Doctor' like we can with some of our players now — or close to being doctor or resident."
That is the plan of offensive lineman Conner Olson, who has spent his summer applying to medical schools. Olson returned for his sixth season and joked (presumably) that he would play a seventh year like Dew-Treadway if that was somehow possible.
"If you go through a seventh, you effectively make college football a quarter of your life," Olson noted.
Dew-Treadway intends to make good use of his "free" season. He lost almost 40 pounds this offseason, lowering his weight from 338 to 300. His regimen included drinking more water (he's never been a big fan of water) and eliminating candy (he's a big fan of candy, especially Life Savers).
"You go into a store and you see it and you want it," he said. "Normally, I'll go to the back and get an apple. Something to distract me."
Football becomes his sole focus with training camp starting this week. His seventh college football training camp, which still seems hard to fathom. He's been there, done that many times over. Calling him a graduate transfer doesn't come close to describing the whole picture.
"For me, it's a goal to prove to myself that I can be able to play at a high level for my last year," he said.
So this is it, No. 7, his final season.