One year after not knowing Minnesota existed, WR making plays for Gophers
OCT 17, 2013 1:36p ET
Far from it, in fact.
"It's funny, actually. When Minnesota first came to my school, I had no idea. I'd never even heard of the school in my life," Wolitarsky said. "I may have seen them play USC a couple times because I used to be a fan."
When the Gophers visited Wolitarsky in Santa Clarita, Calif., it was defensive backs/special teams coach Jay Sawvel who made the trip. He met with Wolitarsky before a practice and talked up the school and the campus. Sawvel had to convince Wolitarsky that Minneapolis was not, in fact, a ghost town.
Between Sawvel's persistence and the numerous letters and pictures of campus he was sent in the mail, Wolitarsky finally decided to visit the campus. As soon as he did, he was hooked.
"I came out here, loved it. I came Sept. 20 against Syracuse -- before the snow was here," Wolitarsky said. "I think that's really what got me. It was perfect weather, just clear skies. I just felt at home here."
The transition to a new campus halfway across the country was a smooth one for Wolitarsky, and he's continued to make the transition from high school football to the Division I game. Currently a true freshman for Minnesota, Wolitarsky is starting to get involved in the Gophers' offense a bit more. He made his first career catch two games ago against Iowa and grabbed two passes in Minnesota's last game versus Michigan.
When Wolitarsky arrived on campus, he wasn't sure exactly whether he'd have the opportunity to start as a true freshman. Minnesota needed some playmakers to emerge at wide receiver, and Wolitarsky's resume was certainly impressive. During his time at Canyon County High School, Wolitarsky set new California state records in career receptions (281) and receiving yards (5,148), both of which broke the old records set by former NFL receiver Steve Smith.
One of those receptions came against Wolitarsky's current Gophers teammate, senior safety Brock Vereen, who was a senior cornerback at neighboring Valencia High School when Wolitarsky was a freshman receiver.
"He shut me down. I had one catch in that game," Wolitarsky recalled. "I tell him it wasn't even fair. I was 14 years old and he was like this 18-year-old kid going to college. I think I have a better chance now at 1-on-1s."
Minnesota's passing game ranks dead last in the Big Ten in yards per game (116.8) and the Gophers have just three passing touchdowns, which also is the fewest in the conference. Even though he has only three receptions on the year, Wolitarsky ranks fifth on the Gophers in receiving yards (42).
Wolitarsky is one of two true freshmen wide receivers Minnesota has used so far in the passing game, along with Donovahn Jones, who has just one reception so far. But with three catches in the last two games, Wolitarsky appears to be adjusting to facing college defenses -- although it's admittedly still a work in progress.
"Both him and Donovahn Jones are doing a great job. They're playmakers," said Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover. "The biggest challenge is getting them the touches and getting them the game reps and getting them as much experience as they can because the future's bright for those two guys. That's a huge thing is getting them caught up quickly. That's the challenge."
Thanks to the numbers he put up as a high schooler, the 6-foot-3, 223-pound Wolitarsky earned a three-star ranking by Scout.com, which also pegged him as the No. 97 wide receiver in the country as a high school senior. Along with Minnesota, Wolitarsky had offers from schools such as Arizona, Nevada and San Diego State. All of those schools were impressed by the record-setting career Wolitarsky had as a California prep player.
As impressive as his high school numbers were, though, Wolitarsky knows they mean nothing now that he's a college receiver.
"I don't really think about it anymore. That's the past. I've got to focus on the future now," Wolitarsky said. "As everyone says, you can't live in the past. It's definitely a good feeling to have. I'm sure someone will break it soon enough. It's cool to do it, but I'm here and I've got to focus on this and making a name for myself out here."
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