P. J. Fleck
November 29, 1980 |
Sugar Grove, Illinois
|Alma mater||Northern Illinois|
|2004–2005||San Francisco 49ers|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|2006||Ohio State (GA)|
|2007–2008||Northern Illinois (WR)|
|2009||Northern Illinois (WR/RC)|
|2012||Tampa Bay Buccaneers (WR)|
|Head coaching record|
|Accomplishments and honors|
Phillip John Fleck (born November 29, 1980) is an American football coach and former player. He is currently the head coach at Western Michigan University. Fleck played as a wide receiver for Northern Illinois University from 1999 to 2003 and with the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL) from 2004 to 2005.
Fleck started his playing career at Kaneland High School located in Maple Park, Illinois where he helped the Knights win back to back, undefeated state championships in 1997 and 1998. He set a state record with 95 catches for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. For his career, Fleck caught 199 passes for 3,121 yards and 34 scores with at least one catch in 40 straight games. Fleck also lettered in varsity track and basketball.
Upon graduation, Fleck attended Northern Illinois University where he played wide receiver under head coach Joe Novak. As a senior, he led the Huskies with 77 catches for 1,028 yards and six touchdowns, a reception total that still ranks second on the school's single-season list. Fleck still owns the school record for career punt returns (87), is second in punt return yards (716), ranks third in career catches (179) and is fourth in receiving yards (2,162). He was a second team Academic All-American as a senior and was twice voted team captain by his Huskie teammates.
Fleck was signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Francisco 49ers following the 2004 NFL Draft. 49ers head coach Dennis Erickson labeled Fleck a "frickin' warrior" during the first days of rookie training camp. Fleck spent a majority of the 2004 season on the 49ers practice squad before being promoted to the 53 man roster and appearing in the 49ers final game of the season. Playing special teams, he registered a tackle and returned one punt for ten yards Fleck spent the 2005 season on injured reserve after suffering a significant shoulder injury during the preseason. On June 12, 2006, Fleck was released by the 49ers. The day he was released, 49ers head coach Mike Nolan offered Fleck a spot on his coaching staff as assistant wide receivers coach, stating "If that's something he wants to do, I think he'd be very good at it."
Fleck attempted to continue his playing career after his release from the 49ers, and had a tryout with his hometown Chicago Bears on June 20. However, he failed his physical due to his previous injuries and was unable to sign. Fleck stated that after the failed physical, he knew it was time to begin a career in coaching.
Assistant coaching career
Fleck began his coaching career in 2006 as an offensive graduate assistant at Ohio State University at the invitation of head coach Jim Tressel. He worked directly with the Buckeyes tight ends and assisted with the special teams. Northern Illinois running back coach Thomas Hammock and defensive ends coach Mike Sabock, a lifelong friend and collegiate teammate of Tressel, helped Fleck land the Ohio State job. Fleck spent one year with the Buckeyes, who were ranked #1 in the country most of the season. The team earned the 2006 Big Ten Championship and appeared in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, where they lost to Florida and finished the season ranked #2 in the nation.
In 2007, Fleck was hired by Northern Illinois head coach Joe Novak as wide receivers coach, replacing Carnelius Cruz. Novak had stated several years prior that he hoped to one day hire Fleck as a coach. Following Novak's retirement in 2008, Fleck was one of two NIU assistants to be retained by incoming head coach Jerry Kill, and also added the title of recruiting coordinator.
On February 2, 2012, he was hired as the offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois University. Coach Dave Doeren said the following about Fleck's hiring, "We spoke at length about why this is the right place for him. It was very evident to me that he bleeds NIU, and he would have tremendous pride and passion working not just for me, but for the university to help continue what we started last year, and really what he started here as a player. His recruiting abilities and passing game expertise, working alongside Coach Carey as our run game coordinator, will be a great combination for our offense." Just one day later, on February 3, 2012, Fleck abruptly resigned the Northern Illinois position to accept a position as wide receivers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL. The move reunited him with Schiano, who had recently left Rutgers for the Buccaneers head coaching job.
Head coaching career
On December 17, 2012, Western Michigan University announced the hiring of Fleck as the new head coach, making him the youngest head coach and the first ever head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of college football born in the 1980s. Fleck signed a five-year contract worth $392,000 per season that includes an assistant coaches salary pool of $825,000. The previous head coach, Bill Cubit, earned $375,000 per year with an assistants salary pool of $723,000. With the increased budget, Fleck intends to hire a dedicated recruiting coordinator – a first for the WMU football program. Other candidates expressing interest in the job included Syracuse defensive coordinator (and later head coach) Scott Shafer, and Kent State offensive coordinator Brian Rock, both former WMU assistants. WMU had also been in contact with Indiana State head coach Trent Miles, North Dakota State head coach Craig Bohl, and Illinois State head coach Brock Spack, all of whom declined interest or withdrew from consideration
One of Fleck's first actions as head coach was to rescind scholarship offers to incoming players who had verbally committed to Western Michigan. The withdraws occurred weeks before the national signing day, and left players unable to arrange other Division I scholarships as slots were already filled at other schools. "I know if it was me, I would be ticked," Fleck said of the players who had scholarship offers pulled. "I also know if it was me, I would have showed up in the office of the head football coach, telling him I was dying to still be here." Fleck started his position during a dead period when recruits are not allowed to have face-to-face contact with coaches.
Fleck made sports headlines after his hire with his charisma and attempts to energize to the WMU program, including dancing (The Harlem Shake), posting YouTube videos, adding an-stadium DJ for games, and establishing a program-wide mantra of "rowing the boat". Fleck and his wife Tracie participated in a polar bear plunge held at Goldsworth Pond on the Western Michigan campus. The event raised funds for the Michigan Special Olympics, and led Holly Anderson of Sports Illustrated to proclaim Fleck as "the best new hire" for 2013, if only for generating interest in the program.
Fleck's first season as Broncos head coach resulted in a final record of 1–11 (1–7 Mid-American Conference (MAC)). It was the worst season since 2004, when the Broncos went 1–10 (0–7 MAC). Injuries, youth and inexperience, discipline, and execution led to poor play. Low-lights included a home loss to Nicholls State, a blowout loss to Iowa, and a homecoming loss to Buffalo. The team improved their play late in the season, with a road win against UMass, and close home losses to in-state rivals Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan.
Despite the on-field difficulties in 2013, Fleck and his staff succeeded off the field by signing a highly-ranked recruiting class. Observers noted that it was possibly the best recruiting class in WMU history, and the best in the MAC since 2000. Rivals.com had the WMU class ranked highest among "mid-major" programs for 2014, with 247Sports.com ranking the class 36th-best nationally for 2015.
After finishing the 2014 regular season with a 8–4 record, Fleck was named the 2014 MAC Coach of the Year. The 7-game improvement in wins from the previous season was the best in WMU and MAC history. WMU rewarded Fleck by extending his contract through the 2020 season. In addition to his base salary of $392,500, Fleck earned an additional $61,000 in bonuses by hitting contract incentives ($25,000 for a bowl game appearance, $15,000 for MAC Coach of the Year, $12,000 for eight wins, and $9,000 for player all-conference honors). Fleck's new contract will pay him $800,000 per year, plus incentives, making Fleck the MAC’s highest-paid coach, nearly 45 percent higher than second place Frank Solich ($554,500).
Fleck and WMU had the highest-rated recruiting class in the MAC for the third consecutive year.
WMU Lost to Michigan State at home in Waldo Stadium, the first time they had hosted a Big Ten team since 2007 (Indiana), 24-37. The following week, they lost to Georgia Southern 17-43. In week 3 they beat Murray state at home 52-20. In week 4 they lost to Ohio State 12-38.
Head coaching record
|Western Michigan Broncos (Mid-American Conference) (2013–present)|
|2013||Western Michigan||1–11||1–7||T–5th (West)|
|2014||Western Michigan||8–5||6–2||3rd (West)||L Famous Idaho Potato|
Fleck is a 2004 graduate of Northern Illinois University with a bachelor's degree in elementary education. Fleck has four children, a son, Carter Joseph (C. J.), son, Colt, daughter, Paisley Jane (P.J.) and daughter Harper. Colt passed away shortly after birth because of a heart condition. Paisley was born on December 17, 2012, the same day Fleck was announced as the new coach at Western Michigan University. He divorced in 2015. He became engaged to Heather in September of 2015.  Fleck is an avid runner and completed his first marathon in April 2009.
Fleck annually hosts the P. J. Fleck "Live Your Dream" Football Camp that benefits the Juvenile Arthritis Foundation (Friends of Carra), Alopecia Foundation (Locks of Love), Coach Kill's Cancer Fund, and the P. J. Fleck Scholarship Fund. Past camp instructors have included Fleck's former teammates and friends Ken Dorsey and Justin McCareins.
- "Western Michigan hires P. J. Fleck as new football coach". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
- "NIU Bio P. J. Fleck". Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- "P.J. Fleck". kffl.com. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
- "P. J. Fleck: Game Logs". Nfl.com. November 29, 1980. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
- "P. J. Fleck NFL Football Statistics". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
- "Archive". Daily Chronicle. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- "Fleck, Uremovich Return to NIU as Doeren Completes Coaching Staff". Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- "The Influence Of P. J. Fleck". JoeBucsFan.com. August 8, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- "New Western Michigan football coach P. J. Fleck brings an 'upbeat' style to Broncos". MLive.com. November 1, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- Fishell, Aaron (December 18, 2012). "P.J. Fleck annouced (sic) as 15th WMU head football coach". Western Herald. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
- Gade, Matt (November 1, 2011). "WMU football coach P. J. Fleck will make slightly more than Bill Cubit; AD vows six-figure increase in assistants' salary pool". MLive.com. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- "Scott Shafer to take over for Doug Marrone at Syracuse, reports say". Espn.go.com. January 10, 2013. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
- Drew, David (November 27, 2012). "Report that Western Michigan had hired Indiana State football coach Trent Miles denied by WMU AD Kathy Beauregard and Miles". MLive.com. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
- "New coach, no scholarship: 'I'm sorry, we don't want you,' is first thing Indy-area recruit told". April 29, 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
- Watson, Graham (June 5, 2013). "Western Michigan coach P. J. Fleck takes the polar plunge for charity". Sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
- "The Switzies: Awards for college football's 'best' in the 2013 offseason". College-football.si.com. May 10, 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
- Drew, David (November 13, 2013). "Is this the worst season in Western Michigan football history?". Kalamazoo Gazette. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
- Chandler, Meghan (December 11, 2013). "Coach P. J. Fleck says 1–11 football record falls 'completely on me'". Retrieved May 5, 2014.
- Fenech, Anthony (February 6, 2014). "Western Michigan lands highest-rated MAC class ever, including former MSU commit Jay Harris". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved July 2, 2014.
- Drew, David (February 8, 2014). "David Drew: P.J. Fleck's impressive WMU football recruiting class another step in right direction". mlive.com. Retrieved July 2, 2014.
- Drew, David (June 10, 2014). "WMU football 2015 recruiting class is third-biggest in the country". mlive.com. Retrieved July 2, 2014.
- Twitter. Twitter https://twitter.com/Coach_Fleck/status/645757924237836288. Missing or empty
- "Still unknown: Is P.J. Fleck the Next Big Thing ... or just passing through?". cbssports.com. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
- "P. J. Fleck Profile". Niuhuskies.com. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- Western Michigan profile
- Northern Illinois profile
- P. J. Fleck at the College Football Data Warehouse