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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Gophers’ Thomas Rush putting everything into 2022 football season for his late father

Last season, Boye Mafe had seven sacks before he was selected 40th in the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks in April. Rush was second on the team with 5½ sacks.

University of Minnesota defensive lineman Thomas Rush poses for a photo Wednesday, July 13, 2022, during the team’s media day in Minneapolis.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota Gophers’ 23-13 win over Wisconsin at Huntington Bank Stadium last November will be a lasting memory for players and fans alike.

For defensive end Thomas Rush, it will remain an indelible moment.

It’s something on top of seizing Paul Bunyan’s Axe, fans storming the field and everyone exalting and dancing to the Badgers’ anthem “Jump Around.”

Rush was in the middle of it all and then worked for a while among the masses to find his parents, T.R. and Lana Rush. They rendezvoused and took joyous pictures.

Two weeks later, T.R. Rush died unexpectedly at the age of 51.


“Happy to think that was one of the last moments, let alone an amazing moment, to have with him before he passed away,” Rush reflected during the Gophers’ media day on Wednesday.

T.R. Rush was born in Columbus, Ohio, and earned a computer science degree from Ohio State in the early 1990s; he became a diehard Buckeyes fan and passed it on to his children in their home of Marysville, Ohio. But when Thomas became a Gopher in 2018, T.R.’s allegiance shifted immediately.

Minnesota showed in Saturday’s 34-7 rout at Michigan State that even if the early schedule was soft, the team is not. The outcome of the Gophers’ Big Ten opener in East Lansing has more outsiders taking notice.
Victory marked first time Minnesota won in East Lansing since 2009
The 27-point win over the Spartans was Minnesota's closest game this season.
Minnesota travels to Michigan State to open up Big Ten play on Saturday
Minnesota is collecting data on how much players are exerting on the field and when they might be on the verge of an injury
Minnesota (3-0) heads into the Big Ten opener against Michigan State (2-1) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich.
Autman-Bell accounted for 23% of the Gophers’ targets through 3 weeks
Geary will be part of a group of wideouts asked to step up as No. 1 pass-catching target Chris Autman-Bell was lost to a season-ending leg injury against the Buffaloes.
In the first half of Saturday’s 49-7 victory over Colorado, Autman-Bell landed awkwardly after trying to adjust to an off-target throw from Tanner Morgan. Visibly distraught, Autman-Bell needed assistance to leave the field and went to a hospital for further tests.
Minnesota has been all business against three incredibly weak programs: arguably the worst Division I outfit in New Mexico State, a rebuilding FCS team in Western Illinois and possibly the worst Power Five program in Pac-12 member Colorado. Those three teams are a combined 0-10 this season.

We were “scarlet and gray growing up, but when I came here, it was an immediate shift to maroon and gold,” Thomas said. “No hesitation for him.”

T.R.’s passion for college football has Thomas thinking about how he will enter his fifth season at Minnesota.

“Thinking about my dad and the dedication that he had in helping me get to where I’m at,” Thomas shared. “… I think about what am I going to do, the amount of effort, energy, all that stuff. What am I going to put into it? You know, to continue that and not let what he wanted from me go to waste.”

Last season, Boye Mafe had seven sacks before he was selected 40th in the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks in April. Rush was second on the team with 5½ sacks.

Rush started to blossom after a position change from linebacker to rush end before the 2020 season. It took awhile for the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder to adjust.

While Mafe possesses freak athleticism, Rush has to be more exacting in his movements. As Rush has learned the position, he no longer has to be as deliberate.


“Having Boye there with me, someone to continue to look to and get better with and compete with, really helped me learn it and expedite that process of learning it,” Rush said. “He was a big, big help to me, a big mentor to me.”

Quarterback Tanner Morgan — whose father, Ted, passed away a year ago Tuesday — has tried to be there for Thomas.

“Having somebody who’s been through it,” Morgan shared Wednesday. “It’s always a great asset and a great help; I’ve felt that in my kind of battles and struggles. … You don’t have to be OK. You don’t have to feel like you’re alright and feel like you’ve got it all figured out.

“Looking back, at the beginning of it, I was ready to just get back to ball. I think there were moments where it was really hard for me. I probably just buried that stuff. Just keep pressing on, keep pressing on. The athletic traits you have.”

But, Morgan added, “Don’t harbor in your feelings (and) try not to think about it. It will come back and hit you at some point. …We go through challenges in life to help other people, not just ourselves.”


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