Gophers football assistant leaves

Michael Dougherty

Gophers quarterbacks coach Steve Axman has left the team to take the offensive coordinator position at Washington. Axman will be working under new Huskies coach Rick Neuheisel, who left Colorado last month.
Neuheisel was a graduate assistant under Axman when he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at UCLA in 1987. With the Bruins, Axman coached the Cowboys’ Troy Aikman, and also worked with Cincinnati’s Neil O’Donnell at Maryland in 1989.
His ties with the Pac-10 also include a four-year stint as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Arizona in the early ’80s.
The 51-year old Axman was with the Gophers for only one year, after spending the rest of the ’90s as the head coach at Northern Arizona. His impressions on quarterback Andy Persby ran deep, and Persby said he was shocked to learn Axman was leaving.
“I guess it really hasn’t hit me quite yet,” Persby said. “It sucks. He was helping me out a lot and helping me become a really good quarterback, and he just kind of left out of nowhere.
“He didn’t tell any of the quarterbacks. I heard from some of the other coaches and I didn’t really believe it, and then I went by his office and it was cleared out. It’s very disappointing.”
Persby, who is playing for the baseball team right now, said he found out Axman was leaving on Thursday. He said he hadn’t seen Axman all week and when he asked the other coaches about it, nobody said anything.
Gophers strength and conditioning coach Chris Hartman ultimately told Persby about Axman’s departure. Persby said he then told fellow quarterback Billy Cockerham the news and Cockerham felt the same way.
“We’re both really surprised,” Persby said. “(Axman) just built a house in Maple Grove and his wife just got a principal’s job in Woodbury and his family just all moved up here. It just really surprised me.”
Persby said he hoped the coaching staff would be able to bring someone else in who can fill Axman’s shoes, but wasn’t sure if that could happen given the relationship he had with Axman.
“Coach Axman was really good,” Persby said. “He just had other issues that he wanted to address, I guess.”