Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I was fortunate enough to speak with Thomas and ask him a few questions.
JH: To start, what are you up to these days?
THOMAS: I just finished up coaching this season, I am an assistant coach at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Right now we're recruiting a new head coach as our previous coach was let go. We're just waiting on another guy to come in and see how things go.
JH: What was it like to win a national championship as a freshman? What made that 1997 team so special?
THOMAS: It was just the guys we were with, as you know I was a freshman and those guys brought me along like I was one of the guys. They took me in like I was one of theirs. We did a pretty good job at being a family. That was the most important thing, we were a close-knit group of guys.
JH: Also, talk about Charles Woodson, a crucial member of the '97 team. What was it like to play with him on the offensive side of the ball during his run to the Heisman?
JH: Looking back on your Michigan career, what does it mean to you that people mention you in the same breath as the all-time Michigan greats?
THOMAS: There's a lot of guys that came to Michigan that were great football players, including running backs. Obviously they say I'm one, that's something that makes me feel honored that I'm included and think of me like that. There's other guys like Wheatley and Tim (Biakabutuka) who did also did a good job themselves.
JH: To build on that, you were Michigan's leading career rusher for seven years until Mike Hart broke your record. What does that mean to you that you were (and still are) the standard of Michigan running backs?
THOMAS: It's something that's good, it's something that guys can strive to get to. Mike Hart did it and it's not something just Hart wanted to do. It's something that all Michigan running backs strive to do.
JH: It's also happens to be Ohio State week. What was your favorite moment as a player from the rivalry?
THOMAS: Probably my senior year (Michigan won 38-26), just coming out and playing those guys. You never know exactly what the records are, you kinda throw that out the window. You just have to go out there and play your best, just as we expected they were going to give us their best.
JH: What lessons learned from Coach Carr did you find valuable during your time in the NFL?
THOMAS: Being patient, take my time and try to study as much as I can. He's one of those guys that tells me to always like I've been there before. It's something that stuck with me as player and now as a coach. Act like you've been there before. Even when you score a touchdown, you don't have to be outlandish and things like that.
JH: Finally, talk about Brady Hoke and the future of Michigan football in your perspective.
THOMAS: I think it's a great opportunity for Coach Hoke. He coached us back in 1997 and I think he's a great coach and a great person. I think he's got the guys going in the right directions where we want to go and see them strive in. I think the kids have bought into the program and what he expects. I also think the coaching staff have gone out and done a great job with getting their kids out there and doing what they want them to do. I think it's an up-and-up for those guys out there.
Thomas can be found on Twitter! Follow him at: @A_Train3235
Monday, November 19, 2012
It's Oh*o State week, and yes I refuse to spell out the name completely.
In 1897, the rivalry began. Over one hundred years later, in 2000, it was named by ESPN as the greatest North American sports rivalry.
This is not just a game. This never was just a game. Because on 22 occasions, Michigan and Oh*o State played to decide who would be B1G Conference champions. It's affected the determination of the conference title an additional 27 times. From there, roses are on the line.
Photo courtesy of www.sportsillustrated.com
The "Ten-Year War" began in 1969, when Woody Hayes' former Assistant Coach, Bo Schembechler, was hired as The University of Michigan's head football coach. The Buckeyes brought in a 22-game win streak that was deflated by a defensive battle and a 60-yard punt return to set up a touchdown, and in turn, a Michigan win. In 1973, both teams entered undefeated. Four times during the War, Michigan and Oh*o State were both ranked in the AP top five. Six times the teams shared the B1G title. Oh, and there was that infamous quote by Woody Hayes… it had something to do with filling up for gas.
Photo courtesy of www.bleacherreport.com
Then there was the Carr/Tressel era. When Tressel took over, he beat Michigan twice in a row; the second of which was decided on the last play of the game. Michigan struck back at the 100th meeting, winning 35-21 in Ann Arbor. In 2006, each team entered with an 11-0 record. The day before the matchup, the legendary Bo Schembechler died. The Buckeyes won the game, that could have been called an offensive battle, 42-39. There was a brief moment where the possibility of a rematch for the BCS title game was possible and even a reality… but then something happened with the state of Florida.
Photo courtesy of www.michigandaily.com
All in all, there's a history. This year, it's two schools and two new coaches. As history has shown, there really is no "offensive" or "defensive" battle. It's all out war. Oh*o State enters this match-up undefeated. Michigan, despite three tough road losses, has shown the ability to switch things up when needed. The good news is that there's another set of two this year: Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson. Or as I like to call it, double-trouble. If the Iowa game was any foreshadowing: Al Borges has a few tricks up his sleeve with these two. Will the Buckeye defense be able to stop Denard playing as a slot receiver? Will they even know which one is going to get the ball on the snap? Guess we'll have to wait and see how well their football players are at reading. And if I remember right, Cardale Jones wasn't too fond of classes.
Enjoy your rivalry week Wolverines,
Bust a nut. Beat a buckeye.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Garrett Rivas, one of the best kickers to ever wear the winged helmet, took some time to answer a few of my questions.
TBHR: Filling a four-year starters shoes is tough for any college team to do, but filling someone's shoes like yours is even harder. Since you left Michigan, their kicking game has been less than stellar. Talk about your thoughts regarding the state of the Michigan kicking game, especially through the Rich Rod era.
RIVAS: I think any time you talk about kicking, you have to talk about consistency and being able to deliver under pressure in practice. In high school I had a coach that put me in those types of situations on a regular basis. When I got to college, Coach Carr did a great job of always putting pressure on us. If you talk to any other former Michigan kickers, they'd say hitting a kick in practice is much harder than hitting them in the game. I don't know what scenarios they were put under with Rich Rod, but I'm sure it was similar.
TBHR: A lot of people make the argument that kickers are "head cases". How much does the mental aspect go into kicking in combination with the natural ability side of things as well?
RIVAS: Obviously having that ability will get your foot in the door, as far as learning to kick under pressure that's something you learn to develop over time. It depends on your training. But certainly having the skill going through high school really gets your foot in the door.
TBHR: It's safe to say that you've made some pretty clutch kicks in your career at Michigan. Your game winner in 2003 against Minnesota comes to mind, especially considering you were a true freshman at the time. How do you prepare yourself for potential game-winning kicks in comparison to an everyday field goal?
RIVAS: I think if you can put yourself in the position to go through your normal routine, it's something that will have a calming effect on you. Like I said, having Coach Carr put me in those positions every day in practice helps significantly. He would throw out a game-time situation, down by two with 20 seconds to go, he'd call or field goal. Or we'd often end practice with a two-minute drill that was live. If we missed all our drives, he would call for the field goal kicker to come through. Being in that scenario a lot helped me to be comfortable. I've had an ability to not worry about the situation in the game, because as far as I'm concerned, the uprights are the same distance away, the ball is going to be snapped seven yards, it's got to be put up in the air, and has to split the uprights. Thinking of something that simple helped me, not worrying about the situation and sending one right down the middle.
TBHR: After kicking his game-winner in the Sugar Bowl, Brendan Gibbons mentioned thinking about "brunette girls" to help him concentrate. During your kick routine, what was your happy place, so to speak?
RIVAS: (Laughs) No, like I said, I tried to not let the severity of the situation become a factor. How that's done, to me, is through repetition and routine. With those you find your comfort and confidence. But, whatever works is fine. There's no right way, whatever makes you comfortable to hit the kick when your number is dialed is all that matters.
TBHR: What do you feel is your most memorable moment as a kicker at the University of Michigan?
RIVAS: There's two of them. The first was during my senior year, during senior day when my parents were able to come on the field with me and tied in with the football bust. Being able to publicly thank them and those who supported me along the way. My parents had to travel a long way every week (the Rivas' are from Florida) and they never missed a game. I missed two games in four years. So being able to thank them and having them on the field during a game was the highest points of my life.
TBHR: When you broke the Michigan record of career scoring, you surpassed the previous record holder who just so happened to be named Anthony Thomas. How does it feel to break a record previously held by someone so important to Michigan football history?
RIVAS: I think having any record at the University of Michigan, considering how long football has been around there, is truly a very humbling honor. It's something I truly hold very close to my heart. Because I know how the amount of work it took to get there. It's an incredible honor to have your name is mentioned. Even with guys like Anthony Thomas, Remy Hamilton, Mike Gillette, and Ali Haji-Sheikh. All of those guys who were phenomenal athletes and kickers. So having your name mentioned with them in truly humbling.
TBHR: Finally, you've been to numerous bowl games, hold Michigan records, and have been selected to many All-Big Ten teams. Would you trade any of it for a national championship, or at least even compete for one?
RIVAS: It's something Coach Carr always told us, I know it's not an exact answer to your question. But Coach always told us to never be embarrassed for what we've done. Of course everyone's goal is to win a national championship, but I never took anything that happened in college for granted. I don't regret any of it whatsoever. it was an amazing experience. With choosing Michigan and having the experience I had, it almost seemed surreal to me.
Friday, August 10, 2012
|The Wolverine Magazine cover taken from Biggs' Instagram|
Currently Biggs, a father of two kids, has grasped the ideals and principles of being a "family man" and "Michigan Man" and combined them into one life that he's happy with. Still residing in the state of Michigan, he is currently working towards his Masters degree at DeVry University.
Biggs took some time to answer a few of my questions.
TBHR: Let's start off with the easy question. Why Michigan?
BIGGS: It was the tradition. I grew up a Michigan fan which was key for me as I'm from the state. I was always a big fan of the tradition and the rivalry with Ohio State always stood out to me. I remember watching them in '97 watching Charles Woodson win the Heisman and then winning a National Championship, that always stood out to me in my head during the recruiting process. I guess it's somewhere I really dreamed of going.
TBHR: What made Coach Carr so well respected and liked around campus, and what made his teams commit to him so easily?
BIGGS: You get a sense that he really cared about you. Even after I left I remember running into him, I didn't finish up my degree I was only six credits away, so he would always ask me "did you finish school? did you finish school?", he wouldn't even say hi (laughs) that's the first thing he'd say to me. You can tell he always cared about developing us as young men and as football players. I think the players responded well to that and he did a good job of molding us into men, not just players.
TBHR: What is your greatest memory as player at the University of Michigan?
BIGGS: I would say probably in 2003 when we beat Ohio State and won a share of the Big Ten Championship. That was a big moment. I didn't get a chance to play in that game but just being in that environment with them coming in ranked higher than us and kinda knocked them out of their National Championship hopes, that was a big moment and an exciting game for us.
TBHR: As a member of the 2006 Michigan squad, what were your feelings towards not getting a second chance to face Ohio State in the National Championship game?
BIGGS: It was very disheartening, and it still bothers me to this day we were so close to the National Championship game and it came down to a few plays. Then not playing the next week and I guess by the luck of the draw we get bumped out of the number two spot and not get to play. That was disheartening but we had control of our own destiny, we played a really good game but it just didn't go our way that day.
TBHR: To build off that, how does it feel now knowing Alabama and LSU had another shot to face each other in a similar fashion like in 2006?
BIGGS: Yeah, that brings up some bad memories (laughs). It was pretty much the scenario. I guess the only knock on us is that we controlled our own destiny and it was the last game of the year. You can't keep dwelling on it.
TBHR: Talk a little bit about the 2004 game against MSU. How incredible was that game to you and do you think Michigan will ever see as dominant of a performance by a single player like Braylon Edwards had against the Spartans?
BIGGS: We had some great battles with MSU, we never lost to them which was key to me. I'm from the state so I get to hear a lot from the Michigan State guys. That's a stat I can throw out there. With Michigan, we are full of tradition, full of great players. You will definitely see more games like that, and more wins in the near future. I can guarantee that. Michigan State has had a good run, no disrespect to them at all. But Michigan will go back to their dominant selves in the rivalry.
TBHR: Under Brady Hoke, how long do you think it's safe to say that Michigan is truly back? Like with your teams. Regular top-ten rankings, rose bowl appearances and Big Ten Championships.
BIGGS: Not long. I think they're close to that stage, I'm trying not to get too far ahead of myself. I know he (Brady Hoke) is still new, still planting some of his seeds, and getting some of his players. The team is still developing so I don't want to place too much pressure on them in the near future because there's a great deal of work they can do and he's done a wonderful job so far. Definitely soon, I like Coach Hoke. I had the pleasure of playing for him for one year. I like the choice of him as head coach ever since day one, I was pushing for him and that's who I wanted. Even in the midst of the Miles and Harbaugh talk. I always thought he was a great people coach, people respond well to him. He's very smart. I definitely see them being great in the next few years and the years to come.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Boasting a record of 122-40 and 19-8 against top-ten ranked opponents, he was the fourth coach in Michigan history to coach 100 games for the Wolverines. Joining the ranks of Yost, Oosterbaan, and Schembechler.
Carr was also the third coach in Michigan history to defeat Ohio State in his first three years as head coach. Yost and and Crisler were the only other coaches to do so.
Carr was a man of legend during his tenure at Michigan. He coached the kids in maize and blue to incredible victories and utter defeats. But through and through, Carr was a Michigan Man. He epitomizes the Michigan spirit and brought glory back to Ann Arbor in 1997 when his team won the National Championship. Carr coached the famous names we see playing every Sunday and who dominated on Saturday's, where legends are born.
Here is just some of the national awards players under Carr won:
- Heisman Trophy: Charles Woodson (1997)
- Walter Camp Award: Charles Woodson (1997)
- Chuck Bednarik Award: Charles Woodson (1997)
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy: Charles Woodson (1997)
- Jim Thorpe Award: Charles Woodson (1997)
- Doak Walker Award: Chris Perry (2003)
- Dave Rimington Trophy: David Baas (2004)
- Fred Biletnikoff Award: Braylon Edwards (2004)
- Lombardi Award: LaMarr Woodley (2006)
- Ted Hendricks Award: LaMarr Woodley (2006)
Yost, Crisler, Schembechler, Carr. It just fits.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Little did Michigan fans know, January 11th, 2011 would change the landscape of how Michigan football is viewed in the national spotlight. Brady Hoke was announced as the 19th football coach in the program's storied history. In his first season as head coach of the Wolverines, Hoke was faced with a shortened recruiting year and still managed to find a way to be successful with players that weren't exactly fit for the pro-style offense. For a moment, forget the 11-2 season, forget the 40-34 victory against Ohio State and forget the Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. Hoke and his companions have changed the product we see on the field by having a new mindset and by getting the right kids to not only commit to Michigan, but to commit to Hoke's vision.
Before everything started to change, Lloyd Carr was at the helm for the Wolverines. Since 2002 (when recruiting rankings for schools started to be tracked) Carr saw his draft class have a consistent rise. 2002 was, statistically, his worst year of recruiting, being ranked 19th in the nation and only securing one five-star recruit, Gabe Watson. 2005 was considered one of Carr's best years in recruiting. Michigan finished number two in the nation while only securing two five-stars in Kevin Grady and Marques Slocum. Though five-star recruits don't exactly make-or-break a recruiting class, it shows how well a head coach and assistants can secure the top-rated talent in the nation. Leading up to Carr's retirement after the 2007 season, Carr also secured Prescott Burgess, LaMarr Woodley, Chad Henne, Brandon Graham, Stephen Schilling, Ryan Mallett and Donovan Warren. An impressive list of names, most of which are currently on NFL rosters.
Former Wolverine and Cincinnati Bengal Brandon Williams, a product of Coach Carr, spoke very highly of his coach and recruiting tactics. “Usually how recruiting goes, a coach gets an area. So, a coach will search an area for targets. Once the targets have been decided, Coach Carr comes in and he's like the clean-up hitter,” said Williams. “By the time he went to Ohama to recruit me, I will never forget it. Coach Carr would be Nick Saban today, he was that coach that everyone knows. I don't think I realize how much I loved Coach Carr until I got there. He taught things that I teach my son.
“He teaches accountability, be accountable. That is something I carry to this day. I think that is what create thats bond with the team. Coach Carr was a father figure to 100 kids, he kept us as a family. We all have our own dads, but in that city and that state, he was our father figure. That's the one thing about Coach Carr, he loved us, he always did everything for us. But, he knows how to crack the whip.”
After Carr's retirement, not only did Wolverine fans see a coaching change, they also saw a major scheme change on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. With the hiring of Rich Rodriguez, Michigan strayed away from the pro-style offense and 4-3, 3-4 defensive schemes to a new spread offense and 3-3-5 defensive scheme. It is often claimed that one of the major reasons that Rodriguez failed at Michigan, was his inability to recruit the Midwest and the state of Michigan. Most people view the Midwestern states (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania) as a hot bed for pro-style talent. Carr's recruiting classes usually consisted of about 50 percent or greater of commitments from the Midwest, with the best year coming in 2002 with an astounding 81% of commitments from the area. Once Rodriguez took over, those numbers significantly dropped. 2010 was the only year in which about half of the commitments were from the Midwest. Though the idea of Rodriguez “ignoring” the Midwest isn't necessarily true, Rodriguez did seek out players in certain states more than Carr would. The biggest example to support this would be the state of Florida. From 2002-2007 Carr secured a whopping three commitments from the state of Florida, whereas Rodriguez inked 17 commitments from 2008-2011 (with 2011 being a partial recruiting year for Rodriguez).
The two major differences between Carr and Rodriguez's recruiting styles were the types of talent being brought in to the program and the focus of recruiting offense over defense. From day one of Rodriguez's tenure, he preached for smaller and more athletic players to fit his offensive and defensive philosophies. For example, long gone were the days of bruising running backs. The heaviest running back commit Rodriguez secured was Thomas Rawls in 2010, who weighed in at 214 pounds. Contrast that to 2005, when Carr secured two big running backs in Grady and Andre Criswell, weighing in at 230 and 240 pounds respectively.
Williams spoke of Rodriguez's recruiting style and how ignoring the midwest may have been Rodriguez's downfall.
“You could say that Coach Rod ignored the Midwest in a way. Me, Cato (June) and Ron Bellomy talk about this often. I liked Coach Rod, he was a good guy. But, I feel like he was too busy recruiting a scheme. You have to recruit your home state, if you have to land that star, do it in your home state,” said Williams. “Look at what it does, how long has it been since we beat them fools (Michigan State)? Four years? It's gonna end this year, but still. There's something to recruiting the Midwest and recruiting a historical power. Redoing something that's not going to work on the winningest program in history. Something's going right, don't come in and try to reinvent the wheel.”
The recruiting of smaller players provided an immediate disadvantage for Rodriguez and the Wolverines. Traditionally, the B1G is known for larger players on the offensive and defensive side of the ball as most programs run a variation of a pro-style offense and a defense similar to an NFL defense. With that being said, Rodriguez would need his players coming in to be athletically superior to outwork the opposition. With a 3-9 season in 2008, 5-7 in 2009 and a 7-6 record to end his coaching stint with Michigan, it was obvious that the strategy wasn’t working.
Another reason for Rodriguez's recruiting failures was his lack of defensive commitments. Throughout Rodriguez's tenure as coach, the Michigan defense was uncharacteristically porous, and at times, downright terrible. Michigan has always been known for its defensive prowess, and seeing the opposite angered Michigan fans and alums. It can be said that the defense was neglected under Rodriguez. In 2008, offensive players comprised 66 percent of the class. 2009 saw about a 55 percent offense and 45 percent defense comparison between the two. The trend continued on until 2010, when Rodriguez and his staff realized that defensive talent was limited, that the numbers evened out. 2010 saw a higher defensive percentage of committed players when compared to the offense. The defense came in around 52 percent, with the offense coming in at around 48 percent. Rodriguez saw the writing on the wall, but it still didn't save his job. Rodriguez was fired shortly after their lackluster 52-14 loss to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.
Rich Rodriguez set the tone for the Hoke era; it can only go up from here
With Hoke entering the fold, Michigan saw a return to the old-fashioned style of football fans were used to seeing for many years. With the addition of Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator, the football program meant business. Having been hired late into the recruiting period, Hoke’s staff faced a very small turnaround time in evaluating the previously recruited players, and the new targets that had already been contacted by other schools.
Even though Hoke managed to reel in a impressive class, it received a ranking of 29th in the nation according to Rivals, which has no direct correlation to Hoke and his assistants’ abilities to recruit. Hoke preaches toughness and he looks for high character players that will represent their families, their team and the University of Michigan. He values the idea of the student athlete in that academics are just as, if not more important than football itself.
The past year has also saw a rocky time for Michigan's biggest rival, Ohio State. Last March, a Yahoo story reported that Jim Tressel knew of Buckeye football players receiving free tattoos in exchange for memorabilia. This scandal eventually led to Tressel’s resignation and the suspensions of several of Ohio State’s key players. One of those suspended players, starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, a player that Rodriguez missed on, would end up jumping to the NFL Draft. The tumultuous season for the Buckeyes culminated with the snapping of their seven-game winning streak against Michigan with a 40-34 loss against in Ann Arbor, further cementing Hoke's legacy.
During this time of uncertainty, this has had positive effects on the Michigan program. Michigan would secure a commitment from Kyle Kalis, a five-star offensive lineman whom many argued was an Ohio State lock. Though Hoke didn't use the Tressell situation as a bargaining chip, the renewed focus on fixing the defense and other areas of need has fueled the successes that Michigan has seen on the recruiting trail so far. Even though the 2011 class had a low ranking, 14 out of the 19 commitments were from the Midwest (seven from Ohio, six from Michigan and one from Illinois) and it was an even split between offensive and defensive commits with nine apiece.
After the 2011 season, the effects of the Brady Hoke era at Michigan were beginning to be felt. The 2012 recruiting class received national praise and attention and filled many needs for this year’s squad. Michigan’s class finished fourth overall, it's highest ranking since 2005.
Josh Helmholdt, Midwest Recruiting Expert for Rivals.com spoke of the differences between Rodriguez and Hoke, and why Hoke has been so successful on the recruiting trail. “The most easily identifiable difference between the two is the regions they have focused most of their recruiting efforts. Rich Rodriguez had three or more assistant coaches tasked to recruit just the state of Florida. Hoke came in from Day 1 and said his staff would begin their recruiting efforts in-state and in the Midwest, particularly the state of Ohio, That has played out thus far during his tenure,” said Helmholdt. “18 of Michigan's 25 signees in the 2012 class were from Michigan and Ohio, while 13 of their 17 commitments in the 2013 class are from those two states.The other change we have seen since Brady Hoke took over is how early Michigan is identifying, offering and getting kids to commit. They already have 17 commitments in the class of 2013, and had 20 committed by the end of last July in the class of 2012.”
Ohio State, coming off a freshly hired coach in Urban Meyer and a late surge of commitments, finished with a number three ranking. For the first time in what seems like a long time, Michigan and Ohio State are being evenly compared and slowly becoming the juggernauts of the Big Ten once again. Helmholdt explains how Ohio State has rebounded from scandal to normalcy.
“There was a period of about six months where Michigan and other Big Ten programs definitely took advantage of the looming NCAA sanctions and the resignation of Jim Tressel, but Ohio State rebounded almost instantly on the recruiting trail following the hiring of Urban Meyer,” said Helmholdt. “The Buckeyes are now recruiting at the same, if not an even higher, level as they were pre-scandal and are once again a major force on the recruiting trail.”
Fast forward to today, and the 2013 class is arguably one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. Brady Hoke and staff has managed to create lasting relationships with the committed players. It also helps to have kids committed that are enthusiastic about the future of the program and the rest of the 2013 class. Shane Morris, a five-star quarterback from Warren, MI, and Rivals’ second-rated quarterback in the class, has served as a great recruiter, filling in where Hoke and the rest of his staff can't under NCAA restrictions. Many of the current commits have credited Morris' persistency and love for the university as major reasons why they have committed.
This recruiting class is turning into a family atmosphere. Using the moniker ‘Team 134’ (they will be the 134th team in Michigan history) it’s obvious that the kids are family, and love being able to call themselves future teammates. That is something many other teams simply do not have. The family atmosphere and Team 134 can be credited to February 18 when Michigan secured a historic six commitments, all four-stars. Kyle Bosch, Wyatt Shallman, David Dawson, Jourdan Lewis, Chris Fox and Taco Charlton all joined the same day, marking the most commits in a single day Michigan has picked up since records started being kept in 2002.
Anytime Brady Hoke and the Wolverines' recruiting habits can be put in the same sentence as recruiting juggernauts such as Texas, Alabama and Florida, Hoke is doing something right. Often times in years past, Michigan's recruiting classes would fill up before the season started. The 2013 class is positively trending in that direction. After the Rodriguez years, anything that can be related to the old days of Michigan football is welcomed by fans and alums alike
In short, Brady Hoke is the perfect man for Michigan just as Michigan is perfect for Hoke. He has the innate ability to make his players commit to him, as well as the program. Hoke proved his worth as an excellent recruiter during his time as an assistant with Michigan. Now, we are seeing much of the same. His ability to hire the right guys for the program, and to take a team of players that went 7-6 the year before to an 11-2 season and a BCS bowl game victory shows the stability and respect he receives from his players. If you do not have plans of hopping on the Brady Hoke bandwagon, do so immediately. If not, prepare to hate Michigan and Brady Hoke for the next decade and beyond.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
I was born and raised in Australia. A place where sports had an entirely different breed of competition. The AFL was your NFL and cricket was your baseball. Sports that had similar aspects, yet completely different at the same time.
My parents were divorced when I was ten, which lead me to the states as my mom remarried an American. When I first arrived in the US in 2000, I was in complete culture shock. Everything had changed, my life would change forever. I had to re-learn sports. My step-father was a huge Detroit Red Wings fan, so hockey was first. I was completely fascinated and enamored with American sports. Then, one fateful afternoon, I stumbled across something that would change my life forever.
It took me three years, but one September Saturday in 2003 I found a different league of football. Something completely different than the NFL. The University of Michigan was playing Houston University, who Michigan thrashed 50-3. I had no idea who Michigan belonged to (as I wasn't exactly aware of the "idea" of college) but I was enthralled in the atmosphere. The winged helmets, the style of football, the sheer skill of the players on that roster. I fell in love. But, I will admit, I wasn't always in love.
A few months down the road, as I was still very young, I met this female. Being at such a young age, it was what people like to call "puppy love". Her entire family were State fanatics. So, naturally, I converted to a Spartan to impress her. The only piece of apparel I ever wore that wasn't Michigan, was a crummy old Spartan hat I found at my buddy's house. He let me wear it to show her. The love didn't last long, neither did my admiration for the Spartans. Living in Washtenaw County, you realize that the love for Ann Arbor and the Wolverines were too great. I was, and always will be a Michigan Wolverine.
Fast forward ten years to 2012. I am here running a Michigan Wolverine website. Sharing my passion of Michigan football to all willing to listen. My level of love for Michigan has reached obsessive levels. I always tell myself the love I have for the Wolverines was destiny. That Australia wasn't going to be my calling, that something out there, something bigger than all of us, was calling my name. I answered the call and I couldn't be happier where it has lead me.
I am one year away from graduating college and obtaining my journalism major and my double-minors (Communications and Professional & Technical Writing). I attend the University of Michigan - Flint. So, it was more than luck that brought me to be a Wolverine. It was my scholastic destiny to attend a school I fell in love with.
In closing, we don't choose what school we fall in love with, the school chooses us. We were born Wolverines, it just takes some longer than others to figure that out. Every Saturday, us dedicated fans pour into Michigan Stadium to watch the tradition of Michigan Wolverine football. We pour into our television watching areas with our children and teach them the glamor and vast history of Michigan football. Everything we do, we do it for Michigan. The leaders and best. As the legendary Bo Schembechler said, "And when we play as a team, when the old season is over, you and I know it’s going to be Michigan again. Michigan!"
After all, this is Michigan. Fer God sakes.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
|Photo Courtesy of Detroit Free Press|
Q: Talk about the transition going from Coach Carr to Coach Rod. Was this a difficult transition for you? Do you feel as if Michigan lost their "identity" under Coach Rod?
A: It was tough, you feel very comfortable with the coaches that recruited you out of high school so now you have to start all over again. It was a learning experience, you had to learn patience and mental toughness. Luckily, his offense wasn't too difficult to learn, it was just different terminology. It was a lot easier coming from a pro-style offense to the spread. Because you had universal terminology and longer plays, you had a lot more freedom. The spread was a lot more simple so you can call plays faster. I think Coach Rod, and I don't mean this in a bad way, he tried to bring his own tradition to Michigan. It was a little different and I think they strayed away from the traditional things they used to do. With the hiring of Coach Rod, bringing in a new Athletic Director (Dave Brandon) and switching to Adidas it was a big change throughout the University. I don't believe the football program was the only program to feel the change, it seemed that way only because we got most of the attention.
Q: Take us back to 2009 and talk us through the catch you made to beat Notre Dame with 11 seconds left. Do you feel this was the greatest moment of your career at Michigan?
A: The play was a simple slant out pattern, I feel it was a good call on the coaches part because we had studied film (on Notre Dame's defense) and they were overplaying the slants on film. Coach told me before the play to sell the slant and once I lined up before the play I saw he was lined up inside. I had the inside leverage, so I really tried to drive in there like I was running the slant. So I ran the route and I saw Tate looking at me and the ball was in the air, next thing I know I caught it and my body went numb. I thought "Wow, this is going to make history," it is definitely something I'll never forget. There were so many crazy things that happened before that play I was just thankful to be out there in that situation. Laterryal (Savoy) dropped a touchdown the play before, so you could be talking to him right now, I'm just thankful to be in that situation. Minor stepped up and made a big block on that play too, Tate could've been sacked on that play. He could've thrown to DC (Darryl Stonum), or Tae (Odoms). I'm just thankful to be in that situation, and of course to capitalize. Every year since, we've beaten them in close games. We started our own trend, our own tradition (laughs).
Q: Looking back, what do you feel the greatest lessons learned were during your time in Ann Arbor?
A: I learned so many it's hard to point out just one. I've learned a lot of life lessons and I've met so many different people from different culture, I'm just thankful I had the opportunity to go to the University of Michigan. The greatest lesson I learned was definitely under Coach Carr, he was one of the classiest guys I have ever met. It was an honor to play for him. It was the little things I learned from him, like going into a meeting. He would say "Okay, guys. It's better to three hours early than one minute late". It's the little things like being early to meetings. He would joke around as well. He would tell us if we were to get in trouble with a lady off campus, he wants us to turn around and run the other way (laughs), run away from the situation. He was such a classy coach and I have a lot of respect for him. He was probably the biggest influence on me.
Q: Let's bring everyone up to speed. What is Greg Mathews up to these days?
A: I've just been traning and working, staying hopeful for a chance to getting signed. I've had a couple tryouts, I've just been working out and getting ready. I just went to a tryout in Atlanta for a couple of CFL teams this past weekend and this weekend I'm going to Philly to tryout for another CFL. Right now I'm just looking to play football, even if it's in Canada or another route. I'm looking to play.
Q: Under Brady Hoke, where do you see the direction that Michigan football is headed?
A: I see them getting back to the same Michigan like we saw this year. Tough defense, offense might be shaky at times. Just the traditional Michigan. When I think of that I think tough defense and the pro-style offense. It might not put up 60 points a game like you see these days, but it'll get the job done. You'll also see more NFL ready talent, good sized high caliber guys.
Q: What was it about the University of Michigan that made you decide that you want to be a Wolverine.
A: I think what made me decide that I wanted to go to the University of Michigan was probably when my parents were in the Navy and I was out in California. My mom's side of the family is from Columbus, so she is a big Buckeye fan. I just remember waking up every morning, and Michigan was all you would see. Naturally, kids like to go against their parents since she is a big Ohio State fan. So, I just started supporting Michigan. Tim Biakabutuka was my favorite Michigan player, and I remember sitting in my room watching run all over Ohio State, thinking like "Man, he looks pretty cold out there." I was always a Michigan fan and I never thought I would play there in high school. It was a life changing experience.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Chad Henne hooked up with Braylon Edwards twice to put the game within striking distance. The game would eventually head to triple OT where Michigan would prevail 45-37. Edwards would finish the game with 189 yards receiving and three touchdown catches.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
1997 was a memorable year in many ways. The National Championship and Charles Woodson's Hesiman campaign highlight the year. One moment in particular that year was against Michigan State, and Woodson made a statement.
Michigan held a 13-7 lead against Michigan State late in the third quarter. The Spartans quarterback, Todd Schultz was facing pressure during a routine throw-away pass. Little did Schultz know that Woodson was lurking in the area. Woodson soared to make an unbelievable one-handed interception. A play that certainly helped Woodson's Heisman hopes.