I'm a believer in the three year rule. Three full seasons as head coach of a major college football team should give enough of an indication as to where a program is heading. For those of you who didn't have the fortune of deleting your memory from 2008 to 2011, you'll remember Rich Rodriguez was given exactly three years. During that time, the score-now-defend-later head coach won only 40.5 percent of his games and also coached the 2008 team that ended a streak of 32 consecutive years playing in a bowl game.
Rodriguez's ability to get some of the quickest of shiftiest guys in the country was almost unmatched, but he learned none of that really matters when your defense cannot stop an infant from plowing through the defense like a wrecking ball.
Then came Brady Hoke in 2011. His press conference--splendid, inspiring. His demeanor--captivating. There wasn't a logical reason to go against Brady Hoke that whole season, other than a loss to rival Michigan State. All he did in his first year as head coach at Michigan was lead the Wolverines to a Sugar Bowl victory. And let's not forget one of the most compelling facts about that team; he did it with Rich Rodriguez's players.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
For the seniors of Team 133, they did what many thought wouldn't be possible, they brought Michigan back into the national spotlight. Sure, these kids were aided with the hiring of Brady Hoke and his band of coordinators. But, they became more than a group of Rich Rod castoffs, they become Brady Hoke's players. Students at the University of Michigan who could FINALLY, after many seasons, grasp the idea what it was like to truly wear the winged helmet.
Jordan Kovacs, Denard Robinson, Roy Roundtree, Patrick Omameh -- to name a few. All seniors who have played their final snap of football at Michigan. These young men showed displayed triumph and courage in the face of adversity. Where most would give up on the team, the seniors pushed forward. They bought into a system and finally became a cohesive unit.
They were Michigan.
As the last of the Rich Rodriguez recruits prepare themselves for departure from the university, they were faced with unique challenges that most college players may never face. These kids were responsible for rebranding a program so entrenched in tradition that no matter happened, failure was likely. Though the experiment was indeed a failure. They would have to rebrand the program a second time. A mess that desperately needed to be fixed.
Team 132 set the tone with seniors like Molk, Van Bergen, Martin and so on. But the seniors we witnessed play their hearts out against South Carolina had the most to gain. Though 8-5 is nothing to write home about, the legacy left behind will be remembered fondly.
These Rich Rod guys turned into Brady Hoke guys and put the pieces back together with the leadership of Hoke and the rest of the deep supporting cast. These kids spent hours watching film, getting stronger, getting better, and picking this program up from the depths.
The strength of one can never equal the strength of many. That is what the seniors Team 133 proved this year and during their career as Michigan Wolverines. Their last chapter may have been written, but their story will remain in the annals of Michigan history.
To the seniors of Team 133, thank you and forever Go Blue.
Friday, November 16, 2012
October 8th 2009. We are here in Ann Arbor to celebrate another year of Michigan football. 100,000+ of our closest friends are here for opening day against Western Michigan. After a disappointing 3-9 season the year before, the air was nervous. Was Michigan football now comparable to a MAC school? Surely WMU wouldn't come in and take apart Michigan in our own house. That was hardly the case.
If you were watching at home, the folks at ESPN dropped his high school nickname on the air. Here comes "Shoelace". This gangly freshman who didn't tie his shoes? Great.
At the time, freshman quarterback Tate Forcier lead the team to a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. Michigan would get the ball back to see a new quarterback out on the field, Denard Robinson.The ESPN commentators quotes Rich Rodriguez saying that this kid was just too good to redshirt. It had me intrigued, I was ready. Robinson gets in the shotgun and sets. He gets the snap, but fumbles it to the groan of the Big House. What happened next is something that sticks with you forever.
World, meet Denard Robinson. He is here to stay.
The legend of Shoelace seemed to grow stagnant his freshman year. As all of the magic seemed to be transferred over to the new golden boy, Tate Forcier. The Forcier love wouldn't last long as there was a new sheriff in town.
It's the dawn of a new football season in 2012. UCONN comes to town facing a first-time starting quarterback in Denard Robinson, which once again struck fear into the hearts of many Michigan fans. Did Denard Robinson have what it takes to lead this team to victory? Yep. Denard threw for 187 yards and a touchdown and also amassed almost 200 yards rushing with another touchdown. This type of performance is the beginning of how legends are born. The next Saturday, Robinson went from campus hero to campus legend overnight.
87 yards. All 87 of them was the longest run in Notre Dame Stadium history. All done by a quarterback at Michigan that no one has ever seen before. To top it all off, Robinson drove the team down 72 yards late in the fourth quarter to steal a victory away from the Fighting Irish all while amassing over 500 yards of total offense by himself. All of this and he's just a Sophomore? Could this guy be what was missing for the Rich Rodriguez offense? What could possibly be Superman's kryptonite.
Well, the answer came in the form of late season Big Ten opponents. After undefeated starts to open two straight seasons, Michigan only fizzled out when it came down to face Ohio State. The woes continued. Robinson couldn't stay healthy during games and had to leave. It was bedlam in Ann Arbor.
Robinson never gave up. He came back to Michigan ready to lead and he has done just that.
September 10th 2011. Michigan Stadium was lit up for the first time ever. So were the Wolverines as Notre Dame seemed to have a good hold on them. There's eight seconds left, Robinson drops back and delivers a pass... and the rest was history.
November 26th 2011. Denard Robinson plays in what is arguably the best game of his career. Michigan finally rids themselves of the stench of losing to Ohio State for so many years. Robinson threw for 167 yards and three touchdowns. Also, compiling 170 yards on the ground with another touchdown.
October 20th 2012. Though the game wasn't pretty by any means, the losing streak was over. Michigan State had finally fallen to Michigan. Robinson defeated his biggest rivals and eliminated any preexisting losing streaks that haunted the program.
November 16th 2012. This is the day the fans say goodbye. A final tribute to the four years of blood, guts and glory Denard Robinson has given to the program. It's Senior Day. A day where Robinson may not even get to play because he is sidelined with an elbow injury.
So, with that being said, this is really it. This is goodbye, Denard. If he never took another snap at Michigan. His stats would be as follows:
6250 yards passing with 49 touchdowns. 4175 yards rushing with 41 touchdowns.
He's a legend in his own right. Denard Robinson is our quarterback, forever our leader. He took this program in it's weakest time and made it his beacon of hope. With a simple smile that could light up the Big House and a happy-go-lucky attitude, you won over the hearts of fans all over the nation. Michigan football is back in the spotlight, back in the national conversation. Maybe Michigan never did leave. But Denard Robinson, we owe a lot to you.
No matter what, one thing will always remain true.
Denard Robinson. Forever number sixteen.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Now a personal trainer (his business is called Mach 5 Sports) he works with Nike Sparq to train kids to become better as players as well as student athletes. With lessons learned from the University of Michigan, he hopes to make a positive effect on each athlete he trains.
Underwood took some time to answer a few of my questions.
TBHR: Obviously in the south, football is a big deal. Considering the type of schools you were surrounded by in Texas, what was it about the University of Michigan that made you want to go north?
UNDERWOOD: The University can speak for itself, it's the all-time winningest program in college football history. I had an opportunity to do something that no one has ever done where I'm from. I'm from a small town in Texas. When it presented itself, I took forth and went on.
TBHR: During your time at Michigan, you were backing up two great running backs in Perry and Hart. Most people would see the writing on the wall and look to transfer elsewhere. What made you want to stay with the Michigan program?
UNDERWOOD: It was a learning situation for me, I had a lot to learn. But at the same time it was an opportunity for me to get better and become more competitive. I had the opportunity to start my senior year but unfortunately I got hurt against Notre Dame and Mike Hart emerged. With the goals I had set for myself coming out of high school, it was tough. So is life, you just have to deal with it. That's what Michigan teaches. Now it's taught me how to overcome a lot of things and the adversity of life. It was a tough pill to swallow but I was very supportive of my teammates. I did whatever it took for Michigan to win and I'm proud Michigan made me who I am today.
TBHR: What is your favorite moment as a player at the University of Michigan?
UNDERWOOD: My favorite moment was the 100th game against Ohio State. When we won, everyone was throwing roses on the field and everyone rushed the field. That moment was the first true experience of what I thought Michigan to be like coming from Texas. Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard, and the cold November football games. My first two years we came somewhat short of our goal of winning the Big Ten title, that's always the goal at Michigan. It was my first Big Ten title, so that was a great experience.
TBHR: Speaking of Big Ten titles, you were a back-to-back Big Ten title winner. What was it about those two teams that you will never forget.
UNDERWOOD: Just the work we all put in to get to that point. A select few guys, I don't want to name any names because a few were first round picks, but we used to work out after our work out with Mike Gillison on certain days of the week. We would also hop the stadium fence and run the stadium steps just to get the extra work so we would have that extra advantage for our team. Those were moments for us, doing the work outs at night when no one else was doing it and helped us bond as brothers, that I cherish and I'll never forget.
TBHR: Talk a little about what Mach 5 Sports is.
UNDERWOOD: I'm a personal trainer, that's what I do now. I am certified by Nike Sparq, I work at camps and combines through them. I train the elite athletes you see everyday. I train high school kids enhance their skills, sports performance wise, to get themselves ready to have themselves a great season. I'm going into my fourth year and I have great things to come. I'm mentoring kids, it's not only personal training, it's about mentoring them as well. Such as teaching them the right way to go about being a student athlete. Which there is only one way, the ward way. You have to get up and go to class and be dedicated. Everyone doesn't make it to the NFL. A lot of my kids, I have some D-2 kids and the majority of these kids are from the big-boy schools. Such as Texas and Oregon. Some of them have the idea that they want to go to the NFL but they don't really an idea on what to do after football is all over. So that's what I'm teaching them now. Go to school and get a degree and be a better person in life after football. So they can get a better sense on what to do when they're done playing ball.
TBHR: With the kids that you train, what type of lessons or principles that you learned from Michigan are you trying to instill into them?
UNDERWOOD: Oh yeah (laughs). Like I said, there's only one way, the hard way. I have the reputation of being a pretty tough trainer. The kids know in order to get to that level you've got to go hard. Your opportunity could come and go in a blink of an eye, but so is life. For example, you're having a meeting with a big time company and you're late, they could pass on you and look to someone else. That's the way life is, you just have to be prepared for opportunities and take advantage of them.
TBHR: Talk a little about the Rich Rod years transitioning into the current era of Brady Hoke. By not having a consistent rusher since Hart and losing their identity as a powerhouse program, how frustrating was it to watch as a former player?
UNDERWOOD: To be truthful, I kinda stayed away. Because some of the things I heard, not negativity, I just didn't exactly like what I was hearing. I didn't go back to campus since graduating in 2007 at all until last year. I kept in touch with a few members of the coaching staff, Fred Jackson specifically since he was my coach. My teammates as far as watching them, I'd see them get beat, it was just tough to watch. It's not anything negative on Coach Rodriguez, but it's just not Michigan football. That's not our style. We play smash-mouth football. We'll hit you with the play action, with the two tight ends and big receivers. That's who we are and we're getting back to that. It was difficult but everyone needs change. Coach Hoke is going through the transition right now. He was there the first two years I was there. We always thought that if he got the opportunity to coach that he'd make a great head coach. Now we know it's only a matter of time until he wins national championships.
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.
Monday, June 18, 2012
Monday Monologue 06.18.12
The Red Hot Chili alienated the crowd at their Columbus, OH show, with drummer Chad Smith singing "Hail to the Victors" against a chorus of boos. This is considered the most egregious offense in Columbus, and Chad Smith got the full punishment allowed by OSU campus officials. Fortunately for Chad, they used Urban Meyer's discipline policy, so he only had to sit out for 1/4 of the first song, at the following night's show.
At Arizona, the leading tackler from last season, LB Brian Wagner left the team, citing lack of love for the game. When asked for comment, Rich Rodriguez responded "what's a linebacker?
RichRod will respond to this adversity the only way he knows, playing the song "You Raise Me Up" on his iPod, and using the vacated scholarship to get another 5'7" wide receiver.
The Lions made news this week because none of their players got any DUIs or arrests.
With fantasy drafts coming up in the next couple months, it's time to start thinking about team names. With help of the twitter community, here are the Top 10 Michigan-related fantasy team names:
10. Robbing The Crable
9. Pee Wee the Dee Tee (@GoBlueChic)
8. Threet and Out (@jMatthe313)
7. Morning Woodley (@jMatthe313)
6. GarrettRivas Island (@deboerja22)
5. Call Me Brady (@UMJason)
4. Henne Given Sunday (@JoshuaHenschke)
3. Pimpin' Ain't Ezeh (@JoshuaHenschke)
2. Texas Chainsaw Massaquoi (@supprtbradyhoke)
1. Breaston Plants
(All contributors' twitter handles that aren't submitted by me are in parentheses)
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.