Showing posts with label The University of Michigan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The University of Michigan. Show all posts

Joshua Henschke: Harmon's name and legacy speaks for itself, no need to reissue jersey

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Who gets it?
If you don't know who Tom Harmon is and are unaware of his legacy at the University of Michigan, turn in your fan card to the Michigan ticket booth immediately. Harmon, Michigan's first Heisman winner and one of the finest to ever play football for UM, will have his jersey reissued next season for Under the Lights 2.0 against Notre Dame.

An honest gesture and wonderful tribute to his legacy, I am sure. But some numbers should be permanently shelved. Harmon is one of them.

I support the decision to honor Harmon, but I feel it should be done in a different way. The fact that UM will hand out his number 98 to represent his legacy and hold high standards that Harmon once did is unfair to the player who receives the honor. For the rest of the season, the player -- presumably a running back -- will be always be known as the player who is "representing Harmon" and will be examined under a microscope. Thus adding more pressure to the player, just let the kids play football.

There's no denying that wearing the 98 is considered one of the highest honors in the Michigan program -- much like numbers 1, 2, 11, 21, etc. -- but when is enough truly enough? What is considered sacred anymore?

Harmon is already a Michigan legend. His Heisman trophy in his trophy case is enough to solidify that fact. I understand the attraction a ceremony and jersey revealing would add excitement to the stadium -- and bottom line, looking at you Dave Brandon -- but reissuing a jersey that has been stored in the vault for years doesn't make sense, especially one of those that holds great value to the program. Just store it away in a glass case in Schembechler Hall.

Harmon was a player who received a standing ovation from the Ohio State crowd in 1940. That says something. Having a rival school -- who absolutely hate your guts -- give you a standing ovation is legendary in itself. Something that hasn't happened since and will probably never happen again.

The same argument can be made for all of the recent jersey reissues. It's a neat idea for the players and a huge honor for them, but it disrupts history. We all know how important history and tradition is to the Michigan football program.

With all things considered, if the Harmon jersey issue turns out to be a one-and-done type of event, then that is acceptable. My fears is that the coaching staff will be forced to hand out the jersey number every season -- possibly to kids who may not to be ready to grasp the honor -- which will anger the alumni and would ruin the sanctity of the number and what is left behind.

Tom Harmon is a Michigan legend and deserves to be honored. Dave Brandon will create a grand event for the unveiling. Some things are better left untouched, his sacred jersey number is one of them.

The Evolution of Michigan Recruiting

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 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.”

Often referred to as the “big two, little ten,” Michigan and Ohio State are now finding themselves in recruiting battles for the best players in the Midwest. With the hirings of Meyer and Hoke, both schools have former Mid American Coaches coaches at the helm for the first time since the Woody and Bo days. The rivalry has new life and the battle for supremacy in the conference will either go through Columbus or Ann Arbor.

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.

I Was Destined to Love the Wolverines

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I was born March 25, 1990. The 90's were a great time to be a fan of the Michigan Wolverines. Cultivating into a National Championship in 1997. For 10 years, I had no idea who the Michigan Wolverines were.

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.

Introduction to Blaise Ndewa

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blaise Ndewa (Snellville, GA) is a '14 dual-threat quarterback looking for a Michigan offer. Even though Ndewa is currently a back-up quarterback, he is passionate and working hard to gain the starting position and attention from other schools. On top of that, he has one heck of an awesome first name. Fitting for a player with blazing (no pun intended) speed.

Ndewa took some time to answer some questions for me. Such as where Michigan might stand if they ever were to offer him and how they stack up against his dream school.

Q: Talk about your style at quarterback. What type of quarterback are you?

A: Here we play a spread out of the shotgun with one and three step drops. I'm considered a Dual-Threat quarterback by Rivals and Scout. I usually look to beat defenses with my arm by spreading them out then finish them with my legs. I have a clocked 40 time of a 4.65!

Q: Talk about your strengths and weaknesses at the quarterback position.
A: Well I have a lot of strengths. Such as my pregame and the love of the game, scouting, research, etc. Even though I am a backup right now, I make sure I know who we're playing, who are the stars and their strengths and weaknesses. I have a strong arm, I am mobile and I am able to do everything and more to win and help my teammates on and off the field. My weaknesses are things like consistency, putting steam on throws from time to time, reading the field or telling differences in schemes and coverages. Also, my weight isn't where I want it to be. I have to gain about 5-10 lbs.

Q: Have you always been a Michigan fan?  Why do you want a Michigan offer?
A: I have not always been a fan, to be honest. I've heard and liked the program but here in Georgia I don't get to see much of them and whats going on up there. But I love a lot of things about Michigan. that I respect. From the most win's in college football history, coach Carr offering Tom Brady, Heisman winners in the program, things like that. I would LOVE an offer from Michigan. To know they see potential in me and that I can help a program get back to their winning ways while destroying teams on a path to WIN championships. It helps that their education isn't bad either. A degree from there means something too.
But on the side I love the school, coaches, tradition and players. Even though I'm more of a Nike guy, I would be putting on the maize and blue! My dream school is the University of Georgia. I will try to get up to Michigan later this summer or definitely by next year to check everything out and meet with the coaches.

Q: If the time comes that you receive a Michigan offer, what would be your initial thoughts? Also, would Michigan be receiving a commitment from you if you were to receive an offer?
A: I'm not sure. Of course I'd be excited, honored and blessed. But I can't rehearse emotions especially of things so important and that could change me and my family's life. In regards to committing, it depends on my offer list at the time, and also how many quarterbacks Michigan are taking. It also depends on whether my dream school is interested or even offers me. It'll be tough not to, but I would consider it very much.

Q: Finally, what are you doing preparing for your junior year and also preparing for college offers?
A:  Right now I'll be attending as many camps as I can, throwing a lot and trying to put on weight to build to my frame. Hopefully I continue to grow and hit about 6'4'' even 6'5'' over the next couple of years. Since right now I'm currently standing at 6'2''. 

Q & A Sessions: Kenny Allen

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I recently caught up with 2012 walk-on punter Kenny Allen briefly today. He is being joined by his teammate and long snapper Tyler Tokarsky from Fenton, MI. Read on to find out about this talented kicker and punter.

Q: Talk about your feelings regarding the Alabama game. This will be the first game you might dress for, how big is that for you?

A: I can't even describe how excited I am for that game. I don't know for sure if I will be on the travel squad but I'm going to work as hard as I can to make it.  

Q: You're heading to Ann Arbor with your long snapper (Tyler Tokarsky) from high school. From a kicker/punter standpoint, how important is chemistry between a kicker/punter and his long snapper?

A: The chemistry between a kicker/punter and his long snapper is very important because when they're out on the field it comes down to them and the holder. They have to be able to trust them and work together to make everything go as smooth as possible. I trust Tyler 150% to give me a good clean snap.

Q: Have the coaches given you any indication whether you will be given a chance to compete for the starting punter position?

A: I planned on redshirting but I was told that I can compete for the starting job. It just depends on how well I perform this fall.

Q: After your career as a Michigan Wolverine is over, what would you like to say that you have accomplish during your four years?

A: I have high hopes for myself, as should every college athlete. I hope I can say I was an important contribution to the team and put in a lot of hard work. I hope to be able to say I was an all-league punter an maybe All American.
Q: What are you doing in regards to training to prepare to head to school?

A: As far as training goes, I kick 2-3 times a week. I also work out and run. I don't really have a schedule until I get down there in June. But, I just do what I have been doing for the past year or so.

Q: Final question, why be a Michigan Wolverine? What drew you to that school?
A:  For me it was easy to pick Michigan, I even turned down a full ride. I've always been a Michigan fan and I wanted to be a part of everything that Michigan stands for. The tradition and atmosphere in Ann Arbor is great and the education is the best around so I wanted a degree from there too.

Go Blue!

Follow us on Twitter: @TBHReport
Follow Joshua on Twitter: @JoshuaHenschke

Q & A Sessions: Troy Woolfolk

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

From broken ankles, to broken hands. Troy Woolfolk is the definition of a warrior. Enduring injuries for most of his Michigan career, he was able to finish of a hobbled 2011 season with a Sugar Bowl victory. The biggest thing for Woolfolk is that him and fellow seniors from Team 132 were able to taste the sweetness of victory once again. Something they've wanted since their victory over Florida in the Capital One Bowl their freshman year.

Woolfolk took some time to answer a few of my questions.

Q: A major discussion piece for the past couple of seasons was how uncharacteristically bad the Michigan defense was under Greg Robinson. In your opinion, what made your defense so successful under Greg Mattison?

A: I would say the main thing was knowing what the whole defense was and paying attention to detail. With Mattison, he really stressed that everyone on the team not only knowing their own position, but knowing other positions as well. One way he did that was by having full defensive meetings. Very rarely was there individual meetings. The majority of the meetings were the full defense together including the defensive lineman, the defensive backs as well as the linebackers. I think it allowed the defense to understand the defense and be able to work in unison rather than individuals on the field. At the end of the year, I felt like I knew what the linebackers were doing, what the cornerbacks were doing while I was playing safety. Which allowed me to know where my help, which is one thing he always stressed. It allows you to craft your game, to aid you on the field a little bit. Knowing the defense is what made our defense much better. In the past, many times we had balls thrown over our heads or blown coverages. I just think miscommunication with the linebackers and defensive backs was an issue because we would never meet together. The only time we would meet with the rest of the defense was during a special teams meeting or a full team meeting.

Q: Do you feel under Rich Rodriguez that the defense was ignored, in a sense?

A: I wouldn't say ignored, but I would say he did focus more on the offense. I just think that's his skill-set. I feel like he wasn't very familiar with the defense, which was the reason he went and hired Coach Robinson to take care of that. Which basically meant him telling to take care of that, while I take care of this, in a way. He would monitor us every now and then. I think another problem was that we were never really comfortable with the defense. In 2008 we switched up the defenses three times in one year when Coach Schafer was there. I think it didn't allow the defense to work in unison and actually work. There wasn't enough consistency

Q: Talk about the seniors of Team 132. What kind of impact do you feel you and your fellow seniors left on the program?

A: This was a special class because this was one of Lloyd Carr's last recruiting classes. When we came in here, we came into a winning tradition. That's how it was our freshman year. We beat Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin in the Capital One Bowl. We should've won the Big Ten but lost it to Wisconsin. We came in to a winning tradition and we felt a love for that Michigan winning tradition. Then we had to go through a 3-9 record our sophomore year. We just wanted to get back to our winning ways. That was our goal as a senior class to go out how we came in. We committed our time to do anything on and off the field to make that happen.

Q: What was it about Brady Hoke that brought the team together and cap off an incredible 2011 season?

A: I think Brady Hoke is a very intelligent man. He used unorthodox techniques to induce team unity. We went to an area, I can't remember where it was, ten minutes off campus and it was an open area that had a lot of team activities to get you closer with your teammates. Some activities you had to work with your teammates in order to succeed. It just taught us how to be dependent on our team and individuals won't survive.

Q:  What do you feel was your most memorable moment as a player at the University of Michigan?

A: My most memorable moment had to be the Notre Dame game this year. Every year we played Notre Dame is a great game. In 2009 we had the catch from Greg Mathews for the touchdown, this year you had Roy Roundtree. I would say it was my most memorable for a number of reasons. Number one, it was the first night game in Michigan Stadium history. We broke out the new jerseys, and so did they. Everything lead up to where it had to be a good game, it just had to be. It has to be one of the top games in football history. I just wish I didn't have a broken hand so I could look sleek in my new jersey (laughs).

Q: You mentioned the new jerseys. As a player, how do you feel about introducing new jerseys at a school that has a ton of tradition in regards to their jerseys.

A:  I may get in trouble for saying this, but I'm all about new things. I respect tradition and I think it's very important. As long as we never change our biggest tradition, a winning tradition at Michigan, I think it's okay to introduce new jerseys. One thing I will never want to see change, is the helmets. You can change the jerseys but don't touch the winged helmet. I think that's the one thing I will never want to see change on the Michigan uniform.

Q:  Twitter user @B_Hugh21 asked: How severe was your ankle injury during the season?

A: It was actually way more severe than I tried to lead on to people. It wasn't until after the season, when I played in my All-Star game, where I was 100 percent. I wasn't 100 percent the whole season and I noticed it when I was just planting off it. It wasn't as sturdy as it used to be and it was more of a mental challenge getting over it. I was scared that it may break again. It really did change me as a player. I really wish that I had another year to play on it to show what my true potential is.

Q: Twitter user @FilthyJeepGirl asked: What would it mean to you personally to play on a team that your father played for? Also, did you learn through Dallas that could give you a competitive edge in Detroit?

A:  It would mean a lot, as people would say I am following in my fathers footsteps. My father is my hero. For me to be able to do what he did would be the ultimate accomplishment. I really want to make him feel proud, and I think it would be a great way to do it. If I were to make the team, I am going to try and get his jersey number (24) as well. As far as an edge in Detroit, nothing specific. I would say the experience will help me. When I got to Dallas I was nervous and a little hesitant to make certain plays. Now I already have a rookie camp under my belt and I'm less nervous and ready to go out there and play.

Q: Talk about the upcoming year for the Wolverines. They're returning a lot of guys on defense but also lost some experienced players on the line. How will the defense fare in 2012?

A:  I think the secondary will be one of the top secondary's in the nation. You've got a young upcoming star in Blake Countess and J.T. Floyd is proving himself from last year. Obviously, you've got Jordan Kovacs who is a phenomenal player and one of the smartest people I've been around. Thomas Gordon is going to have a great year. I think the strong suit of this defense is going to be the secondary. Of course the linebackers headed by Kenny Demens is going to be good as well. The question mark I am curious to see answered is the defensive lineman. Will they be able to replace Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. I think that might be the one true test and the only crack I could see in this defense. If Big Will (Campbell) can rattle them up, I think it's going to be a great year on defense. We are going to give Alabama some hell when we play them at Dallas Stadium this year.

Q & A Sessions: Jim Brandstatter

Monday, May 21, 2012

 You may recognize him on television doing regular "Inside Michigan Football" broadcasts. You might even recognize him as the other half of the Michigan and Detroit Lions radio duos we hear during their respective seasons. No matter how you may recognize him, you can never forget a name.

In a historic moment for The Big House Report. Jim Brandstatter recently took time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions for me.

Q: To start, run us through a regular week you and your broadcasting team go through in order to prepare for a game.

A: I'll start on Monday, since Sunday is the end of the work week in regards to football broadcasts . Monday morning, I get up around eight in the morning and head over to Ann Arbor since that's where we film the Inside Michigan Football Show. Whether it's an away game for the Lions and I get home around one in the morning, I have to be there by 9:30 a.m. to film the show. Pat McLaughlin, our producer, puts the show together and sends it to Fox Sports Detroit by 4 p.m. so they can get it in their system and be ready to go by six o'clock that night. Tuesday, would be most normally an off day for me. It's one of those days where I try to get some reading done. You work the Internet to study both the Michigan and Lions upcoming opponent. Wednesday is a day where we taped a radio show with Brady Hoke live from the Pizza House in Ann Arbor. During the day Wednesday, you would prepare for that. You do the show from 7-8 p.m. and you're home around 9-10 o'clock at night. Now Thursday I usually go over to the Lions and do the pregame type show. I do my pregame show called "Keys to the Game", then I come home and start doing my "two-deeps". Every person who does play-by-play has their own spotting chart. I do my own by PowerPoint. I start with Michigan's opponent (heights, weights, etc) and then I start working on the Lions opponent, and that takes about four hours or so. If I have any more time Thursday I look at tape which is the same thing I do Friday. Friday, I look at tape I have recorded on my DVR and sometimes I will transfer them to DVD. I look at those to get a sense of the opponent and to make mental notes on who they are, who's dangerous and who I like. I usually do that most of the day Friday. Saturday, I get up and go to the game. After the game is over, if it's a Lions home game I will typically go home, and if it's away I will usually take a plane that night to get wherever the Lions are playing. On Sunday, if the Michigan plays a late game I have to get up early and catch a flight to wherever the Lions are playing. If the Lions are at home, I drive to Ford Field and do the game, and Monday it starts over. My week is busy, it keeps me off the streets (laughs).

Q: As a broadcaster, how difficult is it to contain emotions during a game? Especially during a time in a game that might be incredibly stressful.

A: (laughs) It's part of the job, you've got to be professional and you've got to do your job. You have to emotional to a certain degree because if you don't show that emotion I feel that you're doing your listener a little bit of a disservice because they're emotional and they want you to be in the same mold they're in. But at the same time you've got to make sure that you put a lid on it and make sure you're still an observer and a teller of the story. You can tell it with a heavy heart or with great joy but still make sure they get an accurate story. Your emotion in that story will help them along because football is an emotional game. You learn to keep it in check over the years, and you also learn to let the emotion of the crowd in the stadium almost take over. Sometimes it's almost better not to say a word and let the crowd noise come through the stadium and describe the event to the listener to make them feel like they're there, that's the best you can do.

Q: In your opinion, what would you consider your favorite moment as a broadcaster for Michigan?

A: I think in 1997 when they won the National Championship by beating Washington State. In the locker room when Lloyd Carr grabbed those guys and turned around and said "you have just won the National Championship", that was a special moment and a special season. Frank Beckmann and I both felt the same way. That was one of those moments you don't see happen often. They've also been great memorable plays. Such as Desmond's catch against Notre Dame, Mercury Hayes catch in Lloyd's first game and Anthony Carter's catch against Indiana. Those were improbable, impractical things that happen were it comes at you. But, when you're witnessing a head coach telling his players something that is monumental and momentous in regards to Michigan football where they hadn't won a national title in 50 years, that was a really special moment to be apart of that.

Q: In your opinion, what would you consider your favorite moment as a play for Michigan?

A: There are so many memories. Obviously, the victory in '69 and that moment after that game. When Bo came in, we didn't like him very much. He put us through hell and we really as a team, he wasn't our favorite guy. Yet after that game in '69 when we pulled that upset, at the time you didn't know how momentous it was. You knew it was huge, it set up 40 years of excellence and the Schembechler Era didn't really end until Lloyd retired. That game was the watershed game for a lot of years down the road, we didn't realize that at the time. At that moment we kind of looked at ourselves and thought "You know what? The guy is crazy, but there's a reason". We have to do what he put us through in order to become a team that wins Big Ten Championships. This is what it takes. He was the one that took us there kicking and screaming. There were many more after '69, such as beating Michigan State and Ohio State my Senior year in '71 for an unbeaten season, those are just great moments. But that '69 moment, if you look back at it, in what legacy that game left probably was that great moment with Bo.

Q: Talk a little about Bo. What was he like as a coach and a person without the headset on.

A: Bo was a guy that constantly pushed you to be better at whatever you did. Even after you graduated. He'd ask you how you were doing, he would help you if he could to get better, to improve each and every day. The lessons we learned playing with him we carry to this very day. All the work I do during the week partly comes from his understanding of being better prepared than the other guy. You've got to outwork the other guy in order to be successful, that all comes from him. When you ask what kind of guy he was. He was a friend, he was a mentor, he was extremely funny. He could tell a joke or a story as well as any human being out there. One of the great joys of life is sitting around with him and a few of his college football buddies and be a fly on a wall and listen to the stories. Because they were beautiful and funny and yet they were also lessons learned about how to coach. I will never forget him talking about in 1984, when he had the bad year (6-6 season). He said" I forgot to do one thing. I forgot to coach attitude." I'll never forget that for the rest of my life. He just never left a stone unturned. He was very, very approachable. I think that's the one thing many people may not have understood if he was this icon and a very famous guy, and yet he was very approachable. I don't believe he ever turned an autograph down. He was extremely approachable and very interested in people. He was curious and interested in other human beings. That to me, was Bo Schembechler. A really great guy.

Q: At 11-2 last year, do you feel the team "over-achieved" in a sense? How do you feel Michigan will fare this year?

A: I don't know whether I'd say over-achieved. But I think they played out to their potential and beyond that. Particularly on the defensive side of the ball. I think Greg Mattison did a great job, he changed an attitude on the defense and changed the scheme. Everyone of those kids bought in and got the job done. It was amazing to watch but it was also, in my judgement, you learn a lot from a team like that. All of the talk about talent and everything else. But, if you get them in the right scheme and you've got them believing and playing hard, they can do things they don't think they can do. Very similar to what Schembechler did and how he coached. My belief is that this year, from a scheduling standpoint, they've got a very difficult schedule. While they may be better as a football team, they may not win 11 games. Going down to Dallas to play Alabama. They have to go on the road against Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre. All three of those teams really want a piece of Michigan. I truly believe that they are going to get better and better every year under Brady Hoke. I think this year you're going to see some younger kids playing. You're going to see Freshman and Sophomores that Hoke recruited the last couple of years that are going to be guys that are going to be contributors, and I expect that to continue. I think they can be in the mix for the Big Ten Championship this year and again it depends on the road games.  You've got to beat Michigan State at home. Ultimately it's going to come down to Ohio State on the road. You're going to have to get the job done in the Big Ten, and you're going to have to get it done on the road.

Q & A Sessions: Greg Mathews

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Photo Courtesy of Detroit Free Press
It was September 12th, 2009. Michigan would be hosting it's yearly rivalry game against Notre Dame. Rivalries such as the Michigan and Notre Dame game are defined by moments. This moment in particular was a marquee victory for Rich Rodriguez in his young and flailing coaching career at Michigan. For the moment maker, it's something he will ever forget. Michigan and former NFL wide receiver Greg Mathews took some time out of his training schedule to answer a few questions.

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.

Monday Monologue 05.07.12

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tommy Rees Mugshot, Photo Courtesy of
Lance is a diehard Michigan fan based deep in enemy territory (Columbus, Ohio). You can follow him on Twitter . Look for his "Monday Monologue" series every Monday right here at The Big House Report!

Monday Monologue 05.07.12

Notre Dame starting QB Tommy Rees made headlines for punching a cop last week. Punching a cop raised a few eyebrows, but the real shocker was
that he hit his target. There really is a first time for everything.

Don't plan on harsh punishment for Tommy Rees. Head coach Brian Kelly only gave wide receiver Michael Floyd a slap on the wrist for his DUI last year. He is expected to follow his standard player discipline policy, the one also used by Urban Meyer and Mike Dantonio. This policy is known as "no player discipline whatsoever".

After Sparty missed out on yet another BCS bowl, former MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins complained that Michigan got rewarded by playing in the Sugar Bowl, even though they were at home "sitting on their couch". Now that Kirk Cousins got drafted by the same team as Robert Griffin III, Cousins will finally get his wish. No, he will not go to a BCS game, but he will get to be home and sit on his couch a lot.

Speaking of Urban Meyer, they've discovered another defect in the wall he built around Ohio. By now, you know that he built "the border" to keep the best recruits in-state, and that has failed miserably. The wall also lets very creepy dudes into not only the state, but photographs
with Buckeye football players and recruits.

The whole recruit stalking situation has been a really gross and disturbing development for many. Not only is it causing recruits to leave that school in Ohio, it makes me really not want to go to Buffalo
Wild Wings on trivia night. And I love my wings.

Centers David Molk of Michigan and Mike Brewster of O$U had a twitter feud a few months ago, regarding Molk saying he should be drafted higher. One of the highlights was Brewster tweeting "keep my name out of your mouth, Molk". Apparently NFL teams took this to mean "keep my name
off your draft board" as Brewster went undrafted this year.

Mike Martin Drafted!

Friday, April 27, 2012

From watching Mike Martin breaking the collarbone of my high school quarterback during our Senior year of high school, to watching Martin beat Ohio during his Senior year of college. Martin's journey will continue to the NFL!

Martin was selected in the 3rd round (number 82 overall) by the Tennessee Titans! Congratulations, Mike!

Q & A Sessions: Tyler Tokarsky

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tyler Tokarsky (Fenton, MI)  is a 2012 walk-on long snapper for the Michigan Wolverines. Tokarsky took some time out to answer a few questions for us. What are his thoughts on Teybor Pepper? Read on to find out!  

Q: First off, we'll start with a simple question. Why the University of Michigan? What were the major factors that drew you in?

A: Well, I've been a huge Michigan fan since the time I began watching sports, and my parents told me at a young age that it's a world-class university. It's cliche and often overused, but the academics truly were the biggest factor in my desire to attend school here. I learned to love the teams as well as the school itself and I subsequently set a goal to attend school in Ann Arbor. I always got good grades with the possibility of attending Michigan in mind. I always wanted to play football here, but originally I wanted to be an offensive tackle. Jake Long played in the same league as my high school, and I actually met him when I was a waterboy for the varsity team in 5th grade. I was a big kid growing up, but I didn't keep growing as fast as I was for a while, so I got resourceful and decided to take up long snapping to keep the dream alive once I realized I wasn't going to ever be 6'6. There was never another school for me, I was going to come to Michigan whether I was playing football or not. I got accepted back in December, a month and a half before the coaches even knew how to spell my name or had my film. If they didn't take me now, I would have kept working and went to the student body tryouts.

Q: You recently tweeted saying that you wanted to be the first long snapper to ever go number one overall in the NFL Draft. What's it going to take in order to make that happen? No goal is ever too lofty.

A: (Laughs) That tweet was mostly in spirit of the NFL Draft tonight rather than being an actual goal, but it never hurts to have goals. Any goal I'll have has the same formula to achieve it; I have to work hard as a student and an athlete in every aspect of life. Even as a long snapper, I have to work out hard and continue to eat healthy. I have to maintain my grades, because my 3.97 unweighted GPA was one of the main reasons the coaches even reviewed my film in the first place, so I will always know the value of taking schoolwork seriously. And more than anything, I always remember to never become too important to do my own laundry. I always stay humble and work to be better than the guy in front of me and make sure the guy behind me can't catch up. Even as a walk-on, I get a lot of attention and I love the fans but I hate the praise. Always stay humble.

Q: What are some goals you would like to achieve before your playing career at Michigan is over?

A: Well after Jareth and Curt graduate in two years, I'll be the oldest snapper on the roster. I'm sure my coaches will bring in at least another guy or two in the years behind me, but as of right now the depth chart points to me. The coaches are obviously going to bring in guys in the years behind me, but I'm going to work harder and more efficiently than anyone else that joins me on the roster. My dad was a coach at my high school, so I always worked harder than anyone else to make sure there was no doubt that I was the best option for the job rather than just a coach's kid getting preferential treatment. Even if I never see the field, I'll have a great degree in my hands and know that I've done absolutely everything I could to be successful. I'm already living the dream, anything more is just icing on the cake.

Q: Regardless of position on the field, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. What are those for you in your position as long snapper?

A: As far as my strengths go, I'm a very cerebral player. There were numerous big moments in games last year and I never lost my cool. Me and Kenny would always just make small talk on the sidelines before we went out on the field to help calm each other's nerves. I always stay loose and relaxed before and during the game. I never doubt my abilities, I've made that same snap 5,000 times before, so why should I get nervous? One disadvantage I do have is the fact that I'm only 6'0 and 210 lbs right now, 6'1 in cleats. That won't be a huge issue down the road though because I'm a gym rat and pretty strong for my size. By the time I see the field I'll have been in a college weight program for several years and be much stronger and bigger than I am. My height is also an advantage though, I can generate more force and create more elasticity over a shorter distance, which helps with the velocity of my snaps.
Q: Have you received any indication from the coaches that the possibility of early playing time as a Freshman or Sophomore is a possibility?

A: I've already touched on this in my previous answers, but I likely won't see the field in the first year or two unless someone gets hurt. Only 105 players can report in June and I was one of the last guys to sign, so I might not even go down until August as a freshman. In all honesty though, I'd rather take a redshirt for several reasons. I'd like to put on some additional weight and strength before I see the field, but more importantly, I'd like to make the most out of my education. I want to at least begin working towards my Master's degree if possible, and that process is helped by staying on campus for 5 years. And besides, who wouldn't want to spend an extra year here?

Q: Recently, fellow long snapper Taybor Pepper switched his commitment from Michigan to Michigan State. How does that make you feel about your chances, and what can you do to make him regret that decision?

A: First off, I'd like to congratulate Taybor on that scholarship. Free college is free college, I can't blame him on that decision, I'm sure he'll do great over in East Lansing. His decision obviously helps my chances, since that's one less person to compete with. I was looking forward to competing with him though, it's always good to have someone pushing you to get better. I'm just looking forward to working hard and ultimately it's not up to me, the coaches will make the decision as far as who starts. And, well, I'm not going to make him regret it personally, but I'm going to do everything within my power to make sure the Paul Bunyan trophy comes back, and stays at, Schembechler Hall for the foreseeable future.

Q: Have you always been a Michigan fan? If so, how do you feel about Ohio State and MSU?

A: As if I haven't given it away already, yes I've always been a huge Michigan fan since I saw my first game. I didn't start watching football until 5th grade, but thankfully that's the case. If the first game I watched wasn't the one it was, I might not have had to never-ending desire to be a Wolverine like I do. The first game I ever watched was the '04 Michigan-MSU game during Henne and Hart's freshman season in which Braylon decided to put the team on his back. Needless to say my mind was blown and I've been riding a high from that game ever since. I love my school and will bleed Maize and Blue until I die. As far as Ohio and State, let's just I'm not very fond of them. At all. Instead of talking bad about them I'm going to be classy and say that I respect them, but don't like them in the very least. Class is one thing that is incredibly important to me and I can't stand people that don't present themselves with class.

You can view Tokarsky's highlight tape, here.

Chris Mays: The Waiting Game

Chris Mays is a University of Michigan student on a journey to find a place on the football team. Mays will be submitting "journals" discussing the trials and tribulations on his road to success, and will also update us on his progress. Remember to support Chris Mays on Twitter and to use the hash tag #MakeChrisMaysAVictor!

The Waiting Game

When I first decided to keep on pursuing to be on Team 133 despite being cut, I knew that my odds were staked up against me, but I was determined to make a good comeback and do whatever it takes so that I can walk on that field with a winged helmet on at the Big House. It's something that I continue to do so this day, I haven't given up on it. I've been working out, training as hard as I can, and now that finals are done I can put more effort into my work. But one thing that has been a problem for me recently is not just making sure that I'm in shape for the coaches--but getting in reach of them in general. 

I like to say that it's a waiting game and it's almost impossible to try to get a immediate response. In some cases, the silence in emails, replies, or constant voicemails that I leave can be more discouraging then having someone tell you that you can't make it right in front of your face. It's a mind battle. Trying to figure out who to contact and when was almost just as difficult. It took me literally weeks for me to finally get the connections that I need to even express my determination to make it. As frustrating as it sounds, the greater the reward is when I get that phone call or email back. Sometimes their helpful other times I'm told to get in contact with someone else. But with every effort that I make I know that I am getting closer and closer to making this a reality. And with people constantly telling me to keep going for it and to not stop, well that gives me even more confidence to keep fighting.

One thing that I've learned so far in this particular point in my journey is that there is a lot of mental games-especially when you're trying to make it on the team. There will be times where people say it's too late, but I know from other experiences and friends from Summer Bridge that have told me stories about how they tried out right at the end of the August and were able to participate in the 2010 season. That gave me hope. It's never too late. There is still over a 100 days till kickoff and a lot can happen. But more importantly, a lot can change for me. If I stay focused, stay positive, energetic, and show that I have a true passion for this sport and will do whatever it takes to get on Team 133--well that may just be the recipe I need to make this happen.

Another advise that I was given, by Coach Al Borges himself a month ago, is to never let the coaches forget who you are and what passion you have for the sport and to never let anyone take your dream away from you. That really hit me. I realized that from that point on that I would have to make sure that not only am I improving, but that eventually people would catch on and that coaches would notice my effort too. That when I decided to go public about my tryout attempts to hope that with a support and prayer that people will get the word out and that it would spread to not only the university, but also to kids who were struggling with believing that they can overcome high odds in sports. And let me tell you--it has gone far beyond what I have ever imagined. I would have never guessed that this strategy would have worked and how touched that people are that I'm doing this. I've never seen so many compliments and well wishes for me in something in years! I was literally blown away that former Football players even emailed me with words of wisdom. 

So even though it's been a difficult week trying to get in reach of coaches, I know that with the words of wisdom, encouragement, and faith that I have been given by hundreds and thousands of people, that I will be able to be successful. No matter what, never give up and eventually you will see that those doors will open for you. That those days that I have spent impatient between phone calls will eventually pay off. I know they will and I will continue to stay positive and work hard to reach that.

Chris Mays: The Battle for Confidence

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chris Mays is a University of Michigan student on a journey to find a place on the football team. Mays will be submitting "journals" discussing the trials and tribulations on his road to success, and will also update us on his progress. Remember to support Chris Mays on Twitter and to use the hash tag #MakeChrisMaysAVictor!

The Battle for Confidence

Throughout my journey and determination to get a second shot, I have run across a lot of encouragement and a lot of great words of advise from people on Twitter, Facebook, and in person. So much that I have barely enough time or the opportunity to thank each and every one of them. Through my videos, tweets, and status updates I have been given words of encouragement, testimony of never giving up, and words of support on how to approach the subject.

Yet, despite all of this, there is still a shadow behind me that I've never seemed to shake off me for most of my life, a part of me that grew over the years from a lot of negativity and lack of confidence--myself.

You see, there are times where I feel that I can be my best friend, but when it comes to doing something that I want to do, I can be my own worst critic and enemy. I used to get discouraged so much in a lot of what I did that even leaving high school I learned to "limit" myself or to criticize my own actions without the help of others. It was almost like I was destroying myself, and I knew it, but I just didn't know how to get out of it.

Football was, and still is, definitely something that I have long wanted to pursue, but even at this point, I've let what others and my discouragement sometimes  get in the way of being successful. I always fear that I was destined for failure, with no matter what I did. Everything that I seemed so great to desire would either be delayed or destroyed because of an event, circumstances that I couldn't control, or words of discouragement. That continued to haunt me--especially in high school football. There were many times where after being discouraged by some players and I pressured myself into thinking that I couldn't do it. It would get in my head sometimes during plays and drills so much that I would get headaches or couldn't sleep. And on top of that, I saw others doing really well reaching their goals and pressing forward, but for me it always seemed like I was stuck in one zone and the only place that I was going was down, no matter how hard I worked.

There were very few moments where I found encouragement to keep pressuring forward to reach my goal--especially with applying to the University of Michigan. I can't tell you how many times counselors told me not to apply to Michigan because I would get rejected. I had very good grades and a good GPA, but for some reason they thought that putting me down even on my education would help to brighten my future. This sense of hopelessness and giving up tormented me and depressed me a lot. But I did a rare act--I applied anyway. I wasn't going to let anyone take my dream from me about going to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I had a life to live, and I wasn't going to let someone dictate to me my destiny through way they saw me as. I worked on hard on my essays presenting every case for why I should be a Wolverine and why I would be an investment that they would never forget. I placed passion and hard work into those essays, so much that I began to enjoy the process. When I finally submitted the application, I almost immediately second guessed myself. Would they even care? Did I convince that I wasn't just an ordinary student? Did I do everything perfect? Was I a well-rounded student?

I didn't hear until May, right when I was about to accept going to Michigan State for freshman year that the University of Michigan came and knocked on my door. For once a dream that I had long wanted to chase seemed to be going on track. A dream or a goal that I worked hard to get into despite all of my struggles finally became a reality. I'm not going to lie--I did shed a few tears. I was so proud of myself. I had never had such a confidence or sense of worth in a very long time. Right that day I tore up my MSU acceptance letter, stored all my MSU gear away, and started preparing for the Summer Bridge program in June.

So you see, confidence and determination is something that I have always worked hard to present to everything that I do--especially in football. As I have continued this journey there have been times where I have thought about giving up and just accepting that my years of hard work "just weren't meant to be". It's almost a never ending battle with me, even as I keep trying this up. But, I know now that if I continue at it and that if I maintain that determination, never letting someone take away my dignity or dream, that I can achieve anything. I know the odds are stacked against me, they were stacked against me almost every point of my life. But you know what, every since I've been going public about my dream, I've receieved so much confidence and self esteem to keep going and that my passion and determination for this sport will be eventually recognized. I used always have an "expect the worst, prepare for the best" attitude, now I expect nothing but greatness in this journey.

I'm going to be a success and I'm going to win this battle and stay on top of school. That's why I'm giving all I've got, that's why I'm giving all I have and putting it into this. I'm going to get there, no matter the odds, no matter what it takes. I'm going to get there.

Q & A Sessions: Anonymous Source From Michigan Marching Band

Thursday, April 19, 2012

As we're all aware by now, Dave Brandon and the athletic department have made it public that the University will not be sending the marching band to Dallas when the Wolverines take on Alabama.
I recently spoke with an anonymous source from the University of Michigan Marching Band to get their opinions on the news of the band not going to Dallas this fall.

Q: It's obviously disheartening news to hear that you will not be able to participate in Dallas. What were your initial thoughts when you first heard the news? After you've had some time to think on it, what are you feeling now?
A: When I first heard the news, I was shocked. From all the talk and preparation for the Cowboys Classic, the last e-mail I expected from Dr. Boerma was one stating that the MMB would no longer be attending the game. I feel that if we are a part of athletics then we should be budgeted into the trip as well. I know a large group of people who go to the games to see the MMB just as much as the football team.
Q: Was the band preparing for September already?

A: In a way yes, we were working out a new summer band camp schedule and planning on starting early in order to get our new members where they needed to be by the time of the Cowboys Classic. Every one of the returning members were ready to sacrifice a few more days out of summer for the good of the band. 

Q: Do you feel the marching band is a part of the team? What do you think the contributions that the marching band does to the Big House crowd on Saturdays?
A: I feel like the marching band is a part of the team. We practice daily, we watch film, we get "coached", we perform. Brady Hoke even commended us this summer on our "Three-a-Days" saying that we were having longer practices than Team 132. I feel that the marching band brings tradition to the Big House on Saturdays, from the practice out at Elbel field, to the Step Show before the game, the parade to the Big House, to the entries out of the tunnel, all of it contributes to the tradition of the MMB and the Big House. The MMB is just as important as the football team to me. 

Q: What's next? Is the marching band preparing to protest or arrange some sort of fundraising event?

A: Well, a lot of the members of the marching band have been tweeting #MMBtoDallas on twitter and posting on Facebook as well. Members of the Million Dollar Band (Alabama) have started a Facebook group called "University of Alabama support Michigan Marching Band #MMBTODALLAS" to raise awareness and support. And concerned students, alumnus, faculty, fans, and supporters of the MMB will be hosting a rally at 2 pm at the Diag on 4/20 in support of the MMB. As well as donations, from strong supporters of the MMB and Michigan Football. 

Q: If you could tell David Brandon and the other members of the athletic director why you and the marching band deserve to go to Dallas, what would you say?

A: I would say that the public has really spoken about the way they feel about the MMB no longer attending the Cowboys Classic. The band is a crucial part of Michigan Football and the game just wouldn't be the same without the Victors being played after every score or Temptation after stopping Alabama on 3rd Down. And I would leave him with a quote from the great Bo Schembechler, "The next time I go into a war, I want my band with me!". 

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