Time for a New Michigan Tradition: Respect for our Student Athletes in a Digital World

Imagine growing up as Maize and Blue-blooded as the most die-hard of Michigan fans. Wearing your Charles Woodson jersey to school the day before a game for good luck. Daydreaming of catching a pass from Tom Brady.HenneGetting to the Big House three hours early to get the best spot to stretch your arm over the rail of the tunnel and slap hands with the likes of LaMarr Woodley, Cato June or Chad Henne – not unlike any other kid with a dream.

Now, fast forward a few years. And you’ve done it.  You worked long enough and hard enough to become one of the gridiron heroes you had always looked up to.

You are a Michigan Wolverine.

This story of dreams realized is not just a story, but the story of many of the players who proudly carry on our cherished Michigan tradition as members of Team 135.

And, I feel that the time has come for all of us to regain our perspective as to who these kids are.

The kids out on that football field in Michigan Stadium are the same kids who had dreamt of being there.  And, we as fans are lucky enough to play a part in what it is they have come to Michigan to experience: an opportunity unlike any other in college football. The chance to wear the Winged Helmet.  The chance to feel the chills as they run out of the tunnel on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to the tune of “The Victors” sung by 112,000+ die-hard football fans who have packed in to watch them take on the conference’s biggest foes.  The chance to become a Michigan Man.

It’s what they were born to do.  Play football on the biggest stage.  And it’s their time.

Their grind is endless, but even as they work toward their goal, they’ve known since day one that their dream would come with a price.  Holidays missed. Birthdays spent running drills in rain and 43-degree weather.  Countless hours spent giving everything that they have both on and off the field to the sport and the university that they love. But, they do it all with pride. For the love of the game and the community they represent.

They’re learning.  They’re growing.  They’re KIDS.

Inevitably, of course, losses happen.  Mistakes happen. But lately, instead of shouts of “you’ll get ’em next time” or “keep your head up”, a number of rogue ‘fans’ choose to get angry and take to outlets such as Twitter and Facebook to irrationally attack and condemn our student-athletes because they didn’t get that two-point conversion in the third quarter.

Sadly, even the most ardent Michigan fan’s “Go Blue!” is now drowned out by racially-charged messages aimed to demean and denigrate our quarterback because, well, there were just way too many interceptions thrown that afternoon – and he needs to hear about it.

As if he doesn’t feel bad enough about it already.

When did the paradigm shift?  And what are these kids doing to deserve this kind of treatment – other than playing the game that they love?

I mean, can you imagine what that must feel like?  Every day. Knowing that every time you log on to social media, you will be subjected to derisive ridicule and some of the worst kinds of correspondence from some of the worst kinds of people.  In this day of smart phones, tablets and 24-hour news, boundaries are virtually non-existent. There is no ‘off’ switch.
BannerJust take a moment to put yourself in their position as an 18 to 23-year-old college student (or a recruit, for that matter).  It’s hard to imagine what our own lives would’ve looked like to others when we were that age. The successes, the failures, the mistakes.  I’m sure that we all have some moments from that time in our lives that if examined under our modern social media microscope would be very easy to judge from the comfort of our respective keyboards.

So, in light of all of this, I feel that it’s time we start a new tradition.  It’s time we all begin to show our student-athletes a lot more of our online respect as a Michigan family.

When in doubt, simply step away from the computer.  And breathe.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am by no means writing this to tell you that you aren’t allowed to get angry.  That you aren’t allowed to get frustrated when things aren’t going our way. It’s ok to be passionate.  Truth be told, some of the things I have said during a game within the friendly confines of my living room have been a bit NSFW to say the least. Believe me. I get it.  But, taking that type of passion and choosing to aim it toward our student-athletes as a form of misdirected hostility is just something that none of us should ever do.


It’s as simple as that.

I know that the words in this post aren’t going to just change people and their attitudes.  This message isn’t going to all of a sudden magically alter people’s personalities and make all of the hate and judgment evaporate from my timeline in an instant.

But, perhaps it will help someone to think twice when they feel the need to spew vitriol at a teenager over a football game. Or maybe it will help fans use their head before they inappropriately display their anguish online by threatening a recruit over the fact that they chose to live out their collegiate football dream at another university because it was what was best for them.

Hopefully, it will remind fans to think about the student-athlete.  The player’s family. Their friends.  Maybe now, they will  stop to consider the player’s deathless loyalty to the program that all of us love more than anything else in the world – and recognize that while they may not be meeting your expectations as a fan, they are working tirelessly day in and day out to exceed their own.

It’s natural to want your team to win. No matter what.  To be victorious.  We want all of our teams to be successful. That is the nature of sport and its fandom. But, instead of trolling a kid with hate speak over a bad snap or a missed field goal, let’s choose to help our student-athletes remain motivated and focused on being the best by showing them that we believe in them.

Because fundamentally, that is what all of our student-athletes need:  support. Antagonizing them and forcing them to endure a constant barrage of hate and unsolicited negative contact is simply counter-productive to the cause:  not to mention the fact that it makes you not a very nice person in general.

Just be a true fan.  Try to stay positive.  Encourage our players.  Help them keep going.  Let them know to never give up:  because WE BELIEVE in them.  Show them that win or lose, we are proud and appreciative of their effort and their commitment to this university and this program that we hold so close to our hearts.

It’s their moment.  Their time.  They are the ones who have worked day in and day out to achieve this dream.  We’re simply along for the ride.

So, enjoy it, Michigan fans.

And let our kids be.

Let them be kids.

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Grading The Performance: Notre Dame

The Good

Devin Gardner to Jeremy Gallon- Michigan fans have seen dynamic QB-WR duos in the past. Grbac to Howard, Brady to Terrell, and Henne to Edwards/Manningham come immediately to mind. While duos of the past have often produced stunning numbers, few have displayed the kind of relationship that the nation was treated to on Saturday night. Gardner and Gallon acted in unison for most of the night and seemed to be connected almost telepathically. The back shoulder fades that Notre Dame found so difficult to defend takes an enormous amount of practice and trust between QB and WR and Michigan’s 2013 duo made it look easy. Devin and Jeremy put on a beautiful display of teamwork and execution on Saturday that is likely the envy of many in both college and the NFL.

The Bad

Nonexistent pass rush- Getting pressure on the QB with a 4 man rush has been the major point of emphasis for the Michigan defense since the end of last season. Despite multiple opportunities for Michigan defenders to go one on one, the Wolverines failed to consistently beat blocks and pressure the QB. Notre Dame used a variety of maximum protections to keep Tommy Rees upright. Michigan struggled to beat blocks and get pressure with a 4 man rush even on the occasions when Notre Dame did not leave backs and TEs in to block however.

The Ugly

4th Quarter Interception- There were a number of instances that could have gone in this space. Notre Dame’s horrific secondary, Eminem’s bizarre halftime interview, Louis Nix’s nonexistent vertical jump. In the end, Devin Gardner’s interception in the endzone was too ugly to ignore. In reality the entire drive could have been include but Devin’s decision to throw the ball while being tackled in the endzone takes the cake. While ultimately not costing Michigan the game, the play marred was was otherwise a flawless performance for Mr. Gardner.


QB: A-

A single offensive series keeps the grade from reaching A+ level. Devin was the maestro for a Michigan offense that seemed unstoppable.


Two of the biggest plays, a run and a reception, occurred on a single drive in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. With limited running room, Fitz Toussaint was able to eek out a number of big plays purely on effort.


The difference in the game was the Michigan passing game, highlight by the playmakers outside. Gallon, Jake Butt, Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, and Devin Funchess all contributed big plays to a stellar day through the air.

O-line: C+

Notre Dame’s defensive line and constant blitzing did a number on the Michigan offensive line. The holes were few and far between and Devin was running for his life on too many occasions. Jack Miller put forth a Heraclea effort inside against Louis Nix, though the interior had issues overall identifying and picking up blitzers.

D-line: C

The lack of pass rush was alarming for the 2nd game in a row, registering zero sacks and only 2 TFL. Michigan is badly in need of high impact, game changing defensive linemen.

LBers: B-

Michigan’s LBers did an adequate job of filling run lanes and making tackles but there were issues with drops into coverage and proper pursuit. James Ross put in a Dr. Jerkel-Mr. Hyde performance, looking like an All-American one series then following it up by looking like a true freshman the next. Both Brennen Beyer and Cam Gordon did a great job making plays from the SAM position.

Secondary: B

Thanks to the defensive gameplan, the primary job of the secondary on Saturday was coming up and making tackles. The Wolverines did a masterful job of limiting the yards after catch for the Irish and also managed to produce two huge turnovers. Blake Countess is well on his way to becoming a bonafied playmaker.

Special teams: D

A dropped punt, a shanked kick, and poor kick coverage all played into a special teams unit that struggled to contribute in a positive way for the team.

A: Unit played as close to flawless as possible. Unit played well enough to win the game on their own.

B: Unit had a major positive impact on the game but also had several assignment/execution miscues.

C: Unit did not negatively or positively affect the game. Unit made key positive plays along with several errors.

D: Unit made multiple critical errors that could potentially cost the team a win. Unit blew assignments and had poor execution across the board.

F: Play of the unit was bad enough that it could directly cost the team a victory.

Note: Plus and minuses denote degrees of the grade.

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Freshmen Most Likely to Impact Michigan’s 2013 Season

#1. Dymonte Thomas DB

Unlike the others on this list, Thomas is the only player that already has a starting position locked down. An early enrollee, Thomas was able to secure the nickel back role during the spring and was one of the most impressive players during the spring period. Thomas has played safety for much of his career but is simply too talented for the coaches to keep Dymonte Thomas - Rivalsoff the field.

#2. Derrick Green RB

Green is the most highly touted of the group, widely regarded as the #1 high school RB in the country. Green is a sure to see the field this fall thanks to his unique blend of size, speed, and toughness. Green is also the prototype for the type of back the Michigan coaches want in the backfield and the most physically gifted runner on the roster. How much and how often Green plays will largely depend on how quickly he is able to pick up the intricacies of the offense and his willingness and ability to block. The Michigan coaches won’t risk the health of Devin Gardner by sending out a RB they don’t trust to protect the QB when needed.

#3. Jake Butt TE

Another early enrollee, Jake was able to get a jump on his fellow freshman by participating in winter workouts and spring practice. Like Devin Funchess, Jake is a natural pass catcher who is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Michigan’s desire to use multiple TEs on the field at the same time will result in Jake seeing a fair amount of playing time this fall. As with Funchess a year ago however, Jake’s physical limitations as a blocker will keep him from seeing extending time in every situation.

#4. Shane Morris QB

Jake Butt - ISportsWebThe physical nature of the game of football combined with the dual-threat ability of Devin Gardner will eventually lead to Shane Morris seeing the field in some capacity. Whether it is for a series during a game or a series of games is yet to be seen but for better or worse, Shane Morris will have an impact on the 2013 Michigan football team in some way. From a purely physical standpoint, Morris is the most gifted thrower of the football that has seen Michigan roster is over a decade. Whenever it is he sees the field there are certain to be moments of brilliance combined with the typical freshman mistakes that Michigan fans experienced with freshman QBs like Chad Henne and Tate Forcier. Morris has been preparing to be the Michigan QB since childhood. At this point it is a question of when not if Morris has an impact on Michigan.

#5. Ross Douglas DB

A common theme with this list is the presence of early enrollees. Recruits who are able to enroll at Michigan early stand at a distinct advantage when it comes to seeing the field early and Ross is no exception. While a bit undersized, Ross flashed exceptional instincts in the spring and the lack of depth in the secondary gives him quite the opportunity to see the field. Ross will likely see most of his early playing time on special teams but an injury or poor performance from a player ahead of him on the depth chart could see him thrust into action sooner rather than later.

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The Greatest Michigan/SEC Games – ‘08 vs. Florida

Lloyd’s last game. The 2008 Capital One Bowl. Chad Henne passed for 373 yards and three touchdowns. Tim Tebow threw three and rushed one in. Henne hit Adrian Arrington (153 yards receiving) for the winning score with 4:12 left to go up 38-35. A K.C. Lopata FG with 2:21 left closed out the scoring. Michigan turned the ball over four times, and still won, while Florida didn’t turn it over once.


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