I grew up with Saturdays being “days of holy obligation.” When I played football in high school I wore a Michigan t-shirt to counter the bad karma of our very Buckeye-looking uniforms. On a recruiting trip to Michigan I made my case for how Bo needed a 5′ 8″ linebacker with above average speed to play football for him. When I attended the University of Michigan I did my best to spread the Wolverine gospel to my classmates. I followed Moeller, initially scoffed at Lloyd’s appointment but happily celebrated in Pasadena as the Wolverines led by Charles Woodson won the National Championship (KMA coaches poll!!)
When Lloyd retired, I understood that the line of Michigan Men coaching the Wolverines was probably over and that the Michigan Football program was fundamentally changing.
I questioned whether I was fan of Michigan Football or Michigan Football as defined by Bo Schembechler.
It’s taken me a long to write this article.
Last year I was part of a group that took a private tour of Michigan Stadium on the Thursday before the Michigan/Ohio State game.
This tour took us all through the press box, on the field, through the tunnel and into the Michigan locker room. But the highlight of the tour was running into Bo Schembechler in the press box Bo was on his way to film an interview segment for HBO about the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry.
He didn’t look well. But when he was introduced to our group he smiled and shook hands and seemed to light up. His health may have been in decline but he still had boundless charm. It was the highlight of the tour to say the least.
The next day Bo died.
I feel incredibly blessed that I got to see him one last time before he passed because Bo Schembechler and Michigan football changed my life.
Several years ago Bo and Jim Brandstatter did a book tour for “Tales from Michigan Stadium”. One night when Bo and Jim and were signing copies at the local Ann Arbor M-Den I hung around until the lines dissipated and took the opportunity to speak with Bo.
I wanted him to know what an impact he had on my life. I told him how I decided at young age to attend the University of Michigan. That a lot of people told me that it would never happen- that kids from my high school didn’t go to Big Ten Universities. That in my heart I knew what the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve and I was going the University of Michigan. I told him how I saw Anthony Carter score a touchdown at my first Michigan game but the Wolverines lost 9-7. I told him how although my high school football uniform was practically identical to Ohio State I wore a blue shirt underneath my pads for Michigan. Of how I disappointed I was to get waitlisted when I first applied to Michigan, of how I wouldn’t give up until I was admitted. I told how I drove cross country to see him coach his last game in the Rose Bowl only to see the referees call a bogus holding penalty to negate a 4th down conversion to end Michigan’s chances late in the game. I told him how after UM commencement in the stadium I walked out the tunnel of Michigan Stadium for the first time.
Bo looked at me for second and then said, “You done good!”
I’m sure he heard these kind of stories all the time.
After this I thanked him and got his autograph on a photo of us taken during a recruiting visit to Michigan football practice. The photo is proudly displayed on my wall.
The word hero gets thrown around a lot and some question whether a footbal coach is worthy of such praise.
But what is a hero? I believe a hero is someone who inspires us to greatness.
Bo Schembechler is one of my heroes. And I make no apologies to anyone for that.
To: Bo Schembechler
RE: My UM/OSU party
For a while now, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the annual Michigan/Ohio State football game with a friend of yours, one Woodrow AKA “Woody” Hayes.
Well, Bo you know that Woody can be a little one sided in his game commentary so I’ve decided to call upon you to balance out my game watching experience. I have to warn you though, Woody keeps talking about how bad he wants a re-match of the 1969 game. You guys will have to work that one out yourselves.
Don’t worry about bringing anything. I’ll have it all covered.
Sorry I had to call you before your television segment was filmed- I know how you love the cameras- but there are a lot of people here who want to talk to you. Some guy named Ufer has been honking a horn for the last 24 years and can’t wait for you to hear his play-by-play from the 1998 Rose Bowl. And Fritz Crisler and Fielding Yost want to have a long talk about how your teams threw the ball WAY TOO MUCH for their tastes.
Don’t worry about the folks down in Ann Arbor- BTW one of my favorite places on earth- they won’t ever forget about you. The impact you’ve made on countless lives insures that while you’ll be missed you will NEVER be forgotten.
I have a feeling it’s going to be a GREAT GAME. Sorry I didn’t run this by you beforehand but I know how stubborn you can be.
* Come on now- you knew all along whose side I was on. I made the sun maize and the sky blue for heavens sake!