I remember how unenthused I was when Lloyd Carr was named interim head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.
It had been a tough week. Bo’s handpicked successor, Gary Moeller, had been involved in an embarrassing off-the-field incident. Mo had gotten drunk, got into a verbal altercation with the police (which was taped and played on the local TV news) and resigned in shame.
Barring the complete meltdown of Gary Moeller, being Michigan’s Head Football Coach probably would not have been in Lloyd’s future. I had met Lloyd Carr a few times and my impression was that he was the nice guy on the staff compared to Bo and Mo’s tough guy personas. I didn’t have high hopes for Michigan football under his leadership.
During Lloyd’s first game as head coach the Wolverines were getting embarrassed by Virginia at the Big House. With 13 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, the Wolverines were losing 17-0. Hardly a great start for the interim head coach.
But then something amazing happened. The Wolverines got off that mat, fought back and won on the last play of the game when QB Scott Dreisbach found WR Mercury Hayes in the corner of the end zone. The Wolverines ended up 9-4 and Lloyd was named permanent head coach.
I still didn’t have a lot of faith in Lloyd.
And yet, two seasons later in was at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena watching the Wolverines clinch their first National Championship in 50 years. He did something that Bo never was able to do. He won it all.
And still there were critics. Going undefeated wasn’t good enough. And Lloyd didn’t care.
Over the years I have to come to have great respect for Coach Carr.
Gary Moeller had been destroyed by the pressure of succeeding Bo Schembechler while Lloyd embraced the pressure and eventually thrived.
All Lloyd needed his team, a field and an opponent. Everything else was superfluous.
There’s no doubt that Lloyd had little interest in pandering to the press. Lloyd treated them all same- taking a page from Bo’s playbook- like dogs. He understood that they really didn’t matter. Michigan didn’t need people in the press to drum up interest for the Wolverines.
It has been amazing to see the transformation of Lloyd Carr from the all around nice guy to someone who outsiders consider to be grouchy and mean. To anyone who has had a chance to observe Lloyd interacting with his players or recruits this misperception is hilarious. Whenever I saw Lloyd being gruff with a reporter I always imagined he was doing his best Bo imitation. But it wasn’t him.
Lloyd was coach who honestly cared about his football players as people. Someone who considered himself foremost a teacher. He was fiercely loyal to his players and coaches no matter what the public thought. He could also be brutally tough on players who he believed didn’t have the team’s best interests in mind.
The following is one of Lloyd’s favorite quotes:
I am wounded but not slain
I will lay me down and bleed a while
And then rise up to fight again.
I think of this quote whenever the Wolverines would rally back from a deficit.
Lloyd Carr coached teams were never defeated.
They simply ran out of time before being able to mount a comeback.
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