November 2010 Archives

Winning Is Denard's Real Recognition

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When Denard Robinson was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Monday evening, I chuckled to myself that just hours before at the U-M Club of Ann Arbor luncheon at Weber's Inn, a U-M fan had asked Rich Rodriguez why Denard was not getting the type of hype he deserved.

He came out of the box with shoelaces untied with one dazzling performance after another. Anything short of stupendous was greeted as commonplace.

What will make Robinson a name to remember in U-M lore is not one game or one season. It will be the culmination of his achievements as a member of the U-M Athletic Department.

He is the first quarterback in NCAA history to rush and pass for more than 1,500 yards in a season, and the sophomore signal caller is definitely one of the most exciting players to watch. Not only did he receive the Big Ten recognition from media and coaches, he is semifinalist for the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien national awards while still being mentioned as a possible Heisman finalist.

He is fast, scary fast. Earlier this year, he went out and ran a 6.81 in the 60-meter dash, winning the event during the Ohio State-Michigan dual meet with little if any form out of the starting blocks.

He said it was "a new experience" to run indoors and win a meet against a Big Ten school, and this year's performance on the football field was a new experience for defensive players who lined up against the Wolverines.

And while many believe Robinson might deserve more recognition, Denard himself doesn't talk about stats and records, he will wait for the recognition he really wants -- a Big Ten title.

Lytle: A Final Farewell

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University of Michigan associate athletic director Bruce Madej will regularly offer his view on different topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. This is the first of those blogs.

If this were only a sports story, one would start, "A packed house jammed into Grace Lutheran Church this morning in Fremont, Ohio ..."

Unfortunately, this isn't a sports story; it is a farewell to one who we can easily define as a true Michigan Man.

The Grace Lutheran Church was "standing room only" as families, teammates and a plethora of friends paid their respects to Rob Lytle at his memorial service in Fremont today (Wednesday, Nov. 24).

His days as a football player at Fremont Ross High School, the U-M and with the Denver Broncos are legendary. But what can't be looked up by going through the stats and game stories are what made Lytle a tough, team-oriented player that created a humble, giving character after he hung up his cleats.

Even in death Rob Lytle was a team player, donating his organs to the University of Michigan.

He played halfback for Bo Schembechler in 1976 and placed third in the Heisman Trophy voting, only to be moved to fullback in his senior season. Bobby Thompson from the Denver Broncos said at the service, "All he did was talk about team goals while he was in the pros."

Tony Gant said, "Rob never told me what to do; he just helped me do it."

Gant gave an eloquent speech at the service. After all, he was another Fremont Ross great who came to Michigan in the 1980s to star as a defensive back.

"When I was a 'star' quarterback in high school, I was one of those players who thought I could do it all. I didn't need to throw the ball, just give it to me," said Gant. "Throw the ball? In fact, I though third and 36 was a running down.

"Rob heard how I was playing and when he got back to town, he called me and all he wanted to do was just played catch, throwing the football around as he tried to improve me."

Gant told a story about how Lytle was getting some grief for not pushing Tony to attend Michigan.

"Rob never told me to go to Michigan when I was being recruited," said Gant. "He told me when I would make the decision, I would make the decision I knew was right for me."

When Gant was ready to leave Michigan after his freshman year, he called Lytle.

"Rob took me to the track and we worked out over the summer and I watched how he prepared and worked," said Gant. "I wasn't mentally prepared to play football at Michigan, and all he did was work with me to get better."

When Gant broke his leg in 1984, Schembechler reminded him about Lytle's toughness, going into the training room and chiding him that Lytle wouldn't be in here. "Bo measured your toughness by Lytle," added Gant.

Lytle was tough, yet empathy and sympathy (and sarcasm) made him the man his friends will remember.

Rob Lytle, Rest in Peace, November 12, 1954-November 20, 2010