Mock Rock 2011: Student-Athletes Show Off Creativity for a Cause

Feb. 18, 2011

By Andy Reid

Donations to MOCK ROCK, benefiting U-M Mott Children's Hospital, Student-Athletes Leading Social Change and Michigan Autism Partnership, are still being accepted. You may donate here. Thank you for supporting U-M student-athletes and MOCK ROCK!

Photo Gallery

During the dog days of summer, when the infamous Michigan mugginess was at its highest peak and the Wolverines' football team was entrenched in two-a-day practices, the players needed a fun break.

So they put on a "Gong Show"-type performance in the team room, and backup quarterback Jack Kennedy and wide receiver Joe Reynolds performed an original song called "Lost Love."

The rest of the Wolverines were seriously impressed -- and it was basically a no-brainer that the two would lead the way for the football team's Mock Rock skit.

"Jack was a rapper, and everyone on the team knew he could rap, because he had made some songs on his own," Reynolds said. "I told him, 'I can play the guitar, we should do some stuff together.' And he's a quarterback and I'm a receiver, and we're best friends, so it just made sense."

Wednesday night, the duo, along with rhythm guitarist and starting punter Will Hagerup, performed the song and a medley of R&B hits in front of a sold-out crowd at Hill Auditorium for the 13th annual Mock Rock, a student-athlete-run charity event which, this year benefited three organizations: C.S. Mott's Children Hospital, Student-Athletes Leading Social Change and Michigan Autisim Partnership.

Mock Rock 2011
Twenty varsity athletic teams, three varsity club teams, plus the band and student athletic trainers performed in front of a packed house at Hill Auditorium. The Glee Club (right) started the evening with a stirring rendition of the national anthem and "The Victors."

With an appearance by star quarterback Denard Robinson and some suave dancing moves from running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, the football team garnered some of the biggest cheers of the night.

"We came here to win," said Michigan football coach Brady Hoke, who was a guest judge for the evening, along with New England Patriots punter Zoltan Mesko, ESPN NFL insider and Michigan graduate Adam Schefter, Olympic bronze medalist Elise Ray, former baseball player and president of the M Letterwinnes Club Dan Sygar and Jan Brandon, wife of athletic director Dave Brandon.

"It's always good to see kids outside of football," Hoke said before the show. "We've been running in the morning, lifting and working hard, so this is kind of a neat deal, for them to do something different."

Some of the other show-stopping acts were the lacrosse team's "Grease" dance, a clever and original rap song by the baseball team (in which they got laughs by telling Hoke he "looks like Fred Flintstone"), a "Price Is Right" parody by the hockey team and a "Harry Potter"-themed dance from the women's rowing team.

One of the most creative acts was the men's track and field team's "Avatar" re-creation, complete with full-bodied blue paint to bring the movie's Na'vi race to life.

"We just have a few guys on the team that really enjoy dancing," said junior pole vaulter Taylor Voice, covered in blue paint and a loin cloth. "A lot of them pick apart that show 'America's Best Dance Crew' and try to put the moves together.

"We don't like to be bad, and we wanted to embrace the energy of Mock Rock. We were going to just wear these Adidas long-sleeve blue shirts, but I was like, 'No, we have to be bright blue, go all out.'"

Mock Rock 2011
Football (left) finished runner-up with a near-perfect score. The men's track and field and cross country teams' take on Avatar (center). Is that Harry Potter, or the Michigan rowing team (right)?

But it was the Michigan marching band who stole the show, winning with a perfect score for their Ken And Barbie dance extravaganza. Even though the band took away bragging rights, in Mock Rock, there are no losers. The Michigan student-athletes came together for a great cause and earned some serious cash for C.S. Mott's Children's Hospital. Although the final figures are not tallied yet, the 2010 Mock Rock earned almost $80,000 for the event.

That number will almost certainly go up this year, because of the efforts of the night's celebrity host, Dhani Jones, a linebacker with the Cincinnati Bengals and former Michigan standout and his charity organization, Bow Ties For A Cause.

Donning an all-black outfit -- "just like Johnny Cash," he joked before the show -- Jones entered the stage with a stark white bow tie around his neck. Before the festivities began, he told the story of his peculiar fashion choice.

When he was with the New York Giants, his best friend, Kunta Littlejohn, told him, "If you want to be anybody, you've got to wear a bow tie." At first, it seemed like just a joke to Jones, but when Littlejohn was diagnosed with Lymphoma and Jones helped him through his recovery, the bow tie took on a whole new meaning.

Jones wanted to give back -- so he started "rocking the bow tie" and raising awareness about certain causes.

"Time is not timeless, that time is finite, and throughout your life there will be certain points where it will change and those changes are earmarked by choices, challenges and chances," Jones said before the show.

Last fall, Jones returned to Ann Arbor to unveil his newest charitable bow tie, a maize-and-blue affectation called the Mott Bow Tie which raised awareness and money for the hospital.

Mock Rock 2011
The dance team (left) performed twice during the evening. Former Michigan football player Dhani Jones (center), a 10-year veteran of the NFL and host of the Travel Channel's "Dhani Tackles the Globe," emceed this year's event. The Michigan Marching Band (right) took top honors with "Barbie and Ken: Trouble in Paradise."

His involvement in Mock Rock was just another chance to give back to Ann Arbor, which still has a special place in his heart.

"Ann Arbor is where it all started [for me]," Jones said. "It's a keystone in my life, the University of Michigan. It's a significant transition one makes when they get to college, and Michigan allows you to do whatever you want to in life, if you do the right things."

Jones was a senior in 1999, when Mock Rock officially began, but it was a much smaller event than what it has evolved into over the years.

Back then, the Michigan Student-Athlete Advisory Council started a variety show to raise money for the Jeff Reese Scholarship Fund, named for a Wolverine wrestler who tragically passed away while training for a meet.

From there, the yearly show has grown exponentially. And former Wolverines are eager to contribute -- even if they had never heard of Mock Rock before.

"When they called me about it, I had no idea what it was," Schefter said. "But they started telling me about it, and I hear, 'Michigan' and 'helping children in need' and that was all the information I needed. I said, 'I'm in.'"

From the beginning stages, this Mock Rock took more than seven months to plan and put together -- all organized by student-athletes in what little free time they have between school and practice.

"Because this is my last year, I really wanted to get more involved in the athletic community," said fifth-year senior gymnast Jordan Sexton, who was a chair on this year's Mock Rock committee. "Mock Rock is such a great cause and great event that we're able to put on every year, and I definitely wanted to be a part of that."