Jan. 13, 2013
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
Our nation's fixation on college football continues, as we now enter a new phase of speculation, controversy and excitement.
The 2012 college football season officially ended with the national championship game. Now the next "official" day on the sport's calendar is Feb. 6 -- the day high school seniors can officially sign their Letter of Intent for the university they will enter this fall.
Now is the time when fans of the sport can play head football coach, look at future talent and discuss "why this player should go to what school" or "what he would bring to the table," and try to predict how these high school players will play at the next level. It is a time of optimism and it is a time to start looking forward to the next season.
It is also a time when, with NFL Draft around the corner, certain college football players have to decide whether to stay in college to finish their amateur career or leave early and focus their efforts on playing at the next level.
The fans, media and all of us focus on these situations as well, because they also contribute to the discussion that keeps the fires of the sport burning in the offseason.
But for those who have to make those decisions, it is not a role they play for the fun of discussion; their decision will not only have a significant impact on their careers -- but also, their lives.
When Taylor Lewan had to make a decision about leaving early and entering the NFL draft or staying at Michigan, it wasn't just idle talk. It was an important decision about his future and what was important in his life.
Lewan called the decision to stay for his senior season a "no-brainer," but without question, his decision was well thought out.
He did his due-diligence with the NFL Draft Advisory Board. He then talked to former Michigan players like offensive lineman Jake Long, his coaches, his teammates, his parents and others.
While it was evident that the coaching staff, current team and the Michigan fans wanted Lewan to play a leadership role on Team 134, it was also clear that this decision was his and his alone -- and the University of Michigan would support whatever decision he reached. After all, he was predicted to be a first-round draft pick.
It was almost the same set of circumstances for Long when he finished his junior year. He was Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year and named first team All-America by numerous organizations -- a certain first-round selection.
However, Jake decided to play his senior season. He did it because of the respect he had for his coaching staff, his relationship with his teammates, and his love for the University of Michigan. His decision was based on his priorities -- not the priorities of an NFL team.
One year later, Long became only the third offensive tackle ever to be chosen as the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Lewan came to a similar conclusion. "People don't really understand why I wouldn't leave for the NFL," Lewan said to Associated Press sports editor Larry Lage during an interview. "But when I came to the University of Michigan, I didn't understand the tradition of this place, either. Now I do. In the NFL, you just come and go. But here at Michigan, it's not like that. I love these guys -- my teammates are my best friends -- and I want to stay to win Big Ten championships."
And while winning Big Ten championships is a reason, the best answer to why he stayed might have been his own question that was in response to a reporter on the recent bowl trip.
He was asked: "Why would you stay?"
His answer: "Have you ever played at Michigan?"
The University of Michigan Athletic Department team is excited to know Taylor Lewan will be performing on the Wolverine offensive line for one more year, we are even more proud that he has grown as a young man and made his decision based on the values we relentlessly strive to teach as part of an overall U-M education. The fact that Taylor wants to "finish what he started" here at Michigan is the ultimate success!