April 16, 2011
Spring Game Rewind | Alumni Victors Classic | Photo Gallery
Postgame Audio: Head Coach Brady Hoke | QB Denard Robinson
Postgame Audio: Offensive Coordinator Al Borges | Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison
Spring Game Central
By Nicole Auerbach
MOTT CONNECTION, TAKE TWO: The name said it all -- this wasn't just Michigan's annual spring game. It was the Mott spring game.
For the second consecutive year, the Michigan football program partnered with the U-M C.S. Mott Children's Hospital to raise money for Mott. A relationship between the two organizations has existed for a while -- U-M student-athletes, including football players, visit the hospital every week as a part of the "From the Heart" program -- but the formal partnership for the spring game just started last year.
"It's a great way for people to come together to support Mott and Michigan football," said Mott spokesperson Tammi Carr. "It's wonderful that this partnership we created last year is continuing. We even have a logo this year that says Mott Spring Game, so we're official. Word has gotten out a little more after last year, and we just hope it continues to grow."
Admission to the spring game was free, but donations were encouraged and went directly to Mott. Fundraising efforts didn't stop there though. A check for $26,000 from sponsor PNC Bank was presented to Mott prior to the game. In addition, the Beam family from Brighton, Mich., pledged to match all donations collected at the spring game for the second straight year. All told, the day raised raised more than $350,000, including the Beam's matching donation.
"We really look at this as a day to raise money for a great charity in addition to letting people see what our new offense and our new defense and our football team look like at the end of spring practice," Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon said.
ALUMNI EXCITEMENT: There was one question posed to almost every former Wolverine before Saturday's spring game: How excited are you about the beginning of the Brady Hoke era?
The specific answers varied, but they were all very positive. Nearly 250 former players gathered Friday night for a "team meeting" with Hoke, a gesture of support for the new head coach and his program. Support continued in the form of compliments and rave reviews, too.
"I think everybody's pretty much behind him," said former running back Mike Hart. "Everybody that I know is behind him. As long as he wins -- that's all everybody cares about."
"He knows the tradition, and a guy like coach Hoke ... you just want to see him succeed," former receiver Steve Breaston said. "He's going to go out there and change things, and I think he's going to get (the job) done."
"I'm a big, big fan," former wide receiver Desmond Howard said. "I think Dave Brandon did a tremendous job hiring Coach Hoke. I think that Coach Hoke has done a great job putting together a staff that's going to get these guys where they need to be."
TWO HEISMAN TROPHY WINNERS, ONE STADIUM: Both of Michigan's living Heisman Trophy winners were in attendance for the spring game. Desmond Howard, who won the award in 1991, had a big smile on his face as he paced the sidelines during the scrimmage.
"To me, it's always a great day any day I can step inside the Big House," Howard said.
Charles Woodson, the 1997 Heisman winner and recent Super Bowl champion with the Green Bay Packers, arrived after the spring game began and was welcomed with a chorus of cheers from fans.
Woodson fit in perfectly with the "Michigan football and Mott" theme of the day because of his strong ties with both organizations. Woodson has a special relationship with Mott, having donated $2 million to the children's hospital in Nov. 2009. The money was put toward the construction of a new hospital that will help researchers doing early-stage work to help children with cancer, heart disease, kidney disorders and autism.
"I'm involved in trying to help the new hospital get completed and trying to help raise money for research," Woodson said.
Woodson said he thought being in the same place as fellow Heisman winner Howard could bode well for the 2011 Michigan football team and one player in particular.
"Hopefully it's a sign of good things to come," Woodson said. "We've got a Heisman hopeful if Denard (Robinson) can put on another show this year."
TOO-TALL TROPHY?: Former Michigan running back Alijah Bradley was arguably the smallest player on the field during the alumni flag football game. The 5-foot-6 Wolverine ran all over former teammates, leading the Blue team to victory. He was awarded a 10-foot tall trophy as the game's MVP; the award was nearly twice his size.
"That trophy is -- that's a big trophy, man," Bradley said. "I don't know who is going to fit that in their house. I definitely can't fit it in my house. I'm going to have to lay it down on the floor somewhere."
When asked about his on-field performance, Bradley was humble and gave credit to older alumni, some of whom played at Michigan back in the 1960s.
"Some of those old guys got out there and did their thing," Bradley said. "They showed they still had it; they made some good plays. But I still have young legs. I still have a lot more football left in me."
HOCKEY TEAM HONORED: Last weekend, the Michigan ice hockey team suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA championship game. During a break in the spring game, the hockey team walked out to midfield in maize jerseys and received applause from the crowd to honor their postseason run.
"Even though the hockey team lost in overtime, they achieved at a very, very high level -- more than anybody would have expected them to," Brandon said. "We're proud of them."
Under coach Red Berenson, the Wolverines have reached the title game three times, winning two national championships. Despite the painful end of the season, the players said they enjoyed the surprising Frozen Four run. It was the program's first national championship game appearance since 1998.
"I'm very proud that we made the final game," senior forward Louie Caporusso said. "We'll always remember it and cherish those memories. ... It was bittersweet. I hope we get remembered even though we didn't win because it was something special."
NO SCOREBOARDS: Fans have gotten used to the new look of Michigan Stadium, following the luxury box and press box renovations. But two pieces of the Big House are still waiting for their upgrade: the video screens above each end zone.
New high-definition video scoreboards will be installed prior to the fall football season, but for the time being, Michigan Stadium is without any scoreboards. Without a way to track time or watch replays, it was certainly a unique experience for fans during the spring game.
"Yes, the stadium takes on a completely different appearance without the scoreboards," Brandon said. "But when the new, big scoreboards get in, it'll be terrific."
CHARITY EFFORTS CONTINUE: On the night before the spring game, former Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards hosted his annual celebrity basketball game that raised money for the Braylon Edwards Foundation and ALS research at Michigan. The game was played at Pioneer High School because of the renovations being done at Crisler Arena.
Edwards' team, which consisted of former Wolverine players, lost to the non-Michigan squad that featured the Detroit Pistons' Charlie Villaneuva by a score of 69-67.
"The guys did a good job putting on a show for the fans," said Howard, who attended the game. "The fans seemed to have a great time."
Former Michigan players playing in the game included defensive back Marlin Jackson, receiver Steve Breaston, defensive back Ryan Mundy, receiver Ron Bellamy and Fab Five member Jimmy King.
MURRAY HONORED: Former defensive back Vada Murray, 43, passed away on April 6 after a two-and-a-half-year battle with lung cancer. Neither Murray nor his parents ever smoked. After his playing days, Murray became a police officer in Ann Arbor for two decades.
Hundreds of friends, family members, police officers and former teammates flocked to Cliff Keen Arena on Thursday for the campus memorial service for Murray.
"Vada was a Michigan Man through and through, and a member of this community who was beloved by cops, beloved by his former players and we'll miss him," Brandon said.