In the last two weeks Michigan has said goodbye to two sophomore linemen. Both linemen were buried on the depth chart and unlikely to see playing time before 2010. Both players were high-to-mid level recruits for offensive line. Both players didn't pan out. What's the difference between these departing players? One player left gracefully, quietly, with his mouth shut.
Yeah. Cue the "Days of our Lives" music.
"But it's not fair......"
Michigan is not unlike any other school. There are transfers. As it happens, quite a few this past year. But there are those who say the right things (Threet, Clemons, O'Neill, McGuffie) and those that don't (Wermers). When the first set of players departed, they stated the obvious, "I love the school. This is a business decision for me. I want a shot at the NFL. I'm not going to excel in this offense," or they said nothing at all. These players seemed to get "it."
"It" being that the last thing you say or do will be the thing you are remembered by. There is a great saying that I try to live by, "It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." I may not be as successful as I would like in following this, but it is a consideration before anything goes up on this site.
No matter what happened on the inside, to those external and internal, departing a program or job by taking pot shots leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouths. For the place you left, it makes them have to answer questions from people with no stake in the program. For you, it just makes you look bad. A whiner. A quitter. For the place you're going, it makes them wonder, "Is this kid going to put in the work or just try to skate by?" "Am I going to have to baby this kid?" Put bluntly, if you want a friendly, non-threatening group to hang out with, go to a church choir not a football team.
(The rant continues after the jump...)
Call me nuts, but football isn't a place where players shouldn't be coddled. It is an insanely violent sport where large men collide with one another at high velocity, and high intensity over and over again. And it's not just on Saturdays or Sundays. It's a full time job. To train your body to take that kind of physical punishment requires insane amounts of repetition, physical strength, desire, and pain tolerance. If you're going to put on a helmet, play at a BCS college level, get a free education, room and board, well, dammit, you'd better be up for that kind of a challenge.
Maybe football's changed? Maybe I'm on the outside looking in on a culture I only know through the periphery. I played hockey. I've got a plate and five screws still in my ankle. I've had more concussions than I currently have toes. Ripped up shoulders, knees... hell, my other ankle is worse than the one with the plate in it. But I still play. That stuff comes with the territory when you're going full-out in pads and the guy without the puck wants it back. It's a contact sport. A tough sport. So are the coaches. They yell. They scream. They drop the f-bomb here and there when you're not busting your ass the way everyone else is. But they also know if you half-ass it in practice, you'll probably half-ass it in a game and get yourself or someone else hurt; or, you're gonna make the mistake that costs your team the game.
But these same things happen in football. Hell, they happen in any other kind physically demanding enterprise. My brother was in the Airborne and looks back at his basic training days as some of the best and worst times of his life. The worst was the lack of sleep, the exhausting physical requirements, the constant stream of abuse. The best was the shared experience with his classmates/teammates. Pushing one another to be better, faster, stronger. To be the best. And those guys were and are family to him.
This applies to football too. I've met Rodriguez. I've heard his cornball jokes. I've talked with him. He legitimately cares about his players. His team is a part of his family. Further, his current and former players continually repeat that this team is a family. Even recruits are saying that.
"I was with Vladimir (Emilien)," CB Recruit Tony Grimes told Sam Webb. "That's my boy. He told me one difference (at Michigan) is once you get there, you are not just a piece of meat, you are a part of the family. That's something I can believe because he didn't play none of his senior year after he tore his ACL, but they didn't just cut him off. They kept his offer and he committed there. "
Rodriguez is not some foul-mouthed robot who tries to squeeze blood out of turnip. He's actually a lot like, wait for it, Lloyd and Bo.
Yes. You read that right.
While their methods might differ, Carr was not the patron saint of codling we might like to think of him as. For that matter neither was Bo. Ask anyone who played for either man. Carr threw transfer papers at players and could scream and sneer with the best of them. Watch any tribute to Bo and marvel at their impressions of the old coach including, "If I ever recruit a player like you again, shoot me in the head." Yeah. That's a reassuring statement to a young player. Know who did that impression? Jamie Morris. Both Carr and Bo motivated or alienated players through different methods, but they were harsh on their kids too. They pushed them hard and without yield. They knew that if they didn't push them, someone else wearing an opposing jersey would. Rodriguez understands that. And just like Carr and Bo he pushes these kids in the way that will make them better players and people.
All these things drew the players closer together, made them a family. These shared experiences. Helping one another be the best. Raising their friends up, supporting them. The flip side is, you have to want to do it. In the Airborne you can't hack it, you get sent to the infantry. On a hockey team, you don't put in the time and effort, you get cut. On an NCAA football team, you end up at the bottom of the depth chart. It's not like you can fire a scholarship athlete. When was the last time a non-Clemson coach yanked a scholarship? It doesn't happen. So they do what they can to motivate you to be your best or you find the door on your own.
But, and this is critical, you can't play favorites with someone who doesn't want to be there. You can't come down soft on a guy who is dogging it and then come down hard on your running back, just the same way it doesn't work in the reverse. College players must be treated equally. Favoritism breeds discontent, derision, cliques. You can't have a team if people are treated differently. You can't be a family if people aren't committed to one another. And it's clear Wermers wasn't.
"They were bringing in a lot of different kids that were not my kind of crowd."
Kurt, that's life. You adapt or you move on. You chose the latter. And I hope you find what's best for you. But if you're going to make a decision to leave something, in the future, do it with grace or silence.
Silence would be best.