Keith Jackson once remarked that if possible, every college football fan should go into their beloved stadium the night before a game, and just stand and listed. To feel the memory of all those moments and players who've built it up to what stands there currently (we'll assume those Michigan students caught inside the Big House were attempting that on Wednesday). "This place is special to me...the guys I played with...the guys who played before us...because we love Michigan," Tom Brady told team 134 last week when he visited Ann Arbor.
Tomorrow in the late afternoon sunshine, a new Michigan football season will begin. We last saw the Wolverines on a football field January 1st, 242 days ago. The last images we had were a now-overplayed hit by Jadaveon Clowney, and a heartbreaking bowl loss.
But this is Michigan. New season means that heartbreak goes away at 3:30 tomorrow. Although anyone on the Michigan coaching staff would probably say they'd moved on as soon as the team left Tampa. In Brady Hoke's world, Michigan is not who they should be until that Big Ten trophy is behind glass in Schembechler Hall. Devin Gardner gets his shot tomorrow, to play the position he was recruited for, starting from the beginning of a season, at Michigan.
This is Michigan, the place that made the likes of Brady, Hart, Breaston, Brabbs, Hayes, Thomas, Henne, Howard and Robinson (you get the idea) household names. Cult heroes instantly recognizable not only for some memorable plays on the football field, but for their commitment to Michigan, and their team. Gardner didn't turn and run, he changed positions. Taylor Lewan didn't bolt when a coaching change happened, nor did he go after NFL millions.
"We're going to win another championship, and we're going to win it as a team," Bo Schembechler's famous "The Team" speech goes, in part. I've been going to games for the better part of two decades, morphing from young fan to student to grizzled alumnus, aging by what feels like multiple years with every loss endured. It doesn't take many games to recognize that Michigan is a place that is special to everyone, not just the guys who have worn the winged helmets. It creates lives for us, changes the lives of others, beckons us to go back whenever possible. It's a beacon that unifies generations, families and friends, because we want to feel that connection as often as we can. Championships are just the luxury afforded us when the stars align and a Michigan team breaks through the pile of conference foes to stand atop the shining hill between Stadium and Main.
This is Michigan, the hole that Yost dug, Crisler filled, and Canham carpeted and paid for. It doesn't take much to be overwhelmed by its power, and the amount of miracles seen within its walls is nothing short of, well, miraculous.
This is Michigan, where Mercury Hayes can catch a fading hitch route with one foot down to win. Where Phil Brabbs can go from nobody to legend with one kick to beat Washington as time expired. Where Chris Perry can torch Ohio State and get the lone win over that scum Tressel. Where Henne and Edwards can make East Lansing self-destruct with many, many touchdowns. It's where Manningham puts Paterno to bed with one catch in the back of the north end zone. Michigan is where Brendan Gibbons ends the reign of Michigan State as the alleged heir apparent to the state's top football program. And it definitely is where Denard Robinson and Roy Roundtree put the fear of God into Notre Dame.
This is Michigan, and tomorrow it's where Brady Hoke leads team 134 out of the tunnel into the fray to draw us all back for another year. Get there early, be loud, and let's go blue.
Hat tip to Youtuber isaiah hole for putting together this excellent video: