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It Hurts a Bit When Your Self Made Illusions are Shattered


I haven't said much about the the Justin Feagin situation since the news of his dismissal broke. What are you supposed to say when a kid on Michigan's football team, your Michigan Football team, gets himself booted off the team for a failed coke deal? I haven't been able to figure that out. But the long and short of it is the whole thing sucks. It's difficult to pen anything on the subject because there truly is no middle ground. If you write some "emo" post about lost dreams and innocence, well, you're rightfully labeled as an apologist. If you come down hard on the kid and coach for fueling the drug war and not being accountable, you're probably frothing at the mouth and should see a doctor. But the middle ground is generally where I exist, and it's the only ground to occupy that's appropriate on this subject.

The facts of the matter are simple. Lightly rated QB recruit gets his dream shot to play college football at Michigan when basically no one else is recruiting him. Kid makes it to school, fades into the background, plays a little bit, nothing more is heard from him other than "He's been moved to slot receiver." Then the news breaks. He's been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. What kind Coach? A violation of team rules. Rumors fly. The kind that say "drugs" in that "he's baked out of his mind" kind of way. Nothing I heard indicated the severity of what "drugs" really meant.

Because fans don't have a lot of interaction with college football players, we develop our own impressions of these kids based on what little information we have. Quotes. Press clippings. Coach speak. But Feagin gave us a little more than that when he committed. Actually he gave us a lot.  Mgoblog's "Feagin Dénouement" pretty much sums up how I felt about Feagin before the news of his transgressions became public.

You know, I liked Justin Feagin. As a guy thousands of miles away from the man in question and limited to assembling things other people wrote about him, I had just more than zero to go on, but I liked him anyway. He played both ways at a tiny school and smiled big and innocent on signing day and said things that seemed different and bouncier than your average bouncy, meaningless quote from a guy on or around the greatest day of his life.

He seemed like the type of kid you wanted on your team. Happy. Energetic. Committed. Unafraid. At least that's what we gleefully interpreted from his quotes. So we wondered aloud "why isn't this kid on the field more" when the Michigan quarterback situation spiraled out of control and he seemed for afar as the only player capable of actually running the offense. "Why isn't he getting a shot!?"

(more after the jump.....)

Unfortunately, now we know. Feagin wasn't the young man he presented himself to be. Worse, he wasn't the young man we'd all built him up in our heads to be. Feagin was, to a lot of us, the ultimate underdog. The long shot. We all wanted him to succeed, especially after his early quotes. He told anyone who'd listen we didn't care who the other recruited QBs were, he was going to beat them out. We all wanted that because there's a part of everyone who wishes they could be that brash, and have that opportunity. The unfortunate result was a nice little illusion we crafted for ourselves being shattered into a million pieces. Additionally, it gives a little more ammunition to those who inexplicably loathe Rodriguez to fire at him.

But does it change anything on the field? Not much. Feagin was a fringe recruit who showed it. He would've been lucky to see the field as a special teams player. There was no chance he was going to see time at quarterback. Feagin's departure will have no effect on Michigan's ability to play football games.

On the player and coaching side, Feagin's "activities" are going to raise some questions. Whether they're fair or not. I'm of the school of thought that a coach can't be everywhere, even though he tries to be. So long as a player is complying with his academic requirements, showing up to practice, and not appearing on the Police blotter, it's easy to say the coaching staff is doing all right.

You can make an argument that the Coaching staff had a greater responsibility. If Feagin's reported substance abuse problem was as "extensive" as reported, someone on the coaching staff should've noticed. Burnouts aren't that difficult to spot., right? But then again, maybe he showed up sober to practice and games. Maybe there was no way for the coaching staff to know during their time with him that he had a problem. It's not just possible, it's fairly commonplace in our society for addictions/bad habits to be masked or hidden up to the point of total collapse. I can't fault them for that.

People have suggested Michigan didn't do their research on him. To the contrary, they did. Rodriguez talked with Feagin's high school coach who told him Feagin was a good kid. In fact, Bueno told the Palm Beach Post he had no idea Feagin had any legal problems while he was in high school. Further, the PBP dug a little deeper into Feagin's record and did a search of the,

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records showed that Feagin has received two traffic tickets in Broward County, one in Palm Beach County and was charged with a misdemeanor in Palm Beach that was later dropped. Details regarding the misdemeanor charge are unclear.

That's the extent of it. I can't see how Michigan didn't do it's due diligence on this kid. There's nothing on him. He's a high school kid with two traffic tickets and a dropped misdemeanor on his record. It doesn't say "selling drugs" or "felony." Could the coaching staff have done more before or after Feagin arrived? Sure. But you can always do more. At a certain point the cost of all this "something more" out weights the benefit. Feagin's nose was clean (if you'll pardon the pun) until we learned of the deal gone south. All the information seems to clear the coaching staff on this one.

Honestly, the people I'm most disappointed with (other than Feagin) are the players that knew about Feagin's problems. They should've been the first to let the coach know there was an issue. But they didn't. Perhaps they perceived themselves as looking out for a friend. Hopefully this experience will dissuade them of that misconception.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but the majority of it should be directed at Feagin for some very poor life choices. We all make mistakes, so all we can do is forgive and pray that he makes peace with whatever demons brought him to this point. For me, there is more disappointment than anger over this. You're better off trying to stop the moon from rising than asking 19 year-old kids not to do stupid things. I'm disappointed that a kid at Michigan threw that opportunity away so freely when I know scores of people would trade organs for it. I'm disappointed that this reflects so poorly on a Coach who is honestly doing a really good job at Michigan.

But I guess what I'm most disappointed about it he loss of the little illusion I'd built myself about Feagin. He's not the nice kid I'd hoped he'd be. He's not the ultimate underdog I wanted him to become. He just a kid. And a dumb kid at that.