Selfless and team-first, that’s who Mike Sainristil is.
Someone who was asked to switch from receiver to cornerback and took on the challenge without batting an eye. Head coach Jim Harbaugh says Sainristil will do anything for the team.
“I asked Mikey if he would consider going over to defense. Figured it was gonna be tough to replace Dax Hill and just felt like Mikey had the skill set for it. And he was smart enough to be able to do that and play both ways and also he was willing to and was so good at it right off the bat.”
Sainristil, a team captain, has played at a high level since converting to nickel and corner. Sainristil’s made a lot of great plays this season — notching sacks and tackles for loss in pressure packages, as well as faring well in pass coverage, with no play sticking out more than his pass breakup against Ohio State that looked like a sure touchdown from C.J. Stroud to tight end Cade Stover.
“He did a little chip block and released up the field. And I noticed, ‘Man I’m a couple steps behind. I need to get to his hip, slip and get underneath and make a play on the ball.’ On my way as I’m running to him, I see the release of the ball from Stroud. He kind of floated it a bit. ‘Okay, I definitely have time to get there and make a play.’ And eventually, that’s what ended up happening.”
Mike Sainristil brilliantly playing thru the ball pic.twitter.com/6P8W520hwh— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 26, 2022
The play, the moment, wasn’t too fast for Sainristil.
“I watched everything. I watched the ball get into his hands, I watched my hand go up in between. It honestly all happened kind of in slow motion, in a sense. It was kind of like a movie the way it happened.”
That play along with many that Sainristil’s made throughout the season have been savvy. Co-defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale told the media in September that Sainristil is a coach on the field at times.
“He’s doing veteran things,” Clinkscale said. “He’s out there anticipating the issues and doing a very good job of disguising and understanding what they’re trying to do to attack us. He’s doing his job, which makes him a really good player. But he’s also doing things that make him great at times when he could do his job and do someone else’s job but making sure his job’s taken care of.”
The job now is to beat TCU in the College Football Playoff and get to the National Championship. Sainristil knows the focus it will take to get there.
“They’re very good passing the ball. They have really great athletes all around the board. They have a really good quarterback, really good receivers. Their quarterback finished in the Heisman race. When you have opportunities to play against guys like that, you definitely want to capitalize. Games like this is where you make a name for yourself. We can’t wait to go out there and play Michigan football.”
Sainristil has already announced he’s returning to play for Michigan in 2023. With another year on defense in college, it should only help bolster his draft stock. Sainristil is appreciative of the transition to cornerback.
“I’ve loved it, I’ve loved every moment of it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. It’s meant so much to me and I appreciate coach Harbaugh for giving me the opportunity to play defense. It definitely, in my eyes, helped my career. I appreciate my defensive coaches, my teammates for trusting me to come on that side of the ball and do what I’ve been doing. I feel like playing defense, you learn how to build a lot of trust.”
Michigan trusts Mike Sainristil, and Sainristil trusts his teammates. His story is one of many special ones within the Michigan program. Sainristil is a player who’s impossible not to root for, he’s someone who epitomizes what max effort on the gridiron is.