1: a person older than another
b: a student in the year preceding graduation from a school of secondary or higher level
This definition can be applied to the following men for Team 133: Vincent Smith, Brandin Hawthorne, J.T. Floyd, Jack Kennedy, Steve Wilson, Roy Roundtree, Floyd Simmons, Kenny Demens, Paul Gyarmati, Jordan Kovacs, Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, Patrick Omameh, Will Campbell, Mike Kwiatkowski, Brandon Moore, Craig Roh, and of course, Denard Robinson.
It is not only Senior Day and the last home game of the season, but it is the last game EVER at “The Big House” for these players that have endured a bevy of peaks and valleys in their time wearing the Maize and Blue. From multiple coaching transitions, playing through the worst season in school history, and getting trashed in the media, to the program’s resurgence, the big wins over the team’s rivals, and winning a BCS bowl game, one could argue that no group in the recent history of the school deserves more recognition, appreciation, and a victory against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday than this bunch.
This group of seniors will be this week’s “Friday Focus” which will not be following the typical analytical format. Partly because Iowa is a very below average football team this year and there isn’t much to analyze. If U-M shows up and plays average football they walk out with a relatively easy W. It’s not rocket science. This is mostly because this group deserves to be recognized for all they have gone through and accomplished. This will be pretty short and sweet.
A guy like Kovacs is a former walk-on that has turned out to be a defensive standout and a team captain. The kid who was once hoping to make the practice squad will play his final home game as a key piece and the leader of a defense that went from once of the nation’s worst two seasons ago to among the best around. That’s pretty special.
Vincent Smith was considered a huge cog in Rich Rod’s spread offense. With the new staff’s preference of a bigger and stronger back, the small-statured Smith has found ways to remain a contributor as an excellent pass-protector and a 3rd down weapon out of the backfield. Many players would allow themselves to get frustrated and buried on the depth chart. Not Smith.
Roy Roundtree flourished under the previous regime while playing the slot receiver position. He had statistics that would suggest he could become an All-American down the road. Under the new system, the slot is not really utilized, thus he was moved to the outside where he doesn’t really have the size or speed to be very effective on a consistent basis. He saw his statistics plummet significantly. However, he has managed to come up with a handful of big plays in the last two seasons when the team needed them the most. His heroics last week against Northwestern or last year against Notre Dame are two great examples. He’s also kept a very positive attitude, served as a leader and a mentor to the younger players, and worked hard to be a tremendous down field blocker which is a key in the new offensive system. Roundtree has been the ultimate team player.
The poster child of this senior class when it comes to resilience, dedication, heart, class, and leadership is unquestionably Denard Robinson. It also doesn’t hurt that he has
been a human highlight reel, has single-handily won a boatload of games, and has statistics that mirror a video game. Say what you want about his proficiency as a passer, his decision-making, or whether or not he should have stayed at QB, “Shoelace” has been the offense for this team for the last three years. He’s made big plays, orchestrated a handful of comebacks, fought through injuries, and worked hard to become a better overall quarterback. Has shown the heart of a lion. He signifies, personifies, and mirrors what this senior class has gone through with a multitude of ups and downs. He’s picked himself up when he has been down, put the team on his back, defied odds, shown accountability, and has bled Maize and Blue. He has been a true “Michigan Man” and people will realize how much he has meant to this program when he is gone.
Unfortunately, that time may already be here. Due to the injury to his ulnar nerve, Denard Robinson probably will not play in his final game in Ann Arbor, and quite possibly the rest of his senior season. This would be a very sad ending to an outstanding career and for such a quality individual. I for one hope that he can get on the field for one play on Saturday to take a victory knee, or can play next week against Ohio State. If not, then hopefully he can heal up for whatever bowl game Team 133 finds themselves playing in. He deserves it, but unfortunately, life isn’t fair. One thing is for certain, he will find a way to help the team whether on the field, helping Devin Gardner continue his success by providing advice, or by cheering on the sidelines. That’s simply the type of kid he is. Let’s hope we can see #16 on the field at some point…at least one last time.
Saturday will be the last time Ann Arbor will see this senior class on the field. They have provided us with a roller coaster of emotions, thrills, disappointments, and the groundwork for the restoration of this proud program. As the ascension to rejoin the elite continues, the fans should not lose sight that it is these seniors that have paved the way for future teams. They have set the example of what it takes to play football for the University of Michigan.
Bo said “those who stay will be champions.” Though the seniors of Team 133 may not leave national champions, Rose Bowl champions, or B1G champions, they have worked like champions, shown the resilience of champions, fought like champions, and handled themselves as champions. We may never see another class that displays the level of character and leadership as this one. If you are in Michigan Stadium on Saturday, I suggest you take a moment to really appreciate all they have done and savor the moment.
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