We arrived at our beloved Michigan Stadium right at 1 pm — which is when the gates were to officially have opened — only to find a line starting at the main gate and running all the way down Ann Arbor-Saline Rd. Needless to say my daughter was a little irritated that we had to wait in line. I told her such is life for the Wolverine fan.
We entered the stadium concourse, grabbed our free Team 133 posters (pretty sweet by the way) and wallet schedules and made a mad dash over to where Denard Robinson was supposed to be signing his autographs. Of course we were not alone. What seamed to be another 4,000 plus fans also made the same dash. We waited in line for about five minutes before Michigan officials told us that the 250 people to get the autograph had already been let in and no one else would be let through.
Bummed out again, we then headed around the stadium to see what other players we could actually meet that day.
We made over to the linebackers table and my daughter said this was the spot. So we waited in line for approximately 30 minutes until the players as a group made their way out to the autograph stations.
When the players came out a semi-loud cheer broke out. The fun began!
Lexie and I went through the line and got autographs from Kenny Demens, Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan and literally the rest of the linebacker crew. They were all very nice and seemed to enjoy interacting with all of us.
I have also a 5-year-old daughter, Gabby, that didn’t to go but she wanted two autographs for very different reasons. She wanted Jake Ryan’s autograph because he has “very pretty hair” (which got a very BIG laugh from all of the linebackers at the table when I told them) and Desmond Morgan because she likes the #44. Both players were more than willing to oblige.
From there we headed down the Big House stairs to the field to meet some of the freshmen and started making our rounds. The biggest lines were for linebacker Joe Bolden, defensive tackle Ondre “Pee Wee” Pipkins, defensive end Tom Strobel and offensive tackle Kyle Kalis.
As we start meeting these players and began taking pictures, my daughter turned to me and said, “Daddy, how old are these guys?” I told her they were all 17-18 year old kids that had just graduated from high school. Now I’m a pretty big guy myself, 6’6″ 265 pounds, and these “kids” were making me look, well small!
She was in shock at how big they all were and you know what, I was too. The new recruits Coach Hoke has targeted and is bringing in definitely meet the “eye test” in terms of B1G players. The “Smurf” days look to be definitely over.
All the players were very polite signing autographs and posing for pictures with anyone and everyone. Class act kids in my opinion.
We had a few minutes left so we took off for the defensive lineman table where I hoped to catch up with senior Big Will Campbell who is one of my favorites. We made it in time and saw Big Will, Jibreel Black, Q and Richard Ashe. They signed our poster and magazine. I even got Big Will to make a special video for my dad. We left the “Big House” with “big smiles” for sure.
As we left the stadium and began driving home, I started to think retrospectively upon the “Youth Day” event we just attended. And although it was a fine event that provided my daughter and I the opportunity to spend some quality “Michigan” time together, I did have a complaint.
Last year and I believe in years past, this event was called “Fan Day.” And based on that name alone, logic would dictate the event was intended for everyone to enjoy. By changing the name to “Youth Day” it would seem that Michigan shifted the focus of this event more towards the kids and for their benefit.
By putting a 250 person limit on the number of autographs allowed for Coach Hoke and Denard and the other most “in demand” players and coaches, it made it difficult for the actual “youths” to get to see their heroes up close.
So it might have been nice to limit the autographs to say the first 250 kids instead.
I can’t say for certain, but it looked to me that a majority of the autograph seekers may not have been as sincere in the efforts and may have been getting things signed more for eBay than for personal use.
Oh, and maybe a bigger window of time with a more staggered schedule. 1 ½ hours works, but I’m just throwing it out there for next year.
Otherwise it was a great event that I look forward to attending year after year with my kids.
You can follow Marcus Hall on Twitter at goblue8277