This Saturday will be my last game in the Big House as a student. It's shocking to write and even more shocking to think about. After four years of making the trek to the Big House, my journey as a student will end with a game against Iowa. It's been an interesting 4 years to say the least. When I arrived on campus, Michigan was trying to recover from a 3-9 season and accusations of NCAA violations. I can clearly remember being heckled by many people in the weeks prior to my freshman year about these facts.
Things of course got better. Michigan limped to a 5-7 record in my freshman year, but they improved to 7-6 in 2010, won the Sugar Bowl in 2011, and still have the slight potential for a Big Ten Championship game this year. To say I've grown with the football program would be cliche but to an extent, it's probably true. With Senior Day this Saturday, one can't help but looking back at how this team has went from offseason disaster to legitimate conference and national contender.
What's been even better have been the incredible moments that have came along the way. My first game in the Big House was the Western Michigan game in 2009 when everybody got to see the first game of the high profile Tate Forcier and the incredible first play of Denard Robinson. The next week we got to see an exciting upset of Notre Dame. Sure, there were some depressing times later in the year, but I had the pleasure to come back for the re-dedication of the Big House for the opening game of 2010 along with the record-breaking performances of Denard in 2010. Add in the 2010 Illinois game and there was more than enough excitement from most fans.
Following the year, we got to witness history when Michigan hosted the Big Chill in the Big House (which still holds the attendance record for a hockey game). Of course, Rich Rodriguez was fired after 2010, but we got Brady Hoke's first spring game and his rain-drenched first game at the Big House followed by the insanity of Under the Lights (Michigan's first-ever night game). The year ended with a domination of Nebraska, the streak-breaking game against Ohio State, and the necessary trip to New Orleans to see Michigan's first BCS win since 2000.
Without missing a beat, Michigan returned in 2012 with another streak-breaking win over Michigan State, the un-retirement of several Michigan football legends including Gerald Ford, and an insane win over Northwestern in Devin Gardner's first start in a home game. Of course, any true Michigan fan would be able to recite these events and developments, but I just can't help but think that this has truly been one of the most historic and exciting periods of Michigan history.
In just four years attending the University of Michigan, I have been able to witness history in a multitude of ways. Two coaches, three starting quarterbacks, Michigan's all-time offensive yards leader, a win to break a bowl-less streak, streak-ending wins over Michigan State and Ohio State, three straight wins over Notre Dame, the Big House's first ever night game, the Big Chill, a Michigan BCS bowl win, the creation of the Legends jerseys, and a boatload of other moments. The first two years of football when I was in Ann Arbor will be viewed by most as a failure, but I certainly can attest to the great moments I've seen over the past four years.
Along with the significance of this Saturday's game and reminiscing upon the last four years of Michigan football, Senior Day signals the beginning of the end for students. Sure, the semester lasts almost another month and most students won't graduate for almost 5 more months, but it's the first true sign that senior year is coming to a close. Yes, myself and other seniors have a multitude of other things between this Saturday and graduation, but the football Saturdays that dominate the fall semester in college will be over. It's almost like the start of a victory lap for students. The finish line is the graduation, but final home game of the season is like the starting line.
When all is said and done on Saturday, I'm sure I will be a bit disappointed about the fact that I will never again walk through those gates for a football game as a student and I'm sure I will be disappointed at my last chance to cheer with my classmates for the incredible Denard Robinson, but the last four years have been a blast and I'm not sure I could have asked for more. People always talk about how an underdog story is the one that's most beloved. That's how I view the seniors of this football team. They've been doubted every step of the way and if Team 132 was "those who stayed", then this team would be "those who overcame".
The two captains alone tell the story of how a team coming off a 3-9 season and accusations of NCAA violations has become so beloved by fans. Jordan Kovacs, the ultimate underdog. The player that wasn't even a preferred walk-on not only became a starter and a contributing player for Michigan, but he is now a team captain and received the unique honor of a Legends jersey. Then of course, there's Denard Robinson, who was written off by just about everyone except Rich Rodriguez, who believed Denard could be a college quarterback. He has been inconsistent at times, but he will graduate as one of the greatest players in Michigan football history and certainly the program's most exciting player ever.
Yes, some will say Michigan football can never truly be an "underdog" and that this team didn't live up to some of their goals, but that's not how I feel about this team. They've always been the group that keeps on fighting and the group that have made football Saturdays over the last 4 years so much fun for fans and students alike. Team 133 will always be linked with this group of seniors for better or worse and although they may not have been perfect, they'll always be my favorite underdog.