Michigan Football Preview 2017

2017 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 25 of 179

24 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY JOHN BORTON T hey gathered on the steps of The Big House for a team photo. Champions, still beaming, two decades removed from the year it all came together. They came from all over — players, coa- ches, managers, trainers. They gathered to laugh, hug, needle each other, to swap stories and remember. Their head coach could barely summon the words to describe his own sentiments over the April reunion. Unlike any opponent in the national championship season of 1997, Lloyd Carr's emotions clearly got the better of him. His captains stepped forward for this ope- ning toss. "We knew the value of every person that was part of that national championship team," All-American offensive tackle Jon Jansen as- sured. "Nobody felt too big. Nobody felt too small. Everybody felt like they had a hand in winning that national championship — be- cause they did. "When you have, 20 years after the fact, 150 people come back and celebrate a re- union, it shows the family atmosphere that we had. It shows how much guys loved each other, loved Michigan, and loved Coach Carr and our coaches." They also cherished what nobody could take away — 12-0, and college football's ultimate height. "This is the definition of excellence," ob- served linebacker Eric Mayes, the walk-on turned captain. "There will always be cham- pions at the University of Michigan, because that's what we produce. But there will never be a team that will have a better winning per- centage than this team." There may never be a team with a better story to tell. Here's the 20-year perspective: The Buildup To the outside world, the Wolverines had no business thinking championship coming into the 1997 season — Big Ten or otherwise. They'd gone 8-4 in each of head coach Gary Moeller's last two seasons, then 9-4 and 8-4 in the two years after Carr took over. That left Michigan haters circling like buz- Twenty Years Later, The Wolverines Recall Their Perfect Season The Summit Heisman winner Charles Woodson (No. 2) leads his team into action at the Rose Bowl, where U-M beat Washington State, 21-16. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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