Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 39 the cages and the boards," Dierdorf groaned. "My teammates didn't talk to me for months. All of a sudden we're having to go through this diabolical thing with the cage and the board, and it was all my fault. "It was all my fault because I told the truth about who taught me to block like that. Jerry's influence spread far and wide." Jerry And Bo The first time Schembechler fired Hanlon, it came as a shock. Hanlon knew he and his boss were both a little hardheaded, but also understood they were fighting for the same cause. "There certainly was respect on both sides," Hanlon offered. "That was the most important thing. I looked at it as if he was a stubborn, vociferous Dutchman. I am a stubborn, vociferous Irishman. Sometimes, they clashed. "It wasn't that we didn't like each other. We clashed over theories of football, strate- gies of football, how to handle a particular situation. When Bo said, 'I'm going to do this,' everybody said 'Okay.' Sometimes, I was dumb enough to say, 'I don't think we ought to do it that way.' "When I did, there was a clash. Most of the time, he won, because he was the head coach." Dierdorf recalled: "Jerry was the only guy that could say to Bo, 'Hey, Bo. Wait a min- ute. You need to rethink this a little bit.' We always thought Jerry was Bo's go-to guy. "He was never a yes man. Jerry had his opinions. Jerry had thoughts on how it ought to be done. And we all knew, he was never afraid to tell Bo what he thought was the right way to do it. "That's said with a great deal of admira- tion. Bo was such a powerful force of nature, I think a lot of people just said, 'I would never take him on.' That certainly wasn't Jerry." The two butted heads innumerable times about the correct blocking for this or that play. Schembechler ordered it done his way, and Hanlon occasionally made it fail. "I'd put a play into practice, and I knew it wouldn't work, because of what he had said," Hanlon noted. "And we'd run the play, and it would be blown up. He'd turn and look at me, and say 'You &%*^# …' and grumble. I had ways to get to him a little." Schembechler had ways to get Hanlon, a lot. The first firing seemed to come out of the blue. Hanlon recalled: "The first time it hap- pened, he said: 'You're done. Get out of here. Clear out your desk. I don't want to see you anymore.' "I got in the car and drove home. I said, 'Anne, we've got to find a job. I just got fired.' She looked at me and said, 'What?' I said, 'Yeah, I got into an argument with Bo, and he said you're fired and told me to get out.'" The Michigan assistant spent five or six hours wondering what to do, where he'd go to earn a living, etc. Then the phone rang. It wasn't Schembechler. It was never Schem- bechler. A voice whispered: "Jerry, get back in here. We need a practice schedule." "It wasn't Bo," Hanlon recalled. "One of the assistant coaches called me and told me to come back. I didn't know what to do. But I said, I don't have a job. I'd better go back. "That's basically how it happened every time. A spur-of-the-moment thing. Get out. Clean out your desk, and go. Then within a few hours — or not even that long — it's hey, get back here. You know he doesn't mean it." Dierdorf recalled: "Jerry used to smoke, and Bo used to get so upset with him. I'll never forget, one day Bo got so mad at Jerry, he said, 'Dammit, Hanlon. You know what's going to happen here? You're going to smoke yourself to death, and I'm going to have to take a day out of my busy schedule to go to your funeral.' That's the way these two guys were." "I was not smart enough to quit arguing, and he wasn't smart enough to quit firing me, so it happened on more than a couple of occasions," Hanlon noted, with a grin. "There was one time, I don't think I heard for a day. I thought, uh-oh, it happened this time. But we weren't practicing, so …" An Extended Family Anne Hanlon lost her battle with cancer on Dec. 10, 2013. Her husband never ceases to marvel at what she did, allowing him to do what he did. "My wife deserves sainthood, because of what she went through to allow me to go out and holler and scream at somebody else's kids," Hanlon quietly explained. "She had to do that at home with ours. She was a saint. She just backed me up in everything I did. "She should have been the treasurer of the United States, because we would have never, ever been in debt. She could take a nickel and stretch it farther than anybody I ever saw. We always were dressed well, and we ate well. How she did it on the amount of money I gave her, I'll never know." Schembechler's legendary right-hand man misses her terribly, taking solace in the kids they raised together and an extended football family. He finds joy in helping his former linemen when they need a hand. "My son is in a wheelchair — he was born with cerebral palsy," Leoni noted. "Jerry was there at an event that raised $250,000 in one night, at the West End Grill, for the Nick Leoni Research and Endowment Fund." Leoni has little patience for those who don't allow Hanlon unlimited privileges around the Michigan athletic campus. "He's loved by a lot of people," Leoni said. "Give him the open-door policy and let him do whatever he wants. He's one of a kind, and people still want to listen to him." "Jerry is an anchor for a lot of us," Dier- dorf added. "He is our tie to the team. Even with Jim Harbaugh coming back, there's Jerry. It's reassuring, it's gratifying, to see Jerry still doing so well at his age. He's been a rock for all of us over the years. "When we're all together, and he's not there someday, he'd be pretty pleased to hear how we speak about him. We can't do it in front of him, because his head will get even bigger than it already is, but amongst his players, Jerry is revered. That's putting it mildly." The old coach has an inkling. It sustains him through the valleys that come naturally with the years. "They still come back and greet you like you were somebody important in their life," he said, beaming. "To me, that's the greatest thrill you can have. They tell you how good they were and how bad I was. That's always a lot of fun to listen to. "It's a good feeling when they come back, and you have a chance to visit with them and see that maybe I did something good in my life." ❑ Hanlon and his wife, Anne, were married in January 1957, and he said of his late wife, "She was a saint. She just backed me up in everything I did." PHOTO COURTESY JERRY HANLON

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