"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
As some of you may know, I went to the game last weekend. In the car was Da’Shawn Hand (and father), Tim Settle, Matt Burrell (and father), Coach John Harris, Coach Richard Mcfee(David Terrell’s high school coach), Kevin Johnson of Team Ascension (personal trainers for the kids), and Reid McCoy (Richmond Atlee QB) (and father). The drive was interesting because Burrell and Settle had played each other than evening, so there was plenty going around about who got the best of who. We left Virginia around 1 am and met Coach Singletary at the team hotel at 10 am. We met with all of the coaches in the lobby as they took the team out for a walk-through. We had breakfast with Singletary and a couple recruiting coordinators. Beilein and staff were in the hotel having breakfast with some players as well and made their way over to speak and jo0ke around with the guys. Bacari Alexander has a great sense of humor and challenged Burrell to a game of 1 on 1. Coach Jordan lobbied Singletary to get out on the field, saying he had one redzone-jumpball-toe-tap in him if he were needed. He had pretty big hands, I think he might’ve done well, but fortunately he wasn’t needed. After breakfast, Da’shawn and his dad went to go take the academic tour again, and speak with advisors. This trip was a little divided because Hand was on his official and the other guys were on an unofficial. So everything from breakfast, team dinner, hotel room was paid for by the recruits except for Da’shawn and his dad.
I would like to point out that Singletary was very aware of everything going on with our trip. He made it a point to keep Coach Harris informed as to what was allowed and not allowed according to the NCAA and even little things that I’m sure could’ve slid by, he stayed on top of. It was nice to see, and it makes me even less of a believer of those who claim ignorance when caught. Even the next day when Da’shawn told him who he hung out with, he already knew.
After watching the start of the UVA game, where Oregon took no time in making people lose interest in the game, we left the hotel around 4 pm to head to the Junge Center for dinner. Once again, we had to drive separately and pay for parking to stay compliant. We went inside, where we got our tickets, and a delicious meal and we hung around there until 7pm. The recruits filed in with their parents and coaches, and I despite everything I have read, it looked like a reunion of sorts. So many people knew each other (and of course I’m pointing out all the guys to Burrell and Settle, because I’m THAT guy) and were very close. It really had the family atmosphere that everyone spoke of. Parents were introducing themselves to other recruits and making friends with other parents and it was as comfortable a room as one could’ve expected. The coaches came through a little later including Mattison’s wife ,who Da’shawn asked for some of her famous cookies…and Coach Mattison replied that he doesn’t get cookies for body slams or sacks until he gets to campus. I also saw Chris Perry, (who I do not know personally, but we did attend the same high school and know many of the same people from there) and while we spoke, he was asked to leave by the compliance staff, because apparently…right.
This is when things got surreal. Da’shawn steps outside the Junge Center and once he was noticed, there is a rush of people to the gate. People were screaming (grown men) and yelling and taking pictures, shaking hands, and giving their best pitches for Michigan, most of which included (You gotta choose us” ‘It’s the only choice” and the ever so eloquent “pleeeeeease come here.” It was interesting watching the other players sit back and marvel at how much of a celebrity he already was. And for me, it was the first time I had personally seen Da’shawn embrace and experience how big he really was. He was having fun taking pictures, although he was told not to do any autographs, he was pulled back inside for the pregame speech from Singletary. Singletary gave a teary non Rich-Rod-esque speech about the campus and the tradition after showing a video, and then we were ready to hit the field. We filed out of Junge, and onto the field, to a chorus of cheers from the fans around. We walked down the tunnel and onto the field and it was great watching these kids see the field for the first time. There were only about 30,000 fans in the stands at the time, but the environment was incredible. Da’shawn walking with George Campbell, Drake Harris, and Wilton Speight walked past the student section and began to shake hands and hi-five those who were chanting for a commitment. We stood out on the field talking and taking pictures until the band came out. Da’shawn and Wilton were sitting next to each other on the front row, Jashon Cornell was a row behind them, and I was Section 23, Row A, which is 3 rows back on the 48.5 yard line. For those who were there, the game was spectacular, it was loud, and all of the recruits around me seemed to genuinely enjoy the game. I was sitting beside the DC from Cass Tech who was under the impression that HE was Brent Musburger and commented after every play on all of his former players.
After the game, we walked out on the field and back through the tunnel. I won’t name any names, but there were more than a couple people back at Junge who mentioned to Da’shawn how badly we need a pass rush specialist.
The next morning, Professor Needs-A-Raise met with Da’shawn and his father for breakfast at somewhere swanky I believe, and then he went to go watch film with Coach Mattison and Hoke. When we arrived at Schembechler Sunday around 11, Hoke was in his office speaking with a few parents. I noticed he took time to talk to the committed guys and their parents, not just the uncommitted ones. At the time we left, he had been in his office with Mone and his family for nearly 40 minutes.
It was another awesome experience, I don’t believe Settle or Burrell received offers on the visit, but the coaches and Mrs. Mattison knew who both of them were and where they were from which puts her in the category of greatest wives of all time (along with Carmela Soprano among others.) They were told that they only expect to take 15 in the 2015 class, so offers will be hard to come by. As far as which schools they like the most, I can’t speak on, but they both loved Michigan. They didn’t know that much about the school, but aside from the environment, it was a unique experience to each of them, and I would expect that they are both hoping for a Michigan offer.
In the pictures: Hand in the camo (he doesn’t wear school colors on his visits), Burrell with dreads, his dad looks like him but supersized, Coach John Harris (who has worked with Da’shawn, Matt, and Tim) is in the gray Michigan shirt, Coach McPhee (David Terrell’s high school coach and good friends with Hoke and Fred Jackson) is in the black shirt with yellow pants.