Have you ever heard of Donnie Warner? I hadn't until reading Bo's last book "Bo's Lasting Lessons" (http://www.amazon.com/Bos-Lasting-Lessons-Fundamentals-Leadership/dp/044...). Which, by the by, is a great book and I highly recommend it to any Michigan fan. Basically it's all about Bo's philosophy on leadership, with many great stories to boot.
The story that has most intrigued me is that of little Donnie Warner. He came to Bo in the summer before his freshmen year at Michigan, weighing slightly more than our own Roy Roundtree, at a tiny 170 lbs. Now, sure you can play at that weight at one of the skill positions, you certainly could back in the '70's, but this kid wanted to be an Offensive Guard! Bo was blown away, seeing as how both of his Guards at the time went 250 and 255. So then the kid says, fine, I'll try out as a "Middle Guard" which I've never heard of but I guess means Defensive Tackle.
Bo gave him a shot. Much to Bo's surprise, Donnie survived his first year. And the next year, and the next. Coming to the beginning of his Senior Year Donnie was #1 on the depth chart! Bo couldn't believe it. He begged his assistants to find someone, anyone who was bigger and faster than Donnie. But Donnie proved his worth and kept that starting job!
This was 1973, one of Bo's best teams. Their defense was dominant, and with little Donnie on the line! Michigan went through its first 10 games undefeated, largely because of that outstanding defense only giving up 58 points, just under 6 a game. They headed for a crash course with Woody's #1 ranked Bucknuts. Michigan sat at #4. Think 2006, except way more option plays, and instead of planet sized Alan Branch anchoring the middle of the Defensive Line you have little Donnie Warner.
Before that OSU game in 1973, Donnie told Bo that OSU's center (All-American Steve Myers) was not going to be able to block him, and he was right! Woody was forced to double team Donnie, allowing Michigan's linebackers to tee off on Archie Griffin. OSU was shut out in the second half, but unfortunately Michigan couldn't break a 10-10 tie. You know the rest, the athletic directors in the Big Ten voted those hated Bucknuts to the Rose Bowl. Bo was pissed, as he was wont to be.
So how did Donnie become so great? Here's Bo:
"He'd watch the offensive huddle, notice who the quarterback was talking to, and try to listen in on the plays. Then he would get down in his crouch, and start looking around to see which way their backs were leaning, even if it was just a little bit left or right, the same way a pitcher tries to figure out if the runner on first is going to try to steal second by watching his feet. Finally, you'd see him read their splits-the gaps between the offensive guards-and watch how their center lined up over the ball. And solely on that basis, he'd know what they were going to do before they did it!"
That's quite a feat. A walk on rises to the starting spot, despite his lack of physical skills and goes on to be part of a dominant defense. Just the kind of thing Bo would have loved.
I'm a little bummed that I haven't heard of Donnie until this book. With so much media hype surrounding Rudy, why can't little Donnie get some love? I mean, it's pretty obvious to me that his story is much more inspiring than stupid Rudy and his one play. Whoopdee freakin doo. Let's give it up for Donnie!
Update! Ahhhh Google......you are the best. Just a little Googlestalking turned up an article in the Detroit News that had a picture of Donnie in his playing days. I guess he wore #54. Wow, the Detroit News sure got to this faster than I did! It's from November of last year, and wonder of wonder's, they pulled it from Bo's book: http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071115/SPORTS0201/71...