Thanks for a great story, and very well-written. I'm with you on wanting to hear more about the guy. What number did he wear? Maybe we should start reserving that for other kick-ass walkons.
Michigan's Own Rudy
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...
Rudy was more popular because he was a hobbit from lord of the rings. I thought that we all knew that.
. . . Academic All-Big Ten. But then, a good story should never be screwed-up by the facts.
So what part of the story is screwed up by the facts?
Bo had a much better story at 170 lbs than at 195 lbs.
...too far-fetched to guess that little Donnie started at a scrawny and grew to a nearly-not-scrawny 195 over the course of 5 years.
Well, the fact that he ended up 195 lbs isn't really the point. The point is that he came to see Bo at a buck 70 wanting to play on the line. Bo thought he had no chance, but he proved Bo wrong. He worked hard and ended up being a starter, a good starter......at 195 OK...still, pretty light for a linemen, even in those days.
I think it's pretty obvious that he wouldn't be able to compete at 170. He worked hard, and reached his goal. Bo was just illustrating that you have to give your people a shot at success, otherwise they won't really reach it.
Warner did begin 1973 as a starter, but Bo did find his replacement. Warner started 4 games that year, but was quickly replaced as a starter by Tim Davis, a soph MG from Warren, Ohio. Davis started 7 games in '73. Davis went on to at least 1 All-Big Ten year, I think, after splitting time with Warner and ultimately earning the starting job. It shouldn't diminish the story of Warner's pluck and perserverence, but it's not exactly Cinderella, either.
Great story, but never,ever equate anything in my beloved program to anything in ND again. Fuck Rudy. Fuck Notre Dame.
^^^^^^^That was meant to be funny and not nearly as rude to ChrisGo as it seemed. The rude to Rudy and ND part- totally intended.
I hear ya......I always hated Rudy (although, I did enjoy the movie). Add to that the fact that Rudy in real life is a total douche.