"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
A group of us were sitting in a hotel lounge the night before the Penn State game in '97. Fred was jovial to say the least, every few minutes saying, "We're gonna crush these guys." He was reeling off story after story. My favorite one was this:
"...so Tai (Streets) comes off the field and his finger's broken. I mean, you can see the bone sticking out. That finger's broken. So he goes to sit down and Lloyd looks down at him and yells, 'What's the matter Streets? Aren't you tough? Get back out there!' The bone is sticking out of his finger. You can see it. Man! But back out he goes."
Fred was cracking up the whole time.
Bo and Jerry Hanlon were elsewhere in the lounge, but I was more than content listening to Fred. I've learned he sometimes doesn't let the truth stand in the way of a good story, but that makes the stories all the better. So while my story is true -- Fred actually said those words -- you might want to verify the finer details of the actual event.
Fred's a great guy. Too bad I've moved to Florida...
I'm sure we all have our favorite M football experiences. Here's one of mine:
Last September I got a call from Scott Draper asking if I would be willing to do a prayer for the team before the Illinois game (I'm now a pastor in Illinois just west of Champaigne, although I was an EECS guy at UM a while back). Apparently Lloyd was aware that players wouldn't get to go to church typically on Sundays after road trips, so they brought in a priest, a Protestant minister (me in this case), and perhaps someone else depending on demand, to hold a little service for the team before games. My instructions were: a one-minute prayer, an eight-minute, spiritually-based motivational talk, and a one minute closing prayer. It was a late game in Champaigne, so I got to the hotel around 1:00 that afternoon. The players were all in their matching sweats. They ate first, which took NO time, I couldn't believe how fast they ate, and then if any of them wanted to they could go to a worship service. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know enough of the players without their numbers to know who I was speaking to. About 35-40 of them came to my room, along with a few assistant coaches (not Lloyd, he arrived late and was still eating. I don't know if he would have come otherwise). Chad Henne was one I did recognize, and he was in the middle of the front row. They all filed in and completely filled up the front rows while the coaches sat in the back. I did my thing, and after the closing prayer, every player came up (Chad was the first) and shook my hand with their bear-paw sized right hand and thanked me. They were unbelievably classy, not just in thanking me like they were obviously taught to do, but also in their attentive listening -- to a man, complete with nodding at the right times and smiling at the right times and the whole bit. I couldn't have been more impressed. Nor more nervous. I could easily speak in front of Congress after speaking in front of those guys, even if they are just kids, practically. Any other team would have been no big deal, of course, just Michigan. I hope that level of class continues with the new regime. Maybe all teams are like that in D-1, though. I guess I wouldn't know.
Afterward I asked "Soup" Campbell, who was my escort during the process, if what I did was alright. I had no idea what I was supposed to say, really. I graduated seminary with Frank Reich, who qb'd for Maryland and then the Bills, and I emailed him asking for suggestions, but he didn't get back with me until after the fact. Soup said, "That was perfect. We'll have to tell Lloyd to ask you back next time." But I doubt Lloyd will get rehired, so I won't start planning what to say any time soon. And I have no idea if all schools offer such services or if Coach Rodriguez will continue the practice.
It was cool that Chad Henne then went out and gave one of the gutsiest performances ever. All because of my two prayers and eight minutes of Christian motivation. Yes, I know I had zero to do with the team's win and Chad's performance, but it's infinitely cool to have been part of what the team did that day.