This Week's Obsession: The Other 97s

Submitted by Seth on January 14th, 2015 at 12:15 PM

1997defense

the base play

The Question:

Ace: After the title game, it's time to wash the bad taste out of our mouths. Thinking back on the 1997 title team, who was your favorite player to watch other than Charles Woodson? Answer should be your choice at the time, so unless you've always been obsessed with line play I'm going to be a little skeptical if one of you answers Steve Hutchinson.

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The Answers:

Alex Cook: I was four-and-a-half years old at the time and have no recollection of this team whatsoever. I'm going to graduate this spring / summer, so, uh, yeah 1997 was a while ago.

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Seth: Dude don't forget people knew Hutchinson and Backus then. Freshman linemen were almost unheard of in recent memory, so Lloyd announcing two would start was a big part of why September expectations were for "another four-loss season."

hutchbackus
It's not like two freshman offensive linemen went totally unremarked, Ace.

(The contempt with which I used to say those four words embarrasses me now).

Through that season there were Daily stories and Replay mentions about Hutchinson and Backus: going to Blimpy's for the first time, having to buy Spots for the seniors, boilerplate "pick things quickly" stuff from coaches, yada yada. However I personally read those articles a few years later in the archives, and also developed my appreciation for Rob Renes only after hitting campus in 1998 and being exposed to frat brothers and editors who worshipped him.

As my high school notebooks will attest, I was a fan of Dhani Jones. He was so fast tracking down guys wherever on the field, and always appeared around the ball, and was only a sophomore. He really stuck out in the Penn State game, and I remembered him having a ton of sacks (a Bentley lookup reveals six). And his name was Dhani, and he had a fro, and they said he was a straight-A student, and back then I believed in the student-athlete hooey a lot more. If he had played in the time of YouTube he'd be an MGo-Favorite easily.

Dhani was only marginally ahead of a bunch of that front seven. The way Keith Jackson would say "Clint Copenhaver" you thought Copenhaver was some sort of defensive god. James Hall would chase quarterbacks into their nightmares. Sam Sword and Glenn Steele because it's not enough that we destroy your offense we have to literally send guys named for medieval weaponry at you. Either of those guys would be my pick after Jones (I loved sacks).

And I liked A-Train, a big-time recruit when that was just becoming a thing, and so damn fast. When I bought my jersey freshman year it was between 7 and 32; I went with the former because Henson was my grade.

[After the jump: we loved everybody]

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Dave Nasternak: So, due to odd circumstances in my personal life (and being 12...but that's only a small part of the reason), I think I only got to see about 3-4 of the games from 1997, live. But I followed in newspapers, re-watched on VHS, and had many conversations with anyone who would talk M football with me, so I was familiar with the goings-on.

1997_12
Streets was like the one guy other than Woodson making big catches downfield. So much of the rest of the passing game was Tuman or Shea getting rollouts.

I remember watching the Colorado, Baylor, ND, and Ohio State games...and standing outside of a Ruby Tuesday in the mall, looking through a window, watching some of the Rose Bowl...much to the annoyance of the couple trying to eat dinner.

There were so many fun guys to watch on defense: Tommy Hendricks, Jones, Renes, Ray, Steele, etc. But one of the things I remember watching about that unit was how so many different guys would make plays. Ok, other than the obvious guy, big plays also came from every position on that defense.  I remember as the lead in the OSU game was getting smaller and smaller, I knew somebody would make a play…and then the Steele sacks and Gold deflection, etc.

But probably the two guys who I was most intrigued by were Tai Streets and Anthony Thomas. I had only been closely following college football for a few years, at that point, but I was so blown away (and then ultimately excited) that a true freshman was playing the way A-Train was. I got a #32 jersey soon after and couldn't believe I had 3 more years of watching him.

Streets? First, his name is just awesome.Then, after M lost Hayes, Toomer, and Riemersma after '95, I was really rooting hard for him to do well because they needed a WR to step up.  I was probably as happy for him as I was for any Wolverine after that Rose Bowl.  While he didn't have the greatest or longest NFL career, catching two bombs for TDs in the National Championship-clinching game is tough to beat.
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Adam Schnepp: I grew up in a house with a dad who doesn't understand why anyone would spend three hours watching a football game when you could spend that time reading and a mom who's a Michigan State alum.

1997 was just about the time I was getting into football, albeit Michigan State football (you can imagine how happy she is that I went to Michigan and work for a Michigan blog). At the time it would have been way easier for me to name five of the aliens in the Mos Eisley Cantina than five football players, but I knew who Charles Woodson was. It was impossible to not know who he was that year; it seemed like every kid at school had a #2 jersey.

JERAME_TUMAN_MSU1998-thumb-300x282-78819
Somehow always open. [via Ann Arbor news]

But to pick a second favorite? I think I have to go with Greedo.

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Brian: Everyone who works for this blog is disgustingly young and I hate you.

My #2 (not that #2) was Jerame Tuman. Tuman was an actual downfield threat as a tight end and was more often than not the option on third and medium as well; other than Bennie Joppru's senior season I don't think there's been a more impactful tight end in the history of my Michigan fandom. I had not yet been exposed to the spread and learned to hate the waggle from the deepest part of my soul, and I remember Griese rolling out in the Rose Bowl to find Tuman behind everybody.

To have a running game that would be able to do that to a safety was something I took for granted. No longer, and just in time for that to be the case again.

Comments

UMaD

January 14th, 2015 at 12:23 PM ^

Engineer, future NFLer, '97's OTHER corner.

Woodson got all the attention for good reason, but part of why people ever bothered to throw to his side of the field was that Weathers ALSO had his side on lock.

Sacked Ryan Leaf in the Rose Bowl and returned an INT for a TD against Ohio State.  Big time players...

bigsmooth814

January 15th, 2015 at 2:11 AM ^

Greatest call ever. Neither of those guys ever played meaningful football ever after that unreal hit. Sad, but what a moment and game to go out on.

I got to go with Hutchinson and Chris Floyd. Absolute animal and old school. Had single handedly one of the best drives in UM in history against OSU. Two nasty runs, and two savage blocks. He also swatted and OSU defender's hand out of face when he was on the ground and the OSU player (need to find out who) tried to help him up. Bas a$$. 

Hail-Storm

January 14th, 2015 at 2:43 PM ^

He had the big hair and big smile everywhere he went. 

I liked watching Renes play because he went to my highschool and was a really cool guy.  I didn't know him since he was a senior when I was a freshman, but my brother knew him pretty well and he was super nice.  He was a lot smaller than you'd think for a NT, but he was rediculously strong. 

ND Sux

January 14th, 2015 at 12:25 PM ^

but Glen Steele made many huge plays on that D Line.  He always seemed to plant the QB at critical points in games.  Unsung hero...Chris Floyd.   

sdogg1m

January 14th, 2015 at 12:27 PM ^

Glen Steele was an absolute beast on that defense and opened up so many plays for the rest of the team. Glen allowed the opposition to pick their posion.

Benoit Balls

January 14th, 2015 at 1:48 PM ^

like it was yesterday.  Was a great day for me for a number of reasons, and the game was a big part of it.   If only the refs in the Nabraska-Mizzou game had the stones to call that kicked pass in the end zone, it may have been the best (non birth of child) day ever

RHammer - SNRE 98

January 14th, 2015 at 4:38 PM ^

I'd have to go with Glen Steele too; such an incredible motor on that guy, and he had a knack for getting home on key plays all season long...

another great guy on that team was Zach Adami; he and I had a bunch of mutual friends from high school, and he was solid on that line... all the young 'uns on the blog make me feel old too - the '97 season was the fall of my senior year, and other than the Iowa game I was at every game (in awesome senior seats) that season... it was definitely as glorious as you might imagine - hope we can get back to that level soon

nickoko

January 14th, 2015 at 1:50 PM ^

Sat in the front row of the UM student's section for both the PSU and Rose Bowl, and that PSU game was just amazing. Everytime those, "what is your favorite game," questions come up, I can't understand why PSU '97 isn't at the top of more people's lists. The anticipation leading up to that game, Judgement Day, the complete dominance by the defense, and silence from the home crowd was just amazing. Plus Nebraska almost losing...

schreibee

January 14th, 2015 at 2:24 PM ^

One more thing about Judgement Day - if there'd been replay then Nebraska WOULD HAVE lost that day in Columbia. Tell any husker slappy you meet that and they'll shut up for at least 10 seconds!!!

schreibee

January 14th, 2015 at 2:22 PM ^

Judgement Day absolutely the most impactful game of my life watching Michigan Football - and as I like to say on this blog, I saw Cazzie Russell & Ron Johnson play, I was there for osu '69. I was too young to really get the import of osu '69, although I can clearly recall the Rose Bowl the previous season and everyone in my extended family/friends rooting on O.J. vs the buckeyes.

But that day in Happy (for us) Valley was the day I knew that Michigan was gonna go undefeated -and untied- for the only time of my life to date. I add untied because of course we were undefeated in '73 & was it '93?

Anyway, Jeez how to pick a single player aside from #2 that was your favorite to watch on that team?! Lots of great answers already - Gold, Marcus, Dhani, Sword, Swett & Steele. The offense was obviously not as spectacular as the D, but Tuman definitely always being open when we had to have a play stands out to me.Tai made some big plays (+ extra credit for the TD in Columbus in '96!!).

Has anyone even mentioned the nealry flawless QB who led us to that NC? Not a spectacular player, but I remeber falling way behind in Iowa City (14 pts? 20?) on maybe the D's only sub-par day of the season and he coolly led us back to victory.

I'm putting in my vote for #14

Yostbound and Down

January 14th, 2015 at 12:30 PM ^

I was 8 years old in 97 but if I remember correctly that was probably the first year I really paid attention aside from the Ohio St. game every year...probably because Dad started paying attention more too for the first time since the 93-94 seasons when we lived in Ann Arbor.

I distinctly remember the Colorado, Penn St., Ohio St. and Wash St. games. I always liked A-Train, Griese had a really cool story and was a QB so he was another favorite player. Defense Sam Sword was my guy besides Woodson, because seriously, his last name is Sword (and he beat the crap out of people).

There are many games or moments I wish I had been able to witness or remember more accurately in Michigan history, but that first Woodson INT against Colorado is one of my favorites. You knew right away that guy was going to run the show.

Yostbound and Down

January 14th, 2015 at 2:03 PM ^

No I know, ATrain I think did start right away the next year though, for the Brady/Henson teams if I remember correctly. Howard was definitely a power runner. Looking back at A-Train he seems more like the speed guy in that backfield which is funny because he was viewed as a power back in the NFL.

Seth

January 14th, 2015 at 5:42 PM ^

Click to big.

Here's your answer: A-Train shared carries with other guys until his junior season. Thomas got 28% of RB or FB carries in 1997, and 37% in 1998 before leaping to 79% in 1999.

In '97 it was Chris Howard getting the plurality of touches, though that was still just 41% (C-Will had 12% and the fullbacks, mostly Chris Floyd, accounted for 19%).

In '98 A-Train and C-Will were nearly even: 37% to 32% for little 33. Fargas took another 17% of carries, and Walter Cross got 8%, most of those while salting games away. The fullbacks got the remaining 6%. Thomas was a good enough back in '98 that I made him my background, i.e. he was my favorite player that year.

Only in 1999 did A-Train really become the feature back. The carries that C-Will and Fargas took the previous year all went to Anthony Thomas, with Cross getting the same 8% (backup carries). The fullbacks got 13% but a majority of that was B.J. Askew emerging.

GoBLUinTX

January 14th, 2015 at 8:07 PM ^

A-Train may have been but a footnote in Michigan football history had Justin Fargas not broken his leg during the '98 Wiscy game.

Tai Streets, should add that he played the last half of the regular season with two broken fingers.

Daydrian Taylor.  After Woodson my first thought is about Daydrian Taylor ending his football career during the game at Happy Valley.

mclub

January 14th, 2015 at 12:31 PM ^

As an 11 year old from Columbus, I felt I could relate to Marcus Ray.  His hit on Boston and quotes about why he choose Michigan over Ohio State made me a lifelong fan.

Ian Gold was injured, but the way he seemed to inspire the team made me look up to him.

Maximinus Thrax

January 14th, 2015 at 12:38 PM ^

I am a Campus Inn alum who used to serve that team dinner/breakfast on game days.  It seems odd now since he now seems so affable on TV, but back then Marcus Ray was the only unqualified dick I remember on that team.  Most of the team would generally ignore our (waitstaff) presence or neglect to make eye contact, but I recall Marcus Ray as being generally malevolent as far as we were concerned.

 

 

nickoko

January 14th, 2015 at 1:42 PM ^

Ian Gold sat next to me that year in History of the University of Michigan. He went to class more than I did. I remember thinking he might be a football player, but no way did I think that he was a starting linebacker since he seemed small. I remember that we used to joke around in class, but after I realized who he was, I was too nervous to talk to him anymore. (I know, cool story...) 

Roughneck

January 14th, 2015 at 12:37 PM ^

My "cool story bro," I was working for the University and got the chance to work all of the games in 1996. Was a ticket taker for two hours up to game time then watched the game. Ended up moving to South Carolina before the 1997 Championship season....yeah.

csmhowitzer

January 14th, 2015 at 12:38 PM ^

Dhani's show on the travel channel was awesome!

I was still too young to really remember names. I of course knew Woodson. Trying to think of a second name that I knew at the time and that woudl be Lloyd Carr.

Yostal

January 14th, 2015 at 12:41 PM ^

1). I have a weakness for great safety play.

2). Marcus Ray allegedly never missed Jeopardy!

3). Marcus Ray just HIT people.

 

Marcus Ray, Marcus Ray, Marcus Ray.

Vote_Crisler_1937

January 14th, 2015 at 12:43 PM ^

I appreciated the well positioned Tommy Hendricks. BIG interception against Notre Dame. Also the leadership of the injured players, Eric Mayes and Ben Mast. Apparently they were very inspirational to the rest of the team.

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Simps

January 14th, 2015 at 12:45 PM ^

I was 12 in 1997 and I remember I watched every game that year. My dad is a big Michigan, and sports fan so I really hit my stride in the mid 90s. I could name nearly all of the starters. I really loved watching Marcus Ray. I was a CB/Safety when I was playing football at that age, and I will always remember that hit on David Boston. God times were good.

CoMisch

January 14th, 2015 at 12:48 PM ^

I unfortunately didn't attend UofM, but was in school during this season. As a sophomore at Ohio University (I'm originally from Warren, MI), I watched all the games on a 13 inch TV that sat on top of my dorm room frig. I was the only Michigan fan around there, at least that I knew off. So I watched all these games alone. It was after the Penn State victory I knew we had something going. And as the season came to a close my friend who did attend UofM said he had a ticket for me and my two other buddies for The Game. The tickets were from students who didn't want to go (was no big deal to them, whatever). How blessed I was to attend that game and taste the sweet sting of pepper spray as we tried to rush the field. I remember yelling and giving a guy tailgating a hard time for wearing red. He turned, it was a Wings jacket. Fair enough. Mine player? Marcus Ray. I still have that Sports Illustrated issue when he sent that bitch Boston flying. Pure gold. Amen.

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