TBT: The 1984 Recruiting Class

Submitted by readyourguard on February 2nd, 2017 at 4:33 PM

Since we're on the topic of recruiting classes - and because I didn't have a story written on another player this week - I thought I'd revisit the recruiting class that I was (marginally) a part of.

I may be getting older and more forgetful, but I've always prided myself on remembering  teammates and their numbers. I looked at the photo below from the Bentley Library and was able to name almost all of them from memory, sans 1 or 2 guys who didn't make it much past picture day.

I think the headliner of the class was QB Bob Cernak out of Chicago.  He was a strong lefthander who was considered by a few to be a threat to Harbaugh for the starting job.  At the time, nobody really knew what Harbaugh could do (1984 was his first year starting) and Cerno was supposed to be a big timer.  He even made the travel team for a game as a true freshman.  But Bob broke his arm his freshman year and ultimately moved to Tight End.  Today, he lives in Madison Wisconsin, is an avid fisherman, and a super good guy.

Bud Gereg was the number 1 recruit in Michigan.  He was a defensive tackle out of Warren DeLaSalle.  When he got to Michigan, football sorta took a backseat to playing guitar and a few other activities, and Bud left the program, unfortunately. 

Bud's high school teammate was John Vitale, a big, gritty, no bullshit Italian from Detroit who was loved by everybody.  He had such a big personality and was great football player.  He started for us for a few years and became a consensus All-America his senior year. He played in the World League of American Football and the Arena League.  Sadly, in 2000, he passed away from cancer of the spinal cord.  He beat the cancer once before, but it returned shortly after he married his wife, Lynn.  When his dad informed him that the cancer spread to his brain this time, John replied, "Well that sucks."  That was John.  It makes me tear up just typing this.

You're all familiar with Mark Messner out of Detroit Catholic Central.  If you saw the guy walking on campus, you might not know he played football by looking at him.  He wasn't overly big or bulky, but dude could play.  He went on to have a pretty good career.

Ernie Holloway came from St. Martin DePorres and joined his brother Dan at Michigan.  I played against Ernie and his St. Martin DePorres team back in high school.  They pretty much kicked our ass every year.  Our senior year, Ernie spent the first few games on the sideline with an ankle injury.  His game against us was his first of the season.  We held them to no gain on the first 3 plays but that would be the highlight of our day.  In came Ernie, and on 4th and 15, he ripped off about a 75 yard TD run.  That was it. Thanks for coming out, folks.  Drive home safely.

Dave Chester - aka Sexy C.  He came from Titusville Florida as a defensive tackle but eventually moved to offensive guard.  The most vivid memory I have of him on defense was during a practice, him and Jumbo Elliott started mixing it up and throwing haymakers.  Bo broke it up, then proceeded to explain how dumb those two were for throwing punches at another man wearing a facemask.  Smart guy, that Bo.

Dave Herrick was an offensive lineman who started as long snapper his freshman year, and might have also got time on the line.  His career was cut short by injuries but he continued to help with the video and taping department.  One time during a practice, a wicked storm kicked up while Dave was up in the scissor lift.  We all stood there and watched as this thing was listing hard from the wind.  It was a pretty scary moment....but at the time, we laughed.

Keith Evans was a defensive back out of Florida.  He wasn't very big but he could bring the lumber. I remember he had a bridge in his mouth for a set of fake front teeth.  He removed the appliance while he played of course, and it made him look like a total badass.  (I thought, anyway).  Keith transferred after a year or two.

Big Mike Husar.  This guy was great:  excellent football player, nice guy, funny as hell.  He's rumored to have set some sort of unofficial record for beers consumed in a single evening. I don't know about all that but I do know the smile he wore that night still hasn't come off his face yet. He's a big ole Teddy bear living in Chicago.

Erik "Soup" Campbell played both offense and defense, and earned time as a true freshman. One thing that I'll always remember is him calling Coach Carr "Lloyd". I don't know why that sticks out, but there it is.  After graduation, E got into coaching, including a couple stints at Michigan.  Today, he's the receiver's coach at UConn.

Chris D'Espisito was an offensive lineman from Toledo.  His career was cut short by a pretty serious injury, if I recall.  He helped out in the weight room as part of Gittleson's staff until graduation.  It would be 25 years or so later before I heard from him again. When I posted on FB that my daughter would be attending Alabama, he reached out and told me he was the supervisor for Transportation/Parking on the UA campus.  All 3 of his daughters attended Bama.

Dave Dever  was a defensive tackle from Chicago.  He lived down the hall in South Quad with a guy who would later be in my wedding.  Dave's son Bo was a walk-on during Hoke's years, and continues to help with the program.  The one memory that sticks out about Dave was he had this hand-carved wood duck in his dorm room.  Everytime I went into their room, I'd pick up that damn duck and play with it.  He kept telling me, "put it down.  You're gonna drop it."  I insisted I wouldn't.  Until one day I did.  I still feel pretty shitty about that.

John Willingham was an outside linebacker who went on to be a police officer with the LAPD.

Rick Masters was a guard but he ended up transferring out of the program.

Jamie Morris was a great teammate and continues to be a big part of Michigan football.  The guy was 5 foot nothin, a hundred nothin but he out-punched his weight more than any player on the team.  I remember watching him from the sidelines against Washington (I think) and seeing these giant defensive linemen and linebackers trying to rip his head off ever time they tackled him.  He just popped right up and jogged back to the huddle.

Mark Hill was a scholarship linemen who transferrered to Michigan fucking State after one season.  Boooo this man (although, I suppose if that's what he felt was best for him..... whatever.  Booo.)  Every Sunday, we'd gather for film study and talk about the game we just played.  We also handed out the scouting reports for the next week's opponent.  Bo would go through each starting player of the other team and give a quick opinion.  When we played State the following year and got to Hill, Bo said, ".....and there's our boy."  The room busted out laughing.

Big Mike Dames from Florida.  You can read about him in one of my TBT stories from last year.  Great great guy.

Bob Tait was an OLB from Pennsylvania.  I think his footall career was cut short from injury, but he ended up walking on to the basketball team.  I remember going to a game at Crisler and seeing him get some playing time at the end of a blowout. 

Chuck Adams was a tight end from Detroit Country Day.  The only memory I have of him was when he and Vitale threw down in the freshman lockerroom.  It was a pretty good tussle, if I remember right.  Adams ended up transferring to UCLA.

Mike Kovacs was a tight end but he also transferred out.

Mark Earhardt was big offensive lineman, and a super nice guy. 

Don Lessner* - son of a MSHAA Hall of Fame coach and a good friend of mine.  He works for the government (If I tell ya what he does, I have to kill ya), and loves him some free pop. He was in my wedding.

Trey McNeil* was a QB from Texas who went back there after 1 year in Ann Arbor

Brad Burrows* linebacker.

Kyle Anderson* was a QB who blew out his knee his freshman year.  He rehabbed it and returned his sophomore year as a fullback, then promptly blew out his knee again.  He's now the Lions orthopedic surgeon.  He was in my wedding.

Ernie Bock*, a DB out of Northville, who was my roommate for two years.

Mike DeBoer* was a punter from Grand Rapids.

Rick Sutkeiwicz* was a barefoot kicker who started for us.  His kids went to the same high school as mine (although I think they're slightly younger)

Dave* and Scott* Mandel - tight ends from Ann Arbor.

Bob* and Rick* Stites came from Ann Arbor Pioneer and were as tough as any players on the team.  Bob is now the president of the Letterwinners M Club.  They were ushers in my wedding.

Pat Fitzgerald* was a wide receiver and a pretty damn smart guy.

Me*.  I mentioned the guys in my wedding because it's my 28th anniversary tomorrow.  My poor wife.

* - denotes walk on. LOL.

There you have it.  The freshman class of 1984.  Hopefully I didn't forget anyone.

The guys I named are all in the the last couple rows.





February 2nd, 2017 at 11:56 PM ^

That's definitely Kelli. We did an Israel trip together, right before her first husband passed away. She and I were the two history nerds they could put in the front of the group to keep the tour guide feeling fulfilled while the rest of the group ambled around behind nursing hangovers.


February 2nd, 2017 at 5:39 PM ^

Jamie Morris was a great teammate and continues to be a big part of Michigan football.  The guy was 5 foot nothin, and hundred nothin but he out-punched his weight more than any player on the team.  I remember watching him from the sidelines against Washington (I think) and remember seeing these giant defensive linemen and linebackers trying to rip his head off ever time they tackled him.  He just popped up and jogged back to the huddle.



Still my favorite wolverine (you never forget your first love <3  LOL).  His story was part of why I fell in love with M football as a tween-age girl. 


February 3rd, 2017 at 10:35 AM ^

Jamie Morris was also the first M player I really remember being a big fan of.  In my not-at-all-embellished little kid memories he was always ripping off monster gains while carrying seven tacklers on his back...


February 2nd, 2017 at 10:52 PM ^

i enjoy reading these so thank you.  i am thinking of doing a much more abridged version of pre-red berenson hockey since that seems to come up these days with the tumult there. 


February 3rd, 2017 at 12:27 AM ^

I love these.  I remember a lot of these names since that was when I was at Michigan.

It really does show how fleeting it is to be a big time football player at a level like Michigan. It goes by so quickly.

Same thing with being a college student in general.  It's a reality bubble that pops all too quickly.

I tell students:  don't make fun of all the old alumni . . . you will be an alumni 20 times longer thatn you will be a college student.



February 3rd, 2017 at 7:20 AM ^

My Bro-in-Law, Muskegon Catholic Central  was recruited by Bennie, also from Muskegon, who promised he'd be head coach until after Wally graduated. That lie was quickly exposed as he walked into the first team meeting when Bump was announced to the team as the new HC, although the news had, obviously,  been released much earlier. Unlike your team, and every team starting with '69, he freely admits that politics dictated in large part who would be playing. Of course the game changed significantly in the 13 years between then and when Bo took over. Something tells me Bo would not have sacrificed a victory to keep prosperous boosters happy, regardless. Although is sounds strange even thinking about such an occurrence, the disparity in his record and the number of AAs Bo inherited might offer some validity to such a claim. 

And what in the Hell was up with Hill? Even then, he had to realize that was a Bendict Arnold type of move. Who the hell transfers to MSU from UM? He must have been very pissed at at least one, possibly more members of the coaching staff. Loved reading about Jamie. Many people do not believe me when I tell them just how short he was. Listed at 5'7", you and I both know that could be generous up to 3 to 4 inches, but what a tremendous runner and great guy. Met him at the Rose Bowl. Almost impossible to not like him instantly. Blessed with that smile and personality that made you feel like you were the most important person in the room. Was not hard, without ever admitting as much, to figure out what most suspected; either him or AC as Bo's all-time favorites. 

Was coach as weird as a player as he is a coach? Obviousy great in both roles, wondering if he had a personality that was a bit difficult for team mates to grasp. Certainly is a blessing. It's obvious now, 2 years in no one else would have been been adequate. Oh I'm certain we would have all played the loyal fans that we are, but that ad hoc committee, formed for that specific purpose, knew what we all learned. Thanks for the role you played - and there were a couple tough years, maybe only one - for all that you and everyone else has given to make this University and its program the standards that all others that want to do it right aspire to- the perfect blend of academics and football prowess that Bo espoused - simply can't thing of a better model. Lacking whatever it is you all possessed that caused Bo to select you to carry on the tradition, with complete honesty, have to admit I admire it. You are still a part of the the truly great program in college football. Thanks for your sacrifices and taking the time to share. Really enjoyed it. 


February 3rd, 2017 at 9:45 AM ^

I remember him as being a tough No Bullshit Center who anchored that O-line. I also thought he played injured I can't remember exactly what it was and I hope I am not confusing him with Steve Hutchinson another No Bullshit Center who played with that broken jaw against ND. Talk about tough, but yeah, I had no idea John was no longer with us, that is such a shame, so young. F Cancer.

Congratulations on your 28 years of marriage that is no small feat these days. I had to get married twice to get 26 and counting. Again, love your recollections they seem, and really are precious. Keep up the good work RYG.


February 3rd, 2017 at 10:46 AM ^

Thanks for the look back. I'm a little surprised at the relative low number of contributors in that group. You had a couple legends in Messner and Morris, some great offensive lineman and Campbell was a multi-year starter, but not much else that jumps out.

I remember the story Morris always dreamed of going to Michigan, but wasn't certain he'd get a scholarship offer. His brother Joe, playing in the NFL for NYG at the time, told him he'd pay his way to be a walk-on if necessary. Maybe some other guys fell through, but Michigan ended up offering and it's crazy how a guy that size stepped in right away and played so well as a true freshman.

Also remember when people would talk about recruit rankings, Bo would say, "Nobody made a big deal when we signed Harbaugh and Morris." Could say the same thing a few years later about Grbac and Desmond Howard.


February 3rd, 2017 at 12:37 PM ^

Thanks Read.

Every time I see one of your posts, I immediately jump up and grab a snack and a drink.

Its a real highlight and I'm really grateful for these posts.


February 4th, 2017 at 8:52 PM ^

Bo and I roomed at the Michigan camp when I was in high school so I got to meet Dave. Super cool guy and I was mesmorized at his Big Ten Championship ring. Also pretty bad ass that Bo was named after, well, Bo.


February 6th, 2017 at 3:15 PM ^

Yes, CKearsch plus one, you r so right what a brain fart. Steve Everitt toughness reminded me John Vitale as another Center. I was sitting there thinking about Steve Everitt after reading John Vitale but I mention Chris Hutchinson DL. When Steve was the other Center. I really would not want to line up across from this cat for any amount of fame or fortune.