I'm a big fan of the movie Jackie Brown. It’s one of those flicks I just have to watch whenever I see it on the cable guide. As a matter of fact, it was on Tuesday night and I couldn’t turn it off even though the basketball game had started.
Do you remember that scene where Odell Robbie (Samuel L Jackson) discusses the virtues of his favorite long rifle, the AK-47? While I was piecing this story together, I imagined Odell reciting those lines, only, instead of the AK47, he was talking about this guy running down on kickoffs.
“Dog 99. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to smash every m*****f***** in the wedge, accept no substitute.”
This dude was created to play football. At 6’2” 235lbs with athleticism, strength, speed, and a relentless desire to implode would-be blockers, Dog was someone you kept your eye on on kickoffs. He wore #99. You couldn’t miss him. And he was just as unforgettable off the field, too. He had this booming voice, an ever-present smile, and always with something positive to say. He was tough physically and mentally, and as you’ll read later on, he never EVER stops challenging himself.
Carlitos Bostic grew up just down the road from the Big House, in Ypsilanti. He was widely recruited because he brought speed and athleticism to the outside linebacker position. At the time, we ran a 3-5 and our OLBs were usually taller, stronger guys who could take on tight ends and fight the hook blocks. Lawrence Taylor had just exploded onto the NFL scene, and college coaches wanted a guy like that on the edge of their defense. That’s the kind of player coaches saw in Carlitos.
Just about every school in the Big 10 recruited him, as did West Virginia, a couple SEC teams, and UCLA. Well….UCLA recruited him until Carlitos innocently informed the Bruins coaches that his high school teammate Eric Ball was interested in heading to Westwood. Terry Donahue focused on Ball who ended up having a stellar career in California while Michigan would get their LT.
Before he pledged to Michigan, Carlitos took a trip to Columbus Ohio where he was hosted by Pepper Johnson, Keith Byers, and Rory Graves. The Buckeyes wanted Bostic bad and they pulled out all the stops, including fancy meals at the best restaurants in town. This was a new experience for the young kid from working class Ypsi. He wasn’t exactly accustomed to the fine dining scene. When you’re a teenager being wined and dined on a recruiting trip, you cut loose a little. For Carlitos, that meant an appetizer of shrimp cocktail. Hey, if they’re paying….. /shrug emoji
What the hell, make it two.
The waiter barely had time to put the first one down before Dog dug in. He plowed down a couple shrimp and quickly noticed everyone at the table was sitting there staring at him. Slack jawed and silent, they gazed at this kid from Michigan mowing down his shrimp…..peel and all.
“I have never seen anyone eat like that before” said Graves. “Dog, you GOTTA come to Ohio State. You’re a beast.”
Carlitos was a little embarrassed but he and Coach Earl Bruce shared a laugh about it the next day. The Buckeyes (and Michigan State, for that matter) really made him feel like a priority and gave him non-stop attention. Truth be told, he was pretty close to signing with the Buckeyes. Close. Not close enough, thankfully.
On his Michigan visit, Bo and Coach Moeller were straight to the point and made no bones about wanting Carlitos’ aggressive style of play on the edge of their defense. For his hosts, they paired him up with fullbacks Eddie Garrett and Dan Rice. These two were imposing figures; big, strong, tough guys who were built like brick shithouses. They were the exact kind of football player Carlitos wanted to be. And they also had a hell of a sense of humor.
As much as Ohio State tried, they couldn’t overcome A) proximity to family, B) playing in the Big House for Bo, and C) legendary Outside Linebackers coach Milo Vooletich.
Milo was a special coach and man, God rest his soul. He stood out from all the other coaches. He was tough, direct, and intimidating. He didn't put up with any BS, but he loved his players. If you sat in a meeting room with Coach Milo, you paid attention and did your job. And then you’d get a story. Let me tell you, the man could tell some damn funny stories. I’ll never forget the way he eloquently described the job of a tight end.
“When that son of a bitch is trying to block you, what he’s really trying to do is shit in your yard. The line of scrimmage is the property line and that guy is trying to SHIT. IN. YOUR. YARD. Don’t let him shit in your yard. Push him back. Make him shit in his own goddamn yard.”
That description stuck with me for years and I used it on my OLBs when I coached.
Milo was a coach, mentor, professor, and sometime father figure. You might not have liked the ass chewing you inevitably got, but you knew two things: you probably deserved it, and you weren’t gonna do whatever it was you did, again.
Carlitos’ first game action was, of course, on special teams. He was amped up and ready to bust some heads. When the Kickoff team huddled up, Carlitos couldn’t contain his excitement. He brought enthusiasm to kickoff coverage that hadn’t been seen before. He was jumping up and down, cheering, and chomping at the bit. It was infectious. Soon, others were sharing his enthusiasm to make a play. They set goals as a unit to make the tackle inside the 15 yard line. He and Allen Bishop would have friendly competitions about who would make the bigger play on kick coverage. Bo always emphasized special teams, but Carlitos brought it up a couple notches. When we kicked off, you kept your eye on 99.
Carlitos went on to have a very successful career. Usually, this next section is where I would normally go into greater detail about the player’s career, but this time, I want to focus on what Carlitos did AFTER Michigan. That's not to diminish his career, by any means, but in my opinion, what he did after his 5 years at Michigan is much more impressive.
Upon graduation, he gave the NFL a shot, starting with the Detroit Lions, where he camped with guys like Chris Spielman, his brother Rick, and Benny Blades. Carlitos and Chris would go at it almost every day. You can imagine the chirping that went on, each play, every day, day after day after day. The last time Bostic and Spielman met in The Game, Ohio State came back from 13-0 deficit to beat the Wolverines in the Big House for Earle Bruce’s final game as the Buckeye’s coach. I'm sure Speilman was a gracious winner.
When his shot at the NFL was over, he played for the Toronto Argonauts, spent time in Europe playing for Finland, and then semi-pro for the LA Quakes, where he took part in their "Super Bowl". When his playing career was finally complete, he coached for a season at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut.
Carlitos returned to Ypsilanti and worked as an “In-School Detention Monitor”, while serving as an assistant coach on the Ypsi High School football staff. He enjoyed his work and liked helping kids, but there was something missing. It wasn’t what he dreamed of doing. As a kid, he and his dad would watch football games and war movies and talk about things fathers and sons talk about. Carlitos dreamed about playing football, but he had another dream, too - one that not many were aware of.
One day, a Marine Corp recruiter walked into Ypsilanti High to talk to the students about life in the Corps. Carlitos stood in the back of the room as the Marine gave his presentation. Carlitos listened intently. He heard things like honor, service, challenge, and commitment. The same things that attracted him to Michigan were now striking a familiar chord. After it was over, he stuck around to ask more questions. I imagine he started to get that feeling like he did before his first time down on kickoff. Heart pumping, eyes wide open, and that unforgettable smile on his face. He was sold on what the recruiter said the Marines could offer. Carlitos found his passion again.
He trained for his physical exam and ADSVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) like he was preparing for the NFL draft. He got stronger and a whole lot bigger – up to 275lbs! After completing Officer Candidate School, he went onto The Basic School which, according to ‘Litos, is college for the Marine Corps Officers-in-training. He struggled some because he wasn’t prepared for all the running. At 275lbs, he weighed as much as some of our starting linemen back then. The physical stress affected his ability to handle the mental side and the required disciplinary aspects of military training. Let’s face it, this stuff is hard as hell, and it’s supposed to be. There’s a reason they are a proud FEW. He busted his ass, but it simply wasn’t enough. He didn’t pass. He’d have to repeat the cycle. Disappointed but not discouraged, he got back in line and did it all over again. Another chance was all it took. Dog99 busted through on his second try with flying colors. Outside of football, it was the best experience he ever had.
His initial Military Occupation School was artillery, because of course a guy known for flying down the field and launching himself through enemy lines would be in artillery. From there he worked in Transportation. His first unit participated in “Operation Restore Hope” in Somalia from December 1992 to May 1993. This US-led coalition was there to provide a safe environment for humanitarian operations.
His next unit was with 1/5 – 1st Battallion/5th Marine Regiment based out of Camp Pendleton. Nicknamed “Geronimo”, this battalion has been involved in every conflict the United States has ever been involved in. (cite Wikipedia)
While stationed at Camp Pendleton, he also played for the Marine football team as a player/coach, earing a spot on the Corps All-Star team.
Said Carlitos, “My experience in the Marine Corps training was unbelievably amazing. Learning and performing 'call to fire’ which is spotting and communicating enemy positions or vital targets for either air strikes or heavy artillery support operations. Land navigation training and exercises was an activity I appreciated the most, and a skill I have retained until this day. Discipline and Leadership are the qualities that have benefitted me the most in my career. I truly loved being a part of another team, and that team was focused on mission completion and war fighting skills. I wish I could’ve served in the military first, before my football playing experience. It would’ve been a sure advantage. Oh, and I loved the weapons that I had the chance to train, utilize, and become an expert in using.”
I think everyone who has read these stories of former players gets a sense of how tough it is to play football at Michigan and excel at an elite level. There’s 100-something guys on the team. The majority of them were all-state in high school. A good many were All-American. But to go from 5 years playing football for Bo to the United States Marine Corps as an Officer? I find that to be the most impressive feat of all. There were a few guys I’m aware of that did it: Bob Popowski, Geoff Bissell, and Jim Sinclair, who actually served his time BEFORE walking on at Michigan. These guys were my heroes when it comes to Michigan football players.
Carlitos left the Corps having attained the rank of Captain. It was a vital part of his growth as a man and a person. He says he learned a lot about himself as a leader of young men and women who chose to place their lives on the line to serve our country.
He now works for Aramco Oil & Gas Company in Saudi Arabia as a safety supervisor and project manager. Prior to that, he worked with ITS 1/Gilbaine in Afghanistan and Williams Energy in West Virginia, Texas, and Louisiana.
He has 3 children: a 25 year old daughter who lives in Germany, a 19 year old daughter who runs track and field at Michigan, and a 7th grade son who has a lot of Dog99 in him.
Carlitos added some things at the end of his email that he wanted to share with “anyone who cared to read it”. I want to include it because I have so much respect for him and what he’s done and the experiences he’s had.
- Enjoy and make the most of every day.
- Use wisdom to help you in this journey
- (For any present day athletes reading this) make the most of the opportunities the University of Michigan provides. It is truly an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
- Also, as athletes, take time to meet classmates that aren’t athletes. You’ll be amazed at the interesting students and professors on campus.
- Be passionate regarding your sport and teammates.
- Never finish practice or a game not having given your ALL.
- Cherish the relationships and memories of your time in Ann Arbor.
- Love like every day is your last.
- Take time to realize that quality of life is totally based on how you choose to live it.
- God loves you.
Those Who Stay….