Now that the season's over, it's a good time to catch up with some of the guys who played for Bo back in the 80s. I'll try to do this every Thursday but it's entirely dependent on the responses I get back. At this point, I don't have a subject for next week. LOL. Nice work, eh?
I have a couple college-aged kids so I'm vaguely familiar with the term "OG". Urban dictionary defines OG as someone who's "been around", "those true gangstas from back in the day that jacked ya and left nothing but your boxers and socks". I don't know about leaving you with nothing but your skivvies, but I do know this next guy was a legend. Don Brown would call him "a dude". Harbs would refer to him as a "Known Friend and Trusted Agent." He was the most unforgettable teammate I ever had. He was literally a man amongst boys: tough as tool steel and more loyal than a rescued dog. He would do anything for his team, could motivate you like nobody else, get in your ass for taking a play off, then have you falling on the locker room floor, laughing your ass off. I can still picture him standing there with his big bushy mustache and booming southern drawl, captivating everyone's attention.
I remember the first night of my very first camp. After dinner and meetings were done and we returned to our rooms, I almost called my parents to come get me. I was WAAAAY out of my league. I didn’t have a chance in hell of playing against guys like this. It was the most intimidated I had ever been. These were guys I watched on TV the year before. Half were high school All-American's and almost all of them were All-State. Who am I to even think I can play with them? Luckily I didn’t make that call because I would have missed spending a year on the same team as “Fried” (short for Bo's pet name for him - Kentucky Fried Chicken). We were only teammates for one season but he left an indelible mark on me (figuratively and literally).
This guy had his own term for an “OG” - Big Daddy Crow. I don’t know where it came from but he used it a lot when telling stories, and man, could this dude tell stories. I'm not 100% positive, but I'm pretty sure he coined the phrase. It was either him or Jim Scarcelli, I forget. Anyway, it was a term of respect. You were a Big Daddy Crow if you did something memorable. He finished a lot of his stories with “……(yada yada yada) like a Big Daddy Crow". Every time I think of that term - or look in the mirror* - it reminds me of our captain and the original OG, Doug James.
Doug came to the University of Michigan by way of DeSales High School in Louisville Kentucky where he played for head coach Ron Madrick. Although Louisville wasn’t exactly a recruiting pipeline to Ann Arbor, Bo was quite familiar with the Colts program. It’s where he found All-America offensive tackle and 3-time Super Bowl Champion, Bubba Paris.
Doug knew from an early age that he wanted to play for Michigan. In spite of never visiting the school nor ever stepping foot in the state, he told his dad when he was 13 that he would play college football in Ann Arbor. Doug first met Bo when he was a high school sophomore and he was paying a visit to Coach Madrick and Bubba. Two years later, Bo returned to Louisville to find his future captain. Desitiny and dreams were just about fulfilled. On Doug's official visit, Bo offered him a scholarship and told him, “You’re coming to Michigan. You’re a Michigan Man.” When Doug returned home, he told his folks and called Earle Bruce to cancel his visit to Ohio State.
Doug arrived on campus in the fall of 1980 as a defensive tackle. His hard work and talent earned him a spot on the travel squad, and he even got into a game – a 38-13 win over Cal. That season started out 1-2, but the Cal victory was the start of a 9 game winning streak that culminated with a Big Ten AND Rose Bowl championship - Bo’s first.
Despite playing in that one game, Doug was able to redshirt that season. As a redshirt freshman in 1981 he played 6 games at Nose Guard and 4 as Defensive Tackle. He missed the Purdue and Ohio State games due to a separated shoulder, but returned in time to play in the Bluebonnet Bowl victory over UCLA.
Prior to the start of spring ball in 1982, offensive line coach (and Doug's primary recruiter) Paul Schudel met with Doug and told him they were moving him to offensive guard – a position he hadn’t played since he was a freshman in high school. Without question, he went to work on learning the position and prepared to compete for a spot on the line. By the opening game of the 82 season, Doug was the starting Strong Guard (we used to flip the line back then). After just 4 games at his new position - 2W and 2L - Coach Schudel met with Doug again. This time, they were moving him to offensive tackle. Doug remembers telling his coach, “I don’t even know what I’m doing at guard.” It was just days before the Michigan State game and they wanted to change his position again. When he asked, “Will I start at tackle?” Schudel said he’d have to earn the spot. "Nothing is given". He played about half the snaps in the victory over State, and then got the start against Iowa and All-American defensive tackle Mark Bortz the following week. He finished the final seven games, including the Rose Bowl, as the starting tackle, on a line that included Rich Strenger, Tom Dixon, and Stefan Humphries – 2 All Americans, 1 All Big Ten, and all of them future professional football players. (Not to mention two eventual attorneys (Strenger and Dixon), and a physician. That has to be the smartest and most talented and starting offensive line in the history of Michigan football.)
In 1983, he finally got a chance to concentrate on just one position, starting all 12 games at tackle. He made it through the season healthy but the team failed to achieve its goal of a Big Ten title. They beat Michigan State and Ohio State but lost to Illinois for the championship. In the Sugar Bowl, they lost a hard fought game 9-7 to Bo Jackson and the Auburn Tigers. It wasn't how Doug pictured his career ending.
A few weeks after the season, Bo called Doug into his office for his customary post-season meeting with every player. During that meeting, Bo asked him to return for a 5th year. However, playing another season of football was not something Doug had considered. He made a promise to his high school sweetheart, Patty, that he would marry her once he graduated. With degree in hand, the future Mr.&Mrs. James had wedding plans. Bo had a dilemma. He wanted this extremely valuable player to return, but he was opposed to a married man on his squad. He was old school and he'd never allowed that before. It was deal breaker for Doug. After a little more conversation, Bo relented and the two shook hands. Doug would return as the first married man to play for Bo. As he was walking out the door, Bo had one more thing to say.
“Oh, by the way, we’re moving you back to guard.”
Son of a…………
The 1984 season started out great for Doug and the Wolverines. He was elected team captain, and the team just beat the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes, intercepting Bernie Kosar SIX times. But things would not go so well the remainder of the season. After a loss to Washington, we were 3-1 with close wins over Wisconsin and Indiana. The following week was the infamous game against Michigan State when Harbaugh broke his arm diving for a loose ball. We lost that game and 4 more after that, including the Holiday Bowl to eventual national champions, BYU. That season finished equally as bad for Doug. Following a poor performance against Purdue, he got tangled up in a pile during practice, dislocating his ankle and breaking his leg. His career at Michigan came to an unceremonious end.
All told, Doug finished his career with a 42-18 record, two Rose Bowls and participated in 5 total bowl games while playing 4 different positions.
In the spring of his freshman year, Mr “Play Any Position For The Team” was asked to add one more. Injuries had claimed THREE snappers during spring practice (Spring ball was a hell of a lot more grueling back then, even for the specialists). Doug was asked to step in. It was an experiment that would not end well. Two of Doug’s five snaps sailed over the punters head. As you might imagine, this displeased the old man. “KENTUCKY FRIED! You are screwing up my entire kicking game.” The next day, Doug had yet another meeting with Coach Schudel. This one was brief. “You’re fired .”
Another highlight of Doug’s career was sitting in the front row for Bo’s famous “The Team, The Team, The Team” speech.
Bo and Doug shared a very close relationship. When you are someone who is willing to switch positions without so much as a raised eyebrow, you endear yourself to the coaches. When you get to the point where you can exchange jabs with him, you know you’re in his good graces.
Bo used to tease Doug about his physique. “Fried, you have the worst body in the history of Michigan football.” One time, Doug replied with, “Well, if my body is so bad, why do I play so much?”
“Because I’m a hell of a coach.”
On another occasion, Bo told Doug, “James, you aren’t half the tackle I was.”
Doug shot back, “That’s because you had a better coach.”
/damn bro gif
With his football career over, Doug set out on life with his new bride and aspirations of doing sports broadcasting. He landed a job as a color commentary for the Michigan football games on WTRX in Flint. Back then, there was no dedicated radio “network” for the games. Several stations around the state carried a broadcast. As a matter of fact, both major Detroit stations – WJR and WWJ – each did their own broadcasts from the stadium. It was a crowded press box back then.
Since broadcasting games was seasonal employment, Doug needed a job for the remainder of the year. He got a tip from former volunteer assistant and college football legend Alex Agase to get into media sales and marketing. (Ags' sons were in the business). In 1986, WTRX hired Doug as a sales person and he's been in the business ever since.
After a couple years in Flint, he and Patty moved back to his hometown to take jobs at various startions throughout Louisville. While working his way up the ladder, he also did radio color commentary for Louisville football.
Then, in 2011, he was recruited to New York City to be the Director of Sales for legendary radio stations WBLS, Hot 97, and WLIB.
Steve Harvey and Doug in New York City
4 years later, he was hired as VP/General Manager for three radio stations in the Charlotte North Carolina market where he continues to work today.
Doug and Patty have been married for 32 years and have 3 daughters: Amanda works in Alumni relations at the University of Louisville, Beth is a training coordinator for St. Joseph’s Children’s Home in Louisville, and Katie is a singer/songwriter.
Doug and Patty are also involved in a number of charitable endeavors:
He serves on the Board of Trustees of Jewish Hospital St. Mary’s Healthcare
The board for DeSales High School
Chairman of the DeSales Foundation
Chairman of the Holy Rosary Foundation
Chairman of the Caritas Foundation
Board Member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Board Member of the Kentucky Broadcasters Association
Chairman of the Radio Broadcasters Association
He received the Lifetime Service Award by the American Women in Radio and Television and was elected to the DeSales High School Hall of Honor in 2008.
He is the ultimate Michigan Man and the BIGGEST of the Big Daddy Crows.
Those who stay….
Doug played from 1980 – 1984 and wore #73
His favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor was Steve’s Lunch. It was a diner on South U. Doug also liked Rick’s Café but “I don’t remember eating there much.”
The best dish he makes is smoked chicken wings, chili, and mac-n-cheese
If he had a son he would let him play football but he wouldn’t let him start as early as he did (4th grade). "The rule changes, such as targeting, are good for the safety of the players. Injuries are part of the game and this is something you have to understand going in. Despite the fact that I had a lot of injuries and have aches and pains today, I still believe it was worth it."
John Wangler, Rich Hewlett, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, Jeff Hewlett, Doug and Patty James tailgating at this year's Orange Bowl.
And now for the * explanation:
That is, indeed, a Big Daddy Crow tattooed on my arm. My poor wife and kids put up with me. It remains a mystery.