Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bo's Warriors and Thom Darden

Back in 1968 young Thom Darden from Sandusky, Ohio, was considered to be a top-notch athlete in football, basketball and baseball. Some thought that perhaps basketball was his best sport such as John Havlicek of the world champion Boston Celtics. In high school, Thom simply excelled at sport as he was quite the athlete. His exploits were not unknown as he was recruited by Woody Hayes to play football for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Thom and his parents visited Woody in Columbus, and in turn Woody came to the Sandusky home of the Darden’s.

Mr. Darden, of strong religious faith, turned against the legend, Woody Hayes In part because of Hayes’ salty language in describing historic military battles. And Thom, distrusted Hayes after he viewed his position- player ranking on Coach Hayes big chalk board. Thom was also recruited by Bo Schembechler then coach for Miami of Ohio. When Bo Schembechler put Thom through a series of football drills that did it for Schembechler also. He wanted no part of that man as well.

Along came the dapper Bump Elliott and staff [Don James] from the University Michigan. It didn’t take long for the Darden family to connect with the maize and blue. In fact, Mrs. Darden was really impressed and didn’t hesitate to tell her athletic son. So off to Ann Arbor in 1968, to play for Coach Elliott. Must add that Thom initially had some doubts about his ability to play at that level. You can imagine the impact on Darden, when he learned that his coach Elliott had been fired and replaced by that Bo Schembechler that same year.

New head coach Schembechler of course remembered recruiting Darden. And when Darden initially visited, Bo in his new Michigan office, he remembered, Bo’s first words “close the door; you thought you got rid of me” to his new athlete.On another occasion going into Thom’s senior year, Coach Schembechler talked to his outstanding defensive back about his opportunity for All American candidacy for the 1971 football season. Thom Darden allowed his play to speak for himself as in the UCLA game, Thom intercepted the UCLA quarterbacks pitch out and ran some 90 yards for a Michigan touchdown. Darden did become a Michigan All-American, that football season.

While being a first round draft choice by the Cleveland Browns, and becoming all pro, the NFL Darden came back to Bo Schembechler, and helped him install the Pittsburgh Steelers defense for the Wolverines. Darden also had conversations with coach Schembechler about Schembechler’s interest in becoming head coach for the Cleveland Browns. Darden discouraged his former coach from making that coaching change. Notice how the role  changed between teacher and student. The student was now the teacher.

And on a later occasion he met with Bo Schembechler, in Ann Arbor. Thom Darden didn’t know, prior that Bo had just lost his son in an automobile accident. And when they talked about Bo’s loss, the two men became closer and shared their tears together. It’s clear that Thom Darden’s relationship with Bo Schembechler evolved through the years. Starting out it was “I want nothing to do with this man” to sharing true heartfelt emotion of empathy and love. That emotion was exhibited by Thom Darden’s exuberance, support and energy for Bo Schembechler and the University Michigan football through the years, and even today.

It’s crystal clear that legend Bo  Schembechler  had a tremendous emotional impact on  his players and his players  on him as well. One might conclude that Schembechler was blessed by being involved with so many individuals of solid character. The human connection or human bond, that were formed over the many decades remain as strong as the Gordian knot.

Go Blue Go

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bo's Warriors and Mike Keller

Then as well as now, attending parochial school was associated with discipline, order, rule, spirituality and of course learning one’s A’s, B’s, and C’s so to speak, or educational excellence. Make no mistake about it, students, as well as student athletes were expected to learn and taught how to learn. These individuals quickly realized the importance of their task and what was expected of them, not only by the nuns or teachers, but by their parents, as well. Simply put, it was a team approach-the school and the family working together to instill human values such as respect, honor,  duty, accomplishment, giving and appreciating.

One example comes to mind, taken from Mike Keller’s educational experience in Grand Rapids, Michigan .Attending St.  Stephen elementary school, Mike’s second grade teacher was Sister Rosalie who stood approximately 4’10” or 4’11”. The precocious Mike Keller was about 5’6”. It just so happened that Mike had seen the movie Juvenile Delinquents starring Jerry Lewis. In this particular film, there were a number of juvenile punks that were being questioned by the police. These actors acting like real punk were chewing gum, shuffling their feet, while shoving their hands deep into their pockets looking totally disinterested. In class, the next day or so, Mike did something wrong and Sister Rosalie approached him and asked Mike to stand by his seat. As Sister approached, she started to discipline Mike verbally. Impressionable Mike then became the imitator and did his best movie presentation of one of the young punks in the film. According to Mike, all of a sudden, and out of nowhere, little Sister Rosalie smacked him with her famous roundhouse right hand across his punk face. Mike was stunned, stood up quickly at attention. He added “I  never messed with her again.” So, what was the lesson that Mike learned very early in life? Don’t mess with the nuns! Mike didn’t say whether or not she was on her tip toes, when she hit him.

Do you think that Mike went home and complained to his parents about corporal punishment, physical abuse, or a poor me attitude? If Mike had  gone home and whined to his parents, especially his mother, about that episode, he would have received double the punishment. Of course, there’s more to the story about Mike Keller and his character development. But it is clear, that with a  firm base and foundation, Mike had no difficulty in becoming one of Bo’s warriors on the field. He knew about, and learned more about order, affiliation, and abasement, both on the practice field and on those special Saturdays from coach Schembechler. He carried that further, when drafted in the third round by the world champion Dallas Cowboys, under the tutelage of Coach Tom Landry, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt, while learning the famous Flex Defense.

For those of you residing in Florida, you can join Mike on April 9, at the Venice Beach Yacht Club, 1330 Tarpon Center Drive.; Venice, Florida 34285 at 6:30 PM for dinner and presentation. Mike will also be available for a book signing of Bo’s Warriors hosted by The University of Michigan Alumni Club of Sarasota/Manatee. Non U of M alumni welcome.

Go Blue Go !

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

U of M Alumnus Jim Harbaugh

 Many of us know that on December 30, 2014 Jim Harbaugh became the 20th head coach for the University of Michigan, the winningest team in college football. Not only that, but Jim joined  Gustave  Ferbert , Elton Wieman, Harry Kipke, Benny Oosterbaan, and Bump Elliott  as maize and blue former players who also became their head coach. Further, he joined Fielding H. Yost as a football coach who coached at Stanford before coaching Wolverines. Also, he’s the only former Michigan Wolverine player to serve as the head coach in the Super Bowl and we know what happened in that game. Yes, he lost to older brother John in a close and exciting game that went through a halftime blackout.

The University of Michigan’s football record in 2014, was five wins and seven defeats and did not make a bowl game appearance. However, there is more to Michigan than football. For instance: 1. In Kiplinger’s, U of M ranked number 6 as far as best values in public colleges for 2015. 2. In the Open Doors Report on higher education, Michigan ranked number 6 with the most students studying abroad in 2012-2013. 3. U of M ranked number 14 in the list of colleges producing billionaires. 10 U of M alumni are billionaires. 4. Ann Arbor ranked number 2 in the list of 50 best college towns in America. 5. Michigan received 28 Fulbright grants the most of any other public university in the nation during the 2014-2015 academic year, according to the US State Department. And 6. Michigan ranked number 5 in the list of Peace Corp’s list of top producing graduate schools.

Hopefully, Coach Harbaugh did not forget to tell his 14 student-athletes [His first U of M signing class] of the exceptional educational opportunities available to them. And, Jim Harbaugh should make sure that his coaching staff should also impart this and other information to potential recruits. It’s one thing to have a dynamic football coach and prestigious football program, but it’s another to have the resources of the University of Michigan. Just ask former Michigan players such as Jim Brandstatter, Mike Keller, Fritz Seyyferth, Thom Darden, Dan Dierdorf and others about their Ann Arbor and Michigan experience off the field as well. While interviewing these players in Bo’s Warriors, they all made it perfectly clear of their appreciation, gratitude, and opportunity to identify with the University of Michigan. Their blood runs maize and blue. Hats off to all Michigan alumni and they will all tell you: Go Blue Go!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Jim Harbaugh's Challenge at the University Michigan

Jim Harbaugh’s been involved and around sports, throughout his entire lifetime. Jim’s father Jack was a football coach at various colleges and universities. In fact, when Jim was about 10 years of age, father Jack was hired by Bo Schembechler to be his position coach for the University of Michigan’s secondary.  It was not an uncommon sight to observe young Jim being around [retrieving footballs, etc.] college football players, college coaches and other personnel associated with big-time college football at the Big House. It was an unique and wonderful experience for Jim, to say the least, and it foreshadowed the stage for things to come in Jim’s bright football future.

Being and associating with young athletic and older role models became routine or familiar, but not ordinary for Jim. No doubt, precocious Jim had an opportunity and practice to become at ease and develop interpersonal social skills with these giants playing a game that they loved. Jim observed their mental and physical toughness, their skill, their dedication and their focus regarding practicing with passion the love of the game. He also observed that the adult coaches could be warm, caring, but also extremely verbally and physically tough on the players when necessary. Perhaps, he was frightened at first by the rough language exhibited by these coaches. Perhaps, perhaps not, he became more comfortable, over time. It’s safe to say that he became familiar, and learned how to treat and interact with young athletic men in the process. Jim Harbaugh’s personality was shaped, molded and tweaked by his athletic father, both at home, and certainly by his experience with other coaches in the football milieu.

As an adolescent, Jim was a star athlete at the two high schools [in Michigan and California] that he attended. Attending the University Michigan, the setting that had tremendous influence on his personality, he received multiple honors. Further, Jim was exposed to the limelight of big-time football, which affected his character development along with his narcissism. He was told by many in various ways and received awards that indicated and interpreted that he was both extremely special and unique. Further, he played in the NFL, which further reinforced that he was different from the rest of the crowd. Being the quarterback was the epitome and he reached the top of the pyramid as far as star status was concerned. Gathering and garnishing even more celebrity attention, Jim became an extremely successful football coach at Division Level 1 in college. And then a brighter star shone when he became the head football coach for the San Francisco 49ers, while still in his 40s. Nothing in the Milky Way galaxy could dim his brightness.

Currently, he has been appointed to one of the most prestigious positions [Winningest football team] in college football-at the University of Michigan also known for its academic excellence. Jim Harbaugh is basking in the limelight. Even before he has been credited with winning one football game, he has garnished the love and attention of the 500,000 or so Michigan alumni [in our star struck culture] as well as the excitement for those others who follow Michigan football. In an extremely short time, he has shined at press conferences, has been a buzz on various social media outlets, and even coached first-base [in desert like conditions] for the Oakland A’s at their spring training facility in Arizona.

 We are observing an unheralded preoccupation with a college football coach on our planet. This ongoing excitement reinforces Jim Harbaugh’s narcissism and self-importance. It’s of course important for a football coach at any level to have a proper amount or necessary level of narcissism in their character. Hopefully, Jim Harbaugh will not allow himself to be blinded by the adoring shades of light. Let’s hope that “all” can remain rational in viewing the drama that lies ahead of us, and evaluate Jim Harbaugh the man. He has not yet attained legend, nor savior status.

Go, Blue!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bo Schembechler's Secrets-Part 6

Psychologist Schembechler knew that his players had needs of  Abasement [accepting of blame or criticism during practices and games-in fact, the players were graded on their play or performance in games]; Achievement [to overcome obstacles, to excel and surpass others-competition with a fellow teammate or an opposing player-making first string; when Jim Brandstatter made a  key block and then knew he could do the job]; Affiliation [loyalty with teammates-Mike Keller referred to it as a Band of Brothers]; Aggression [overcoming opposition and oppose forcefully-dominate- Reggie McKenzie wanted to destroy his opponents]; Counteraction [overcoming weakness and maintaining self-respect-practice, practice, practice-to run the play correctly]; Deference [to admire a superior-Thom Darden playing physical basketball with the position coaches  with Gary Moeller]; Dominance [to control one’s environment-to win the game-especially against the  Buckeyes]; Exhibition  [to make an impression-Tom Curtis being recognized by legend Benny Oosterbaan]; Order [to achieve precision-running that play over and over in practice]; Succorance [to be loved, guided by their coach-Fritz Seyferth new coach Schembechler loved and cared about him and his players because, this coach remembered what they had told him].

Schembechler also knew that he could, by his practices, place physical and emotional [attention to detail, and discipline] barriers in the way of his players, thereby supporting their needs and as result, either increasing as well as decreasing their tension systems. That way, once their needs were met their satisfaction and goal activity would be enhanced like no other. Just ask Brandstatter, Keller, Curtis, Darden, Betts, McKenzie, and Seyferth about their experience, their self-esteem and their identity with coach. I bet coach Gary Moeller would also agree. Further, ask Jim Harbaugh as well.

The Michigan story goes on. One has to be there to experience it. Just go to the Big House and you’ll know what I mean. Go Blue Go!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bo Schembechler's Secrets-Part 5

The amazing imprinting created by Bo Schembechler, his staff and his classy 1969 Wolverines, especially on that Saturday in November, in Ann Arbor was never duplicated. Even  some  who achieved  All Pro,  Hall of Fame, Super Bowl rings or played in the NFL like Jim Mandich, Dan Dierdorf, Reggie McKenzie, Thom Darden, Tom Curtis, Mike Keller and others still talk about Bo, and their unparalleled college playing days, both on and off the field. They knew how to party together despite racial, cultural, or socioeconomic differences. They agreed and said that nothing came close to what happened in the magic of Ann Arbor. They remain close, even though that experience was some 42 tor 45 years ago. In fact, Jim Mandich, the holder of two Super Bowl rings with the undefeated Miami Dolphins, stated the highlight of his career was the 1969 Michigan victory over Ohio State.

Will there ever be another Bo Schembechler? Will there ever be anything like the infamous 10 year war between Bo and Woody? Maybe, or maybe not. Perhaps, Jim Harbaugh [All-American quarterback, and Heisman contender, college and NFL coach] and Urban Meyer [3 national championships] can generate something similar or even surpass the competitiveness of yesteryear. Remember, Bo played for, and coached for Woody Hayes. So the protégé wanted to best his mentor. On the other hand, Jim Harbaugh played for Bo and has been shaped by him. Urban Meyer already has had great success in the college coach, and is an admirable coaching foe. Time will reveal more about their battles. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit Schembechler Hall in Ann Arbor which is located near the athletic department and the Big House in order to learn more about the history of Michigan football. Let the party continue and the legend of Bo grow.

On a side note, I would like to point out that on Saturday, November 28, 2015, Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes are coming to Ann Arbor. On that date, they might be the number one ranked team in the country with a winning streak of 23 games.  Wouldn’t that be amazing if that happened? And, if Jim Harbaugh’s underdog Wolverines won that game, I would be speechless.

Go Blue!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bo Schembechler's Secrets - Part 4

10. During the week of the Ohio State practice preparation, the players knew what faced them on the coming Saturday. They knew their challenge and about their opposing opponent. These warriors, practiced with such an intensity, that is, safe to say, was never again duplicated. They were high in spirit and motivation. In fact, the coaches were worried and thought that the players might burn themselves out prior to the big game. But Bo, in his wisdom, said, “let them go.” Bo had faith and believed in his players, especially the seniors. In fact, this high intensity and tremendous energy rubbed off on the coaches and they also began to believe in their team. Remember, there were tremendous odds against these warriors. No one thought about losing this game. Coaches knew the players were well prepared. They knew they wanted to beat Ohio State with an unabashed will to win. This was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. The magnitude of the game was immense. This year’s Buckeyes were considered by Woody Hayes to be his best team ever and was hyped and hyped by the press. In fact, the press stated that the only team that could beat them were the NFC’s Minnesota Vikings. The coaches believed that this Wolverine team was not intimidated, in spite of the press clippings; would not only hold their own against the mighty Buckeyes, but could beat them on that special November 22, 1969.

11. The classic picture after the game of the players on the bench erupting in joy tells the story-Michigan 24 and Ohio State 12. These players demonstrated their mental toughness and left it all on the playing field that Saturday. Bo turned them into a team despite racial and social economic conditions, of the turbulent issues depicting the 1960s.

More to follow:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Bo Schembechler's Secrets -Part 2

The Following are the secrets:

1. Bo, from Ohio, brought his fellow Ohioans to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Approximately 80% of his coaches [i.e., Jerry Hanlon] were from Ohio, and many of the recruits/players were from Ohio as well. Ohio has a history of producing terrific football players as well as coaches, and that was not lost on Bo. These coaches also had high school coaching experience, which contributed to their ability to communicate with the young players. All [coaches and players] originally from Ohio developed Wolverine DNA. Their blood, in essence, turned to maize and blue.

2. Bo inherited outstanding players, recruited by Michigan’s former head coach Bump Elliott. These recruits excelled at more than football. They excelled, for example, at basketball, which meant they were terrific athletes, quick, had good hands, were agile and were intelligent.

3. During Bo’s first spring practice in 1969, these players didn’t initially like Bo. And not many were ready for what Bo brought to the table [his seemingly unorthodox training and conditioning methods]. Bo beat them down both verbally and physically and then built them up so that they could and did reframe and change their thinking. He wanted to take them to higher levels that they had never experienced before. Their beliefs changed about their and the team’s ability.

4. The 1969 team had great senior leadership, starting with team Captain Jim Mandich. The seniors were humiliated [especially the ones from Ohio] by the 1968 thrashing [50-14] from Ohio State. They wanted another opportunity to play the Buckeyes. Revenge and getting even played a significant part of their psychological makeup. No one senior had to verbalize out loud a desire to beat Ohio State. Nor did anyone have to tell them about the importance of winning that game. And all this happened even before Bo came to town.

5. The Mellow Men [freshman in 1968] made a group vow that November to never let a thrashing [from Ohio State] like that happen again. These talented, athletic, black mellow men [Thom Darden, Billy Taylor, Mike Taylor, Reggie McKenzie, Butch Carpenter, Mike Oldham, and Glenn Doughty] played an important part in the 1969 season.

6. The transition [discipline, brutal practices, abusive language, etc.] from the easy-going gentlemen like Bump Elliott to the gruff Bo Schembechler was not easy. Bo told his coaches not to disrespect in any way Bump and his staff. The coaching staff was supportive and fun on the practice and playing field, not at all like Bo.

More to follow.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bo Schembechler's Secrets-Part 3

7. Schembechler’s Wolverines were 3 and 2 after five games. The sixth game was against the University of Minnesota Gophers for the Little Brown Jug and the victory. However, at half time, Bo’s Wolverines were behind. The boisterous, loud and crude Schembechler came in to the locker room. The players were expecting him to be ranting and verbally abusing them. To their surprise, Bo in a calm voice, told the team “We are better than them, and don’t waste this opportunity.” With a little guilt, Bo’s statement was loud and clear to his young men [I believe in you and I have confidence in you]. The players left the locker room, and played the second half. The Gophers did not score again and the final score was Michigan 35 and Minnesota 9.

The team cohesively came together as one, on that Saturday, October 25, 1969 in Minneapolis. In essence, in that second half, both the offense and defense began to gel. The defense by holding and controlling the Gopher offense essentially put the Michigan offense in a great position to score points. By the same token, the Michigan offense didn’t go three and out and this allowed the defense to rest on the sidelines. Both the offense and defense were in resonance and played together as a team. Make no mistake about it, Bo had his imprint on the team from this point on.

8. The following Saturday, on November 1, Michigan played Wisconsin. Final score on that Saturday was Michigan 35 and Wisconsin 7. The next Saturday in November, Michigan played the University of Illinois. Again, the Wolverines were victorious, to say the least by the score of 57-0. Playing the University of Iowa in Iowa City on the 15th of November, again, the final score was a blowout with Michigan winning 51-6. As you can see, Michigan was playing as a team, team, and team. Clearly, his young studs truly began to believe in him and themselves and functioned as one. The winning momentum and attitude was contagious.

9. The last game of the season was played, in Ann Arbor on November 22, 1969 against Ohio State. There was snow and ice on the practice field due to poor weather conditions. Super-smart Bo sent another message to his troops. He sent his coaches out in the cold with their shovels shoveling away the ice and snow, so the players could practice on a small portion of the playing field. Believe me that got the attention of all the players. It showed them that the coaches were behind and with them all the way. It was the player’s job to practice and it was the coach’s job to facilitate in every way possible. And I mean in every way. The players knew that all the coaches had their backs.

More to follow.