By: Shemy Schembechler
I recall sitting at Jim Harbaugh’s inaugural press conference as the new Head Football coach at The University of Michigan. He spoke about the tradition of Michigan Football as having a “rock solid foundation that has been in place for over a century.” That quote resonates more than the rest and it resembles many of the things that I grew up learning at good ol’ 870 Arlington in Ann Arbor, Mich.
It’s ironic that Jim chose to move his family right up the hill from where I spent my entire life from 1969 to 1988. The words character, honesty, work ethic and integrity are simple to say and aspire to, but challenging to reach. A young whipper snapper named Shemy is not going to get it for quite some time but make no mistake that he will get it, but he must dedicate himself in doing so.
School was never a keen interest, especially by the time that I was in the 2nd grade, the first time I was truly eligible to attend practice while having some understanding of what football was all about. A great sense of urgency was required to get homework over with, emphasis on “over with,” so that I could get to practice on time to watch the players dress out of the locker room and warm up. That same sense of urgency permeates the air, a yell from the coach’s locker room blasts out, “if you are not 15 minutes early, you are late!” Quarterbacks and centers are already out there to work on exchanges with the legendary Jerry Hanlon overseeing all five of the batteries snapping the ball in unison, barking instructions when necessary.
A loud piercing noise cuts through the entire practice field, Bo’s recognizable whistle bellows out and brings the Team together in a matter of seconds, then stretch and warmup and the sounds of football capture the enthusiasm for the next two hours and change. This is modern day war with the unending crack of the pads, no better test to determine toughness which is only matched in Columbus, Ohio.
The undertone of Woody Hayes permeates every aspect of practice unbeknownst to most if not all the players, The Rivalry is always in the minds of every coach and much of the practice is dedicated to win that last game in November while we are still in September. Every second of every minute of every practice is scripted and accounted for. However, practice will not end until every snap is correct.
This is a study of the pursuit of perfection detailed on the gridiron, a training lab for success for when every player leaves with a degree. The wins and the championships will come, but is not really the goal here, it is to instill the pursuit of greatness that will transcend generations of players that donned the Maize and Blue.
How very fortunate this young 2nd grader was to witness these lessons for what amounts to a lifetime. Now at the age of 47, I get it and try to do everything I can to live it because I know that it is good and it is right.
Those Who Stay Will Be Champions.