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December 03, 1978 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-12-03
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Page 4-Sunday, December 3, 1978-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Doily--Sunday,

- e

First down and


By Bob Miller
and Cub Schwartz

roses to go
ICK LEACH trotted towards the
sidelines, glancing over his
shoulder at his teammates, in
the north end zone. Seconds earlier he
had lobbed a pass to tailback Roosevelt
Smith, who sprinted untouched into
touchdown territory.
This was Leach's second scoring
strike during the Ohio State game,
giving the Wolverines an 11-point lead.
Most of the fans jammed in the stands
wore red and gray; they had returned
early to Columbus after a short
Thanksgiving holiday to witness yet
another battle for the top birth of Big
Ten football between the two rival
schools. But Michigan fans on the other
side of the border were relegated to
cheering at a television screen, minus
the customary hot dog vendors and
crowded benches.
The football fanatics rooted in front of
the TV included University students
who do not know Leach, the star senior
quarterback and then Heisman-
candidate who has carried the Maize
and Blue to two Rose Bowl efforts and
38 overall victories. The student fans
have spent much time and money to
watch Leach guide the Wolverines. But
to them, he is an athlete with the
Michigan stamp of approval; no more
an ordinary student than Gerald Ford
was an ordinary professor during his
lecture stints.
As Leach reached the sidelines after
his second touchdown pass at Ohio
Bob Miller and Cub Sch wartz
are Daily senior sports editors.

for #7
State, his second-father, promoter, and
coach for four years, Bo Schembechler,
smacked him once on the shoulder pads
and gave the quarterback a few words
of praise. The touchdown brought relief
for both Schembechler and Leach - the
victory was virtually assured and the
critics would be silenced, at least for
Bo later lauded his star athlete in the
locker room. "We were worried about
the offense because Leach had to play
three quarters on only one leg, but he
did it . . . I would be very surprised
now if Leach did not win the Heisman
Trophy. He's done everything in his
four years here."
But when last Tuesday rolled around,
the nation's sports writers picked a
junior from Oklahoma to receive
college football's top honor.
Leach and Bo will be in the national
spotlight only once again at the 1979
Rose Bowl - their last duet.
Some people were not surprised when
Leach lost the Heisman bid, and many
of them are University students. Leach
remains a shrouded silhouette even
among his fellow students.
"I saw him going from his car into the
Ed school one day," commented one
student, "and I realized I knew it was
him because I had seen him on
"I started to think about Rick Leach
for the first, and just about only time:
Does he really go to classes? Does he
have friends? What is he doing here?"
ANSWERS TO these questions
are difficult to arrive at for a
number of reasons. First,
Schembechler has cast a Leach
mystique by preventing his "All-
American kid" from talking candidly
about himself. Writers have resorted to
statistics, and the few Rick Leach real-
life stories they know to illuminate his
off-the-field personality.
What emerges has not been an attrac-
tive picture. Most view him as an
arrogant athlete, relying on Bo's kind
words to wipe away the damaging
comments. He has admitted that he "is
not allowed to read what is written
about him in the papers."
He relies on friends to tell him who
has leveled the latest attack.
Occasionally Leach has acted outside
Schembechler's shroud of secrecy.
While playing baseball for Michigan he
spit on a heckler from Michigan State.
Just one week earlier Joe Falls, a
longtime critic had publicly made
amends, calling his a "mature young
man." When Falls was told about the
incident he had to retract his praise and
once again rely on the myth and
mystery that surrounds Leach. Once
again Rick Leach was spoiled. Once
again Rick Leach was arrogant. Once
again Rick Leach was a secret.
Leach looks upon the media with a
certain contempt. "What they write,
they write and I just don't read it," he
has said. They're going to write
something so I just ignore it."
Others who are close to Leach refuse
to sit back and let him face the writers'
wrath week after week. "Sure he's
cocky, said tie voice of Michigan foot-

ball, Bob Ufer, "He's very self con- -
fident. But he's got to be. The quarter-
back is the supreme commander out
there in the jungle-in the warfare. Yo4Pq
have to have complete confidence in o
your actions and your abilities."
Ufer alluded to the Ohio State game
as an example of Leach's confidence
being put to the test. Trailing 3-0 in the
first period, the senior from Flint,
Michigan approached the line of
scrimmage and saw a different Ohio
State defense than Schembechler had
planned on when he sent the play in.
Leach called an audible at the line of
scrimmage, sending Rodney Feaster
across the middle of the field towards
the end zone. Leach laid the ball in his
hands and Feaster went in for the
"He couldn't have done that unless he
was really confident in his ability,"
Ufer noted. "It takes quarterbacks in
the NFL years to develop that ability..
This kid's got the talent now.
"He exemplifies everything that a
Michigan athlete should be," Ufer con-
tinued, "He may not be the best passer
or the best runner or option quarter-
back, but he beats you and that's the
sign of a great athlete."
Still, Leach's praises are confined to
his close friends, almost entirely com-
prised of Michigan players, coaches
and diehard fans.
fails to see Leach as a cam-
pus hero or a famous fellow
student. They have never rushed to his
defense after disastrous performances,
nor were they the initiators of the
Heisman hype that only caught on two
weeks before the balloting. Leach may
as well be a professional athlete.
He lives far off campus with three
teammates, presumably to avoid the
pressures of campus -life. As a fresh-
man he lived in West Quad, and no mat-
ter how hard Bo tried to isolate his
youngster from the criticism, he
couldn't quarantine him from the
quaddies. Leach's first year was un-
doubtedly his worst. His passing per-
centage was well under 40 per cent and
he threw only 20 more receptions than
interceptions. His dismal Orange Bowl
performance surely must have made
life in the dorm difficult that spring.
But while Leach has improved, his
reputation has not equally benefited.
The size of the football program as a
whole no doubt contributes to the
student attitude. One college handbook
proclaims "football is God at the

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