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November 01, 1993 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-11-01

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The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday -- Monday, November 1,1993- 3



Former Michigan center discusses
his football career

Offensive linemanMattElliotthad
a standout career for Michigan from
1987-90. He wasthe lastplayerpicked
in the NFL draft in 1991 by the Wash-
ingtonRedskins, yet he hasestablished
himself as a valuable asset, earning
All-Rookie honors last year. He is out
for the year because of the new in-
'jured reserve rules Daily Sports
Writer Melanie Schuman spoke with
him recently.
Daily: As a Michigan alumnus
and former U-M football player, how
do you think Michigan is playing right
Elliott: I'm really disappointed to
see three losses (prior to Saturday) on
the schedule. For some reason, I just
*don't see theteam playing with alotof
fire right now unfortunately. I think the
biggest problem where I look at, and
mostexperienced footbalipeople would
say, the heart and soulof a teamis the
offensive line. I think other than(Marc)
Milia, they'restill very young and very
immature from tackle by tackle, not
coming off the ball as well as you
might expect them to be. They look to
running game, which is difficult.
I would hope that the team has
enough character to come back.
D: On a college or professional
level, what do you think it takes to
make a truly great offensive lineman.
Is there some secrpt ingredient?
E: It's avery delicate combination.
The first thing you're going to have to
be is very intelligent. In the NFL, you're
elot going to find a good one that's
dumb. After that, it really depends on
the type of player you're going to be.
Some are stronger than others, some
are lighter on their feet than others.
Quick feet is amust. How quick (they)
are, you make up (for) with strength
and other things. Then there are the
immeasurables: the heart and desire
the player has to get the job done.
D: What are therivalries like in the
4NFL compared to the college level?
E: In the NFL, it's interesting be-
cause they can be a lot longer-lasting
because guys play more than three or
fouryearsona team. Guys willplay ten
years. Not unlike the Big Ten is the
NFC East, which is the division where
I play and it has a very long, violent
history of football. It's got the greatest
teams in the NFL.
* It's not unlike the Big Ten where
they'll come in and knock your head
off and any team can beatany other on
a given day. A lot of itis personal too.
You don't get to know the players on
other teams in college, but profes-
sionally, you get to know them. You
see them in functions off-season; you
played them in college. Then, there
are the journeymen who travelaround;
,(from whom) you get a sense of what
the entire team is about. It's a very
deep-seated hatred formore ways than
one, rather than the pride and colors
of your school.
D: Going back to Draft Day. You
had the distinction of being the last
player to be picked. What was it like
waiting out the day?
E: Hell. Pure, absolute, unadul-
terated hell. I had talked to a couple of
,different teams who told me they were
going to take me fourth to sixth round.
One team absolutely guaranteed, 'if
your still there in the sixth round, you're
a steal and we're going to take you.'
Obviously, those prophecies didn't
come true. It was really unnerving.
Yes, it's really disappointing and I'm

very saddened that something like that

happened, but I could not be happier
than where I am right now.
It was funny because Ididn'texpect
apartyoveratmyhouse inCannel.One
of the guys suggested tome, 'Hey Matt,
why don'twedrinkuntilyou'lldrafted?'
I thought about that a couple of days
after andIhad to chuckle as to what I
would have done to myself.
To make a long story longer ...
come Monday morning the draft
started again at 9 a.m. and I woke up
at 9:05, so I never got a chance to
shower all day. I just ran right down-

fly you out ... they have an opening
ceremony where they bring you in on a
90-foot cutter into Balboa Bay Club;
there is a few hundred people there
waiting to greet you. They're carrying
banners, signs, and your photograph.
It's really, really funny. Then there's a
roast, and the whole week is a lot of
festivities. It's all geared towards you
andit's ribbing, butit's well intentioned.
I mean, I got picked. You can't look a
gift horse in the mouth.
D: In the 1991 Michigan media
guide, you said the greatest memory
was winning your state football cham-

me they were putting me down for the
year because I really thought I had been
playing well in camp. I was rotating in
with the starting three in the middle.
The coaches thought I was coming on
realnice.The vetsaresaying tome they
think I'mgoing to be here for a while
and to look at it as a year that'm not
hurting the rest of my body. And I'm
still getting a paycheck.
I'm working down in the D.C.
area with the network affiliates and
I'm doing a lot of charity work. I'm
also heavily involved with the Na-
tional Children's Hospital on the Have
A Heart Campaign Board of Direc-
tors .
D:What was your startin the NFL
E: The first game I started [at cen-
ter] was Monday night atNew Orleans,
just before Thanksgiving. The [next]
game we played Phoenix at home and
I started that game also. I played in all
18 games last fall. I was on punt team,
kickoff return, and I snapped for the
extra points and field goals. At the end
of the season I was named first team
All-Rookie by the NFL.
I never had time to get nervous
before Kansas City. AgainstK.C., one
ofthe offensive lineman came limping
off. The positioncoach yelled atme to
get in the game and I was already
halfway on the field. We were playing
catch up most of the game. Right after,
the offensive line coach named me
starting center for the next game.
Idon'tthink Iplayedas wellas they
say I did. I'm my own worst critic. I
take everything with a grain of salt. I
thought I could have played better.
D: What's the difference between
playing in ahuge college stadium like
Michigan's and in a smaller pro sta-
dium as RFK?
E: The fans just go nuts. It's reli-
gious. They're comparable to college
football in the South. It's like life and
death to them. It's quite 'awesome' if
you're not prepared. The stadium itself
is old and romantic. It was originally
built for baseball and we come out of
dugouts. It's two levels, natural grass,
loud, and colder than the Dickens. It's
the way it should be.
D: What effects will the current
expansion have overall?
E: What it means to me is that
you'rejustdiluting the solution again.
You're making it more available for
mediocre players to make the NFL. I
think we should stop expanding. Basi-
cally, the only reason it's done is be-
cause of TV revenue. It's done forpure
business. Theyhaveno thoughtorcon-
cern about the fans. The owners fig-
ured out that they would make more
money if they had more teams in the
league. Youcan betyour bottomdollar
that the next one is going to go to St.
Louis. That's why it was delayed.
D: What do you plan to do when
you finish your pro football career?
E: I'll play football so long as it
stays fun. If that lasts a week, a year, or
ten years, as long as it's fun, as long as
they'll have me back, I'll keep trying.
It's a passion to do what you do. When
rm done, I'm going to think about
finishing post-graduate work. I have a
couple of opportunities with network
sports, producing and directing.

The R.H. Factor
The legend of the Fab
Five will live forever
ust as midterms wind down and your eyes slowly begin to focus correctly
after all the late night cramming, it had to happen.
You'd finally detoxicated from the caffeine rush that accompanied the 13
Mountain Dews ("Biggie" size, ofcourse) used to maintain consciousness
during the past two weeks, only to realize that there is still work left.
One more book has been added to the syllabus at the last minute. Three
hundred sixty-eight pages, nonetheless.
OK, so it might not be the challenge of Homer's "The Odyssey" or Law
and Economics, but it is another text that will be required reading for
anyone who has followed the crusade of five freshmen turned sophomores
turned megastars turned millionaires (well, at least one of them for now).
Fab Five - the book.
Yes, the legend continues to grow for the five darlings/bad boys as their
brief but historic hardcourt career together at Michigan is chronicled by
Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom in a book to be released in the next
few weeks.
Albom's analysis and description of the players are on the mark, as he
charts the quintet's emergence from their days as high school prospects,
through their unprecedented run as first-year starters in the 1992 NCAA
tournament, to their more turbulent 1993 season when the swagger and
attitude that made them playground heroes also turned them into the team
America loved to hate.
The book focuses primarily on the rise of Jalen, Juwan, Jimmy, Ray and
Chris to national pop icon status. In the process Albom tries, with a good
deal of success, to describe the innate qualities these 20-year olds
possessed that enabled them to become not just the talk of the college
basketball world, but that of everyday America.
I never fully understood why the Fab Five took off the way they did or
exactly how large they had become. It was one thing for students and fans
in Ann Arbor, or even for others within the state of Michigan, to become
enamored with this group of brash individuals who had more talent than
any five players on any college campus.
Students would say "They're ours!" in the same possessive way that
people use when referring to their favorite teams. ("We scored two
touchdowns in the fourth, but we couldn't pull out the victory.") That was
expected, given they did go to school in Ann Arbor.
But the hype and the flash and the image spread much farther than the
surroundings of southeast Michigan. The Fab Five were the team to either
love or despise. Regardless of how they felt, it seemed everyone had an
opinion about these young men and enjoyed expressing it.
This summer, when I played in a three-on-three basketball tournament
in Long Island, I was astonished to see just how beloved these guys really
are. The parking lot that hosted the tournament was a sea of baggy yellow
shorts. Not just one or two individuals. Try 25 or more.
In the same manner, a Michigan No. 4 jersey was about as rare as a
college hoop game involving trash talk.
And then there were the socks. Those black socks. The same ones you
wouldn't be caught dead in when you were nine-years old and here, it
seemed like everyone was wearing black socks (by Nike, of course).
It didn't stop at the tournament. Everywhere I went, when someone
found out I went to Michigan the first question would be, "Do you see the
Fab Five on campus a lot?"
Not "What's the campus like?" or "Is it tough academically?" Michigan
means one thing now to most people - the home of the Fab Five.
It's ironic then that as much as the book attempts to quantify and
describe the phenomenon of the Fab Five it, in and of itself, adds to its
mysticism. Here is a book about a bunch of guys, four of whom are still
playing college basketball. Books are supposed to be written about players
who have finished their college careers, not those who are halfway through.
And will it stop at just a book? What about Fab Five - The
Movie? Fab Five - the TV show? What's there to stop this media roller
coaster from spinning out of control?
Then again, this is the Fab Five. Love them or leave them, they are an
entity in and of themselves. And now, as if this would be a problem, there's
a book that will make sure they will not be forgotten.
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stairs and I was still sitting in my
pajamas. My mom grabbed some
clothes and brought them down to me
and I changed in front of the TV.
Probably the worst part was sitting
there having to watch all the aerobics
shows and they justhad the crawl at the
bottom of the screen, scrolling all the
picks and me still not getting a call.
Every time the phone would ring, I'd
jump through the roof. Finally, (in) the
beginning of the twelfth (and final)
round Atlanta called me and they said,
'If we had another pick we would have
taken you, but we'd like you to come
down as a free agent. We really think
you've got a good shot to make the
squad'. Wewere updating [draftsheets]
also and I thought, 'screw this, I'mjust
going to be practice meat.' SoI was
cordial on the phone, not to bum any
bridges, but by the same token I was
kind of disappointed. With about ten
minutes left to go, the phone rang one
last timeanditwasMike Hagen, whois
a scout from the Redskins. He says,
'Hey, we want to take you in the last
pick of the draft,' and I just started
going nuts.
My dream my whole life is to be
drafted in the NFL. I wanted to play,
but to playIhad to be drafted first. If I
would have been a free agent, I don't
thinkI would have tried out fora team,
just for the pure honor and prestige of
saying I was drafted.
for being last pick. How was it?
E: Agentleman has been doing this
for the last 18 years. What it has come
down to is the city of Newport Beach,
Calif.,putsonabig party foryou.They

pionship. What is it now?
E: At that point in time that is
what it was. I think after that, I would
have to say all others pale in compari-
son to being the starting right guard in
Bo Schembechler's last game. You
can talk about playing pro ball all you
want, being the last man drafted, start-
ing a few games last year, being named
first-team All Rookie, or if I were to
ever go to apro bowl, whatever. Play-
ing for Bo Schembechler highlighted
my life, athletically. I can name no
prouder accomplishment.
D: You're not playing right now.
In fact, you're out for the season.
How did you injure your left knee?
E: It was about the tenth day of
camp. It was during a pass play and I
was uncovered. One of the defensive
tackles from the left side got thrown to
the ground and he fell on the side of my
leg. It bent in such a manner where it's
not built to do that, thus tearing my
D: What are you doing with your-
self these days?
E: I'm 13 weekspost-injury, sol'm
100% healed. I go in at 7:00 each
morning and rehab, strengthening the
muscles in my legs. When we start
meetings at 9:30, I go with the rest of
the players. We're on the field at two
for practice and at that point I'm done
for the day.
It was harsh to me when they told


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