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SINSI CONT FF '
-..INSIDE KICKOFF '96
Thursday, SeptemberY 1996 -- Kickoff
Daily sports columnist and foot-
ball writer Ryan White dissects
Michigan's recent absence from
the Rose Bowl, loss of the
nation's largest stadium and pos-
sible fall from its own tradition.
Didn't Bo'say, "Those who stay
will be champions?" What hap-
pened to the old Blue?
The Daily breaks down the
Wolverines offensively and
defensively - the quarterbacks,
offensive line, running backs,
receivers, secondary, lineback-
ers, defensive line and special
teams - player by player.
Every opponent the Wolverines
will face the rest of the season is
examined. Will there be revenge
dished out in Boulder? Will
Penn State march all over
Michigan again? What about
Ohio State? Can Northwestern's
Cinderella shoe fit again?
Get the answers.
The Daily top 25. The
Associated Press top 25. The
USA Today/CNN top 25. Sports
,Illustrated's top 25. They're all
here, and so are the Daily's staff
Get the knowledge.
Scott Dreisbach's thumb has
healed, and everyone
But the Wolverines'
fortunes rest on a
quarterback who had played but
four games entering this season.
Following in the tradition of
Elvis Grbac and Todd Collins,
Michigan needs a quality quar-
terback to make it to
the Rose Bowl.
Is Dreisbach up to the task? Can
he stay healthy? Is he good
enough? Will he play better than
he did against Illinois, a game in
which he showed he was
healthy yet unspectacular on the
The task is clear,
And proven or unproven,
Dreisbach has a tough task
Jarrett Irons remembers, and
the memory won't go away.
As a redshirt freshman in
1993, Irons was in uniform
for the Wolverines' last
appearance in the Rose Bowl.
And he considers that day -
one in which he didn't play -
his greatest moment. That's why
he isn't in the NFL now. He
wants to return to Pasadena.
Captain returns for ring
COVER DESIGN: By Nicholas J. Cotsonika and Mark Friedman
COVER PHOTOS: By Mark Friedman
By Nicholas J. Cotsonika
T hird and short from the Washington 15-yard line.
Quarterback Elvis Grbac went under center and called the
play, squinting in the sun and cut off from the 94,236 fren-
zied fans by his own concentration.
This was the Rose Bowl, and this was routine. It was 1993,
another big-time, winning season for the Wolverines. Grbac was
about to extend the tradition of his school another year and keep
Bo Schembechler's promise, all in one quick play.
He took the snap, fired the ball to Tony McGee on the two, and
when McGee fell in to score the winning touchdown, Grbac's
hands flew into the air. The place erupted. The score was 38-31,
Michigan. And Grbac, in his final Rose Bowl appearance, was a
Somewhere, amid the hugging, chest-thumping and Gatorade-
dumping, a redshirt freshman linebacker whooped and hollered,
jumped and slapped fives. Young Jarrett Irons - a fierce competi-
tor and future Butkus Award candidate - hadn't played. He hadn't
played a down all year. But it didn't matter.
He considers it his finest hour.
"It was the greatest," Irons said. "Just being there, at the Rose
Bowl, that was it."
As he watched Grbac celebrate after his third and final Rose
Bowl, Irons had no idea he could have been celebrating in Pasadena
for the last time, too.
Didn't Bo say, "Those who stay will be champions"? It surely
wasn't "those who stay might be champions" or "every few years,
those who stay will be champions." He said those who stay will be
champions. Everyone. He promised.
That's why, five years later, Jarrett Irons is still at Michigan. He
has his undergraduate degree. He has a future in the NFL. But, in
four years, he hasn't been back to the Rose Bowl. This is not about
money or playing time or prestige. It's about a promise, and it's
about a ring.
And for Irons, it's about time.
Irons could be gone now, and no one would have blamed him. He
could be playing for some team like the Carolina Panthers, just.like
his former teammate Tshimanga Biakabutuka, making money. After
all, he has his degree in sports management and communication,
and getting a degree is what college is all about. Right?
But most often, decisions are made on what one doesn't have.
Biakabutuka didn't have his family. So he went pro to earn the
money to bring them over from Africa. Irons doesn't truly have a
ring. So he stayed, started earning a master's degree and hoped.
"I didn't play my freshman year, so it doesn't really count;'
Irons said. "My reason for staying was, one, to go to the Rose'
Bowl, and, two, because I'll never have this experience again. The
pros, they'll be there. If it was meant for me to go to the pros,
they'll be there. If not, then I've enjoyed myself here.
"I don't want to leave this tradition, leave Michigan without
leaving my stone here, leaving my legacy here, without people
saying he went to the Rose Bowl and played his senior year."
Irons is serious, and it only takes one glance to be sure. After
practice last week, he sat in a Schembechler Hall lounge shirtless,
with an ice pack strapped to his back so tightly, it pinched his skin
all the way around his torso. Clusters of lines decorated his shoul-
ders. They looked like nasty little battle scars, but they're just
stretch marks that relieve the spots where his muscles are too big
for his skin.
His most striking feature is his hands. Big, powerful hands that
had brought down 334 collegiate rushers entering this season. Big,
powerful hands devoid of jewelry.
As Irons rubbed them together, he talked about the ring he was
given for watching the 1993 Rose Bowl in uniform. It didn't really
belong to him.
"I gave it to my dad," said Irons, whose father, Gerald, played
for Tennessee State, the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland
Browns. "When the Raiders went to the Super Bowl, he got traded
right before. So he never got a ring. He helped me through some
hard times my first year, so he deserved it."
Irons' first season couldn't have been easy. He comes from a
religious family where the father - good God - hugs his sons in
public. Big guy to big guy. Bear hugs.
Irons called his father four or five times a week as a freshman.
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The memories, while wonderful,
last time the Wolverines made it
see the looks on their faces. He
receive the torch. But he hasn't
this season, and Michigan's first
feels the pressure to keep the p
he was coach. If "those who sta
can't leave without appearing in
he? Only he and his teammates
And he walked away briskly, hoping it won't be the only one he