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September 11, 1997 - Image 28

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-09-11
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10 - The Michigan Daily - Kickoff '97 - Sepember 11-13

FEATURE S-

FEATURE

an

of

Steele

Two -way

Sehteme a t13 Kickoff '97
threat

Defensive end Glenn Steele has battled through injuries and losses

All-Everything Charles Woodson swaggers into his junio

By Danielle Rumore
Daily Sports Editor
t happened almost two years ago on
Christmas Eve, four days prior to
Michigan's game against Texas A&M
in the 1995 Alamo Bowl in San
Antonio, Texas. It was another injury to
add to the long list.
Michigan defensive end Glen Steele,
then in his third year of eligibility, suf-
fered from a bulging disc in his back that
bothered him throughout the next season.
An isolated incident? Hardly.
Despite what his surname suggests,
Steele had been broken down before -
during high school, during a freshman
campaign in which he was redshirted,
and again during the Alamo Bowl.
He still took the field in the Alamo
Dome on game day with pain
bursting through his back.
From his crouched position
on the line, pain shooting
up his spine, he still
managed three tackles
and a fumble recovery.

Wolverines lost, 22-20, capping off their
third straight four-loss season.
The pain in his back remained
through 1996 - another 8-4 season --
and into this offseason. A disc the size
of a donut hurt a-man used to inflicting
his own pain on others. It just lingered
and lingered and lingered. And the loss-
es kept coming and coming and coming.
"On the field, you really don't feel
much pain," Steele says. "The only time
you feel pain is afterward when you're
laying around and your adrenaline stops
flowing. Thank God I don't have to feel
that again, and I don't plan on feeling it."
The pain in Steele's back hurt. The
loss to the Aggies hurt, too. It seemed it
had always been that way.
"I felt that it was something that did-
n't want to go away," Steele says.
"It's a matter of time for those
kinds of injuries to get back
to where you can play. It
slowed me down for
awhile."
'" Throughout

career, Steele has been bothered by
injuries. It began during his senior sea-
son at West Noble High School in
Ligonier, Ind., and continued into his
freshman campaign at Michigan, when
he was redshirted. Then he was injured
during his sophomore year, and that last-
ed through the 1996 season. It seemed
that Michigan football was plagued by
something, too, something that just lin-
gered like the pain in Steele's back.
Ever since Steele arrived in Ann
Arbor in 1993, the Wolverines have had
what some claim to be one disappoint-
ing season after another, each one since
1993 ending with four losses and culmi-
nating at a bowl other than the only one
that truly matters to the Big Ten and
Pac-10 conferences.
In fact, no current member of the
1997 Michigan football team has been
to the Rose Bowl. After winning the Big
Ten title five-straight years, the
Wolverines have been relegated to four-
straight four-loss seasons.
Steele is now healthy and
Michigan has players with
game experience at almost
every position. A healthy,
focused Steele, an All-
America candidate and just
one of seven fifth-
year players this
year, looks to
right the
ship and
return
Michigan
football to
the level of
success it
achieved in
the late
1980s and
'90s.
The
Wolverines'
leader, their
man of Steele,
claims to be healed
and at "100 percent."
Maybe Michigan has
healed, too.
"Especially for me
and the fifth-year guys,
it gets more extra spe-
cial," Steele says. "This
is it for us. This is the last
we will be in a Michigan
uniform, the last we will
be able to play in front of
our crowd and our home
stadium.
"I would love for this
season to go the way I
want it to go, but just
look at our schedule. It's
the toughest in the coun-
try. It's not going to be an
easy road. We're trying
to get to where we
want to be and
that's the Rose
Bowl and

winning the Big Ten."
Eu.
"He is an old oak tree. Glen Steele is
old, dependable, reliable," says co-cap-
tain and inside linebacker Eric Mayes.
"He is a cornerstone. When you think of
Michigan football, you think of Glen
Steele. He goes into the trenches and
plays hard."
An old oak tree? That sounds right.
If you look at an old oak tree - stur-
dy, strong, impressive - you can see
similar qualities in Steele.
He appears to be made of steel. Steele
is a solid mass with 281 pounds chisled
onto his 6-foot-5 frame. His role as a
right defensive end is to tackle every-
thing and everyone in sight, with special
attention paid to the opposing quarter-
back, and to close any holes the offen-
sive line may open for the backs.
Steele tries to pull quarterbacks down
in a thundering heap - throw them for
loss and break their morale.
Steele gets to them by throwing aside
left tackles, probably the most important
spot on the offensive line to protect the
quarterback, especially right-handed
QBs. Steele gets by the offensive tackles
and then races into the quarterback's
blind spot. The next thing the quarter-
back does is pull turf from his helmet.
Steele plugs up holes like a cork, pre-
vents offensive tackles from doing their
job.
Orlando Pace knows the feeling. Last
season's highly touted left tackle and first
pick in the 1997 NFL Draft out of Ohio
State was taken to school by Steele.
Last year, when the Wolverines
topped the Buckeyes, 13-9, in
Columbus, Steele dominated Pace and
made him invisible. The Buckeyes
couldn't run through Pace's side of the
line. Arguably one of the most dominant
players in college football last season,
Pace was a nonfactor in the loss.
That is Steele's role.
The little disc in his back took its toll,
though. It affected his performance on
the field. It took him down like he takes
down quarterbacks. But being strong
means battling adversity
Despite the injury, Steele started all
12 games for the Wolverines last season
and had a good year by most standards.
He recorded four sacks and 13 tackles-
for-loss, culminating in being mamed an
All-Big Ten honorable mention by both
the coaches and media.
Steele says business is business on the
field - pain must be ignored. But pain
creeps back during the long walk
through the tunnel leading to the locker-
room. And four-loss seasons brings
pain, too.
And his pain seemed to reflect on the
rest of the team. The Wolverines won
the Big Ten title seven times from 1982-
92, including five straight from 1988-
92. The same 10-year span included six
trips to the coveted Rose Bowl in
Pasadena, Calif. None of that has hap-
pened since the 1992 season.
"The 8-4 seasons, it was a matter of

us making mistakes that we shouldn't
have made," Steele says. "I don't feel
any disappointment in what this team
has done. Sure, we lost some games we
should have won, but we're striving to
look at the mistakes we made."
This season, the defensive line was
expected to be one of the more solid
positions on the team. With holes to fill
on the offensive line and the starting
quarterback still unannounced, the
defensive line was supposed to be filled
with veterans and experienced reserves.
But during the summer, starting left
defensive end David Bowens was
released from the team due to academic
problems. Bowens, a junior, led the team
last year in sacks with 12. The line took
an even greater hit last week when start-
ing tackle Ben Huff, another fifth-year
senior, was lost for the season with an
anterior cruciate ligament injury in his
left knee.
"I know Huff was a great man and a
damn good player," Steele says. "Losing
him is something that the older guys feel
kind of like someone has left our family."
Huff's injury forces Steele to assume
an even greater role for the line and
defense as a whole, if not by choice, but
default - Steele is the oldest player on
the team.
"Glen is a guy who will have a
tremendous impact on the work ethic of
the younger players," Michigan coach
Lloyd Carr said. "Glen has an extremely
important role on this team. With the
loss of Ben Huff, his (Glen's) leadership
(will increase)."
Like an old oak tree, Steele has sur-
vived the test of time. He was recruited
as a tight end after starting four years at
West Noble. He was projected as a top-
40 tight end and in the top-60 players in
the midwest coming out of high school.
Steele was converted to defensive end
after his redshirt season. He says that
former Michigan coach Gary Moeller
saw a defensive player in him after he
laid a hit on a player during spring ball
in 1994. He has been on defense ever
since.
Steele wants to go to the Rose Bowl
and win a Big Ten title, two things that
elude every player on the current roster.
It is something that drew him to
Michigan in the first place.
"I cam from a small, small town,"
Steele says. "You always hear about
Michigan and going to the Rose Bowl,
all the great teams they had in the past
and all the tradition. That's the one thing
that really led me this way. I felt the tra-
dition, I felt the love of the players,
coaches and how they become one, as a
family. I'm thankful for the shot that I
got to come here."
They say time heals all wounds. It has
been over four years for Steele and
Michigan. For once, Steele is healthy,
strong and ready to guide the
Wolverines back to the top.
"Being a senior, I'm going to have to
lead," Steele says. "That's something I'm
going to take pride in.

By Alan Goldenbach
Daily Sports Editor
rry Glenn embodied the antithe-
Fis of Charles Woodson that late
November afternoon in 1995.
Glenn, the Ohio State receiver, who
was subsequently crowned the
Biletnikoff Award-winner as the
nation's best wide out, was clad in the
scarlet and gray of the arch-rival
Buckeyes, trying to elude Woodson's
coverage and snag each ball thrown his
way, and sported four years' worth of
big-game experience on his collegiate
resume.
Woodson, who today calls himself
the best cornerback in college football,
had yet to reach that level two years
ago. Unlike Glenn on that day,
Woodson donned the Michigan maize
and blue, was committed to keeping
Glenn's hands off the ball, and was a
rookie thrust into the fire of perhaps
college football's most vicious rivalry.
But lest we.forget, Glenn had some-
thing else on Woodson that made the
precocious freshman seethe. In the
days leading up to the game, Glenn
was doing the trash-talking, aiming
most of it at the man who would be
covering him.
"Michigan is nobody. Vk should
keep Michigan down where they
belong just like the rest of the teams"
That brought the kettle inside
Woodson's head to a rapid boil.
Nobody utters an ounce of trash to him
or threatens his self-confidence and
gets away with it.
"He said some things at me that
fired me up," said Woodson recalling
the greatest motivational tool he had
ever been given. "For a young player
like myself to play against a receiver of
that magnitude was enough for me to
get motivated.
"But then for him to come out and
say the things he said, that's a chal-
lenge that I must step up to"
After 60 minutes of sheer savagery
between the two teams, Glenn emerged
with the quietest four-reception, 72-
yard game in football history.
Woodson, the lopsided victor with his
two interceptions and a 31-23 victory
in his back pocket, firmly stood up to
Glenn's challenge and refused to be
bullied by the veteran loudmouth.
His interceptions were as dramatic
and as timely as they come; the latter
came with just more than a minute to
play when the 6-foot-1 Woodson came
from behind Glenn and out-jumped his
6-4 counterpart at the Michigan 13-yard
line, thwarting Ohio State's last chance
for a tie and a Rose-Bowl berth.
"It was a challenge that he put out
there and I stepped up to it," Woodson
said. "I had to go out there and take
my respect.".
SEu
Charles Woodson loves challenges
for one reason and one reason only:
meeting them allows him the opportu-

"At my position,
I'm the best player
in the game of
college football"
- Charles Woodson
Michigan cornerback
nity to talk himself up as only he can.
The multi-talented, multi-positional,
all-everything, Heisman trophy hopeful
is not one for beating around the bush.
He will come out and tell you exactly
how good he is.
"At my position, I'm the best player
in the game of college football," he
said. "As a freshman I was pretty good.
My sophomore year, I got better. This
year, I'm the best at what I do. That's
what I'm going out to prove this year."
That challenge may be three-fold
this year as Woodson will figure more
prominently in two roles in which he
saw only spot duty last year - wide
receiver and punt returner - in addi-
tion to his full-time job as Michigan's
weak side cornerback. But he isn't let-
ting his increased workload bring down
the more established part of his game.
"I don't want to overdo it to the
point where I'm out there so much that
I'm no longer going to be effective on
defense," l said. "I want to be out
there, so it's not like they're forcing me
to (play multiple positions)."
But Woodson's greatest challenge
doesn't come from playing more posi-
tions (three) than his uniform number
(two). Instead, his tallest hurdle is talk-
ing his talk as loudly as he can while
not having anyone question the audaci-
ty of his hot-dog ego by backing up
every word of it.
"If something is a challenge for me,
that means I have to work hard at it,"
he says. "If I meet that challenge and
get to be the best at something by
working hard at it, that makes it worth-
while."
Which entirely explains why
Woodson chose to play cornerback -
quite possibly the most athletic spot on
the field - as his primary position.
Although he played tailback in high
school as well as in the secondary,
scoring touchdowns and racking up
school rushing records, he found lining
up on the opposite side of the ball to
be a more attractive option.
"The best athletes on the field are
definitely on defense," Woodson said.
"It's a challange for me to be the best
athlete, the best player on the field."
Woodson's domination of Glenn, as
well as Michigan's over Ohio State,
met not two, but three challenges,
since Woodson is a native of Fremont,
Ohio - a town about 40 miles south-
east of Toledo - where the locals

breed future Buckeyes.
"Where I'm from," he said, "there's
a lot of Ohio State fans who don't like
Michigan asking me, 'Why are you
going there? You should be staying
home.'
"So beating Ohio State was like
bragging rights for me the way it is for
these guys from Michigan when we
beat Michigan State. When I go home,
I can hold my head high, stick out my
chest and say we beat the team that
everyone had been
pumping up all sea-
son."
"We" is a
word often
conspicuous-
ly absent
from the
vocabulary
of a brag-
gadocio
like
Woodson.
Upon
examining
Woodson's
vital traits - a
speedy cornerback
who also sees
time as a receiver
and punt returner
who is able to
move his mouth
almost as fast as
his legs - compar-
isons are immediate-
ly drawn to Deion
Sanders - the
NFL's best cover
man. Making
the resemblance
even more
striking is that
Sanders also
wore the uni-
form number
two while play-
ing collegiately
at Florida State.
But unlike
Sanders, whose
flair for the glitz
is often criti-
cized for out-
weighing his
dedication to
his team,
Woodson would
most like his chat-
ter to revolve around
Michigan, which is also
what sets him apart from oth-
ers possessing similar swagger.
"I want to win, that's the bottom
line," Woodson said. "That's the reason
I play offense too; I feel I can help the
team in another way besides just play-
ing on defense.
"I've never been the type of person
who accepts losing or who leaves the
game saying, 'We tried our best.' That's
not good enough for me."

What will be good enough for
Woodson is if he sees a similar distaste
for losing visible in his younger team-
mates now that he is an upperclassman
and expected to take more of a leader-
ship role.
"When I'm out there on the field,
I'm out there to win, and if you're a
player around me, then I expect you to
want to win too," he says. "Your first
two years, you're a young guy, you go
out there and listen to the older guys.
But now I'm an older guy and I
expect the younger guys to lis-
ten to me.
"Now it's time for me

dence is
But is
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prove the
extremel
"Cock
somethir
said. "I'
and then
them up
sider my
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myself a
on the fi
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Appar
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prisingly
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