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January 20, 2004 - Image 20

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-01-20

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8B - The Michigan Daily - SportsTuesday - January 20, 2004

4

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By Naweed Sikora Daily Sports Editor-

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areful. If you're not paying
close attention, he'll slip right
ast you.
He certainly won't announce his
presence, so you better be ready if he
comes.
And even if you do see him, you
might not notice him.
Let me give you a hint: He could be
in his room playing Playstation, in a
corner writing poems, or somewhere on
campus just daydreaming.
Don't bother trying to listen for him.
He doesn't say much, and if he does, it
won't be that loud.
Michigan football's newest sensation,
6-foot-1, 176-pound Steve Breaston,
has always been a quiet guy. But this
quiet guy made a lot of noise in the Big
House this season, and he has barely
scratched the surface.
Breaston made the most
impossible plays look dangerous-
ly routine. Left, right, backwards,
forwards, up or down, no matter
which way Breaston took the
ball, the fans came to expect
something unbelievable. The;
redshirt freshman from North
Braddock, Pa never seemed to
take a wrong turn, and, if he did,
he made up for it with a couple more
spontaneous turns that nobody, espe-
cially the defenders, thought possible.
In the blink of an eye, he would be
gone.
But Breaston's ability to make
110,000-plus fans oooh and ahhh in
amazement as he leaves defenders in
the dust with his lightning-quick cuts
and dazzling speed is not the most stun-
ning thing about him.
What's surprising is the way he has
chosen to express himself. After all, it's
not every day that your star football
player does his talking through verse.
Of course, Breaston is not your
everyday player. He's poetry in motion.
5&e uvtittm wd
Breaston has always been very pti-
vate with his writing, since he writes
mainly for himself.
In fact, if his advisor had never given
head coach Lloyd Carr the poem Breas-
ton showed her for an assignment last
fall, most people would still be unaware
of this talent.
If you talk to him, you would never
guess what kind of talent he displayed
on the football field, either.
One of his poems was submitted
for a Hopwood Award, one of the
most prestigious writing honors at the

University.
Breaston says writing is something
he's always been interested in, and since
he daydreams a lot about life, he has a
lot to write down.
"Sometimes I sit back and think I'm
someone else when I write, not a stu-
dent-athlete but just a normal person,"
Breaston said. "What would he be
going through? I think about what is
going on back home."
When he was younger, his daydream-
ing had his football coaches wondering
if Breaston was ever paying any atten-
tion to what they were
saying. They would
go to his mother,
Charlene Breaston,
and ask if her son
was listen-
ing to
them.
TONY DING/
Daily
"Steven's
a thinker; he
used to sit there
and think a lot,"
Charlene said. "His
coaches thought he was listening to
them, but he would be looking some-
where else. But then he would go out
and do the things they told him to do."
Steve's brother, David, wrote poetry,
and he is the brother Steve usually con-
sults for advice or counseling on his
writing.
Steve has three brothers in all -
Brian is the oldest, followed by David,
and then Michael.
"He's been writing for a long time, at
least since junior high," David said. "He
used to write something, and then throw
it away. I encouraged him to start keep-
ing it, recording it in a journal some-
where. It might not be a big deal now,
but later on he might want to look at it."
Breaston writes about anything that
pops into his head. The topic is usually
something he's been through in his life,

or something going on back home.
David says Steve recently showed him a
poem he wrote about being inter-
viewed.
"I told him how I thought it was an
interesting perspective," David said.
"He talks about how he's quiet and so
it's hard for him sometimes."
Other times, says David, Steve's
poems can be a little over the top
when talking about a more serious
subject, such as his friend's death
about a year ago.
"He tends to exaggerate in some
parts more for the effect," David said.
Breaston hasn't declared a concentra-
tion, but he says he's interested in cre-
ative writing.
Whenever Breaston gets that urge to
write, he grabs a pen and a piece of
paper and starts putting words down.
But when Breaston feels that creative
urge on a football field, he doesn't have
a pen and paper. All he has are his Nike
cleats.
J . yf eadi
What is it that goes through Breast-
on's mind when he's returning a punt
that makes him so untouchable?
Basically nothing. Just like when
he's writing a poem, he pauses, clears
his mind and starts creating. But this
time, he uses his feet to create some-
thing special.
How would you know his mind is
clear? One time, after returning a punt
for a touchdown in high school, Breast-
on returned to his team's bench and
turned toward his teammates. To his
surprise, he noticed that his team-
mates were wearing their black
home jerseys.
"I told my friends that dur-
ing the punt return, I
thought we had on the
white away jerseys," Breast-
on said. "It's kind of weird, you think
about getting upfield, and your mind
just goes blank sometimes. You don't
realize what you've done."
The fact that he goes blank is proba-
bly why he doesn't acknowledge he's
done anything special.
He outran the entire Illinois punt-
coverage unit, going east to west across
the field before turning north for the
touchdown. Breaston was asked if he
thought he had made a good play.
"It was a play," he said.
He was asked if he could describe the
runback.
"It was a runback," he said.
Yeah, and Michael Jordan was just "a

RYAN WEINER/Dally
Breaston took his first punt return back for a touchdown in the Indiana game this season. He would go on to take another
one back for a score against Illinois and have a few punt returns for touchdowns called back because of penalties.

7n boys very long before you realize that Steve is
s. But the other thing you will pick up is how
uigan's punt returner. They serve as a support
differently, and each one is always there to offer
ceded. A look at the three wise brothers.

basketball player."
Breaston says that running back a
punt has more to do with getting in the
right state of mind than planning out all
the physical moves.
Former Michigan wide receiver and
punt returner Desmond Howard said
after the Notre Dame game that Breast-
on would be successful because of his
instincts, a rare quality in a player. In
that game, Breaston ran a punt back to
the 2-yard line before getting knocked
out of bounds.
Breaston has the ability to catch a
punt, clear his mind and find the open-
ing. If he can't find an opening, he
makes people run around after him for
a while until he sees something.
"Every time Steve steps on the field
he amazes me," Michael said.
Said Brian: "I asked him once how
he was able to split two defenders when
it seemed like there was no space, and
he said, 'I got skinny.' Now, every time I
see him running a punt back, I always
say, 'Gotta get skinny.'"
Of course, staying skinny wasn't very
hard growing up with three brothers all
above 250 pounds.
"b"A, ti&deare a:
In the Breaston family, academics
always came before sports. Steve grew
up under two parents and those three
older brothers. They all stressed the
importance of doing well in school -
especially his mother.
"With all of my boys, I stressed
academics first," said Charlene, who
didn't attend college because his
mother did not let the girls in the fam-
ily go past high school. "Sports
always came second. If they didn't do
well in school, they weren't allowed
to play. All of them (except Steve) are
college grads.
"They were good boys. We tried to
teach them morals, ethics and respect."
Charlene wasn't joking around about
holding her boys out of sports if they
didn't perform well. One year, she held
Michael out of baseball for a season
after he didn't bring home good grades.
"Being the last one, he knew not to
try Mama," Charlene said of Steve.
Steve began his childhood playing
soccer, but he couldn't stick to just one
sport for very long. Before he knew it,
local Midget Football League coaches

had to tape his pants on. He was so
small," Charlene said. "I tried to feed
him more, thinking he wasn't eating."
But the youngest Breaston was just
different than his brothers. He got his
size and speed from his father, who was
a track star in Ohio.
"My friends always ask me how
Steve got so skinny and fast," said
Brian. "I always tell them that when my
family all got together to eat, he had to
be fast at the dinner table or he wouldn't
get any food."
Football became a big part of his life,
but when he was young, Steve's true
love was baseball. To him and his broth-
ers, it was more than a game.
"Growing up, a lot of people use
(baseball) for fun and to get away from
some of the negative influences in the
community," Breaston said. "I was a
good hitter and fielder, but things didn't
go my way when I got to high school."
Luckily for Breaston, he was a much
better quarterback then outfielder.
ffaadinf U~e Mduf
Breaston burst onto the Michigan
football scene this past season, leaving
many fans to wonder where this guy
came from. But he was hardly a secret
weapon.
If you ask anyone from North Brad-
dock, where Breaston played football
and ran track for the Woodland Hills
Wolverines, they'll tell you that they
always knew this kid would be a star.
Whenever Greg Novak turned on a
Michigan football game this season and
saw Breaston running circles around
people, it was like deja vu. Novak,
Steve's football coach at Woodland
Hills, made a 21-minute highlight video
of Breaston's high school career, in
which Breaston played quarterback,.
defensive back and returned punts.
Even after four years of watching
Breaston make defensive players look
silly, Novak still gets excited every time
his former star touches the ball.
Success in football came easy for
Breaston. Although he was hard-work-

ing, talent alone made him stand out
above the rest.
In the first three games of his junior
season, he played only defensive back
- he was the No. 2 quarterback
behind senior Adam Curry. The fourth
game of the season, Woodland Hills
fell behind Central Catholic 23-7 in
the first half. Novak brought in Breas-
ton to run the offense, and he explod-
ed for 214 yards on 12 carries, leading
Woodland Hills to a 37-29 comeback
win. Breaston became the No. 1 QB
after that.
In his senior year alone, Breaston
was involved in 33 touchdowns, either
by running, passing or returning punts.
His average yards-per-score was more
than 40.
But, Steve also enjoyed success out-
side the athletic realm. Despite his
quiet nature, he was a friendly guy who
was well liked by his classmates and
friends. One year, he was named
Homecoming King.
"Everybody enjoys being around
him," Michael Breaston said. "He's
humble, he gives credit to other people
- I think people like that a lot."
Right now, a future in football
beyond Michigan is looking very
promising.
The youngest Breaston has just about
everything going for him right now. The
greatest mark of his success, though,
could be that if you take away football,
he'll still be successful because of the
foundation he has been given.
"I didn't grow up in a bad neighbor-
hood," he said. "I had two great parents
and three older brothers that kept my
head right. They've been through a'lot,
and since I'm the youngest, they do a
good job of teaching me things. Every-
thing is a new experience."
This is also true for Michigan fans.
When Breaston is on the field, every-
thing is a new experience.
So keep your eyes and ears open,
because you never know what he'll
create next - with the pen, or with
his feet.

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