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September 07, 2006 - Image 23

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-07

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8C - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 7, 2006

W -W. .--I



w w w:

w . v

- -

Continued from page 3C
better this year, I argued. The Moun-
taineers haveanever won a national
title; the Wolverines have 11.
But my favorite experience with
The Conversation came last sum-
mer when I was visiting a friend in
Washington D.C. Somehow, a very
loud Notre Dame fan ended up in the
dorm room, and he and I got into a
heated debate about which team has
more national titles. (Using the most
widely accepted rankings, Michigan
and Notre Dame each have 11.) That
guy had the nerve to use the "any
title before the modern era doesn't
matter" argument on me, and I
almost lost it.
Each time I'm forced to defend
the honor of Michigan football, the
same question pops into my head:
What's wrong with tradition?
It would be one thing if Michigan
had won a ton of games in the past
but was awful today. The football
programs at Harvard, Princeton and
Yale were once the best in the nation,
and that's pretty much all they've
got going for them now. Chicago
was the founding member of the
Big Ten. This year, the Maroons
are a preseason favorite to win their
conference ... in Division III. Hardly
anyone would throw out the names
of those schools ina debate about
college football's elite.
Very few programs can
combine a winning tradition
with continued relevance like
Michigan. In 1901, Fielding
Yost's "Point-a-Minute" squad
outscored its opponents 550-
0 en route to Michigan's first
national championship and a
victory in the inaugural Rose
Bowl. In the past 10 years, the
Wolverines have won or shared
five Big Ten titles.
It's true Michigan isn't as domi-
nant as it was in the past, but few
teams are. Those Notre Dame and
Ohio State fans are right about one
thing: It is a different era of college
football. Even the greatest teams
rarely crush their opponents game-
in and game-out anymore. A better
measure of an elite program is con-
sistency. When it comes to finishing

among the nation's best, not many
teams outpace Michigan ... last sea-
son excluded.
Here are the facts: No team in
Division I-A football has moreiwins
or a higher winning percentage than
the Wolverines. It's hard to argue
with that. But the tradition of Michi-
gan football runs deeper than wins
and losses.
It's about clapping and fist-pump-
ing along with "The Victors" (in my
opinion, the greatest college fight
song out there).
It's about executing the most
intricate version of the wave I've ever
It's about screaming like crazy
when the football players run out
of the tunnel and hit the "Go Blue"
banner before the start of every
game - and, ideally, screaming
even louder when the Wolverines are
on defense.
It's about being part of the larg-
est crowd watching a football game
anywhere in North America.
And, unfortunately, sometimes it's
also about being disappointed.
Because Michigan fans know
how great the Wolverines can
be, it's hard for us to accept
anything short of perfection.
But look at it this way: Would
you rather start every season
with high hopes only to be let
down by a September loss or a
bowl-game blowout, or would
you rather be, well, an Indiana
football fan? I'll take the high
hopes (and a little naivet6) any
So the next time you find your-
self in a heated debate with a
Michigan detractor about whether
the Wolverines suck, take a deep
breath, collect your thoughts and
be confident in your knowledge
that Michigan doesn't suck, it's
just a little misunderstood.
If that doesn't work, you can
always give the "Ohio State sucks"
comeback atry.
- Wright knows she won't
silence every Michigan football
critic. If you're still not convinced,
you can start upan e-mail version
of The Conversation with her at

5C - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 7, 2006
A leaner Jake Long is ready to take Michigan to new heights By Matt Singer, Daily Sports Editor

ooking at Jake Long stand-
ing tall in his shoulder pads,
winged helmet and No. 77
jersey, it's not too surprising that
the 6-foot-7, 313-pounder likes to
cook. And even though the redshirt
junior dropped 20 pounds after
going through an off-season diet and
workout regimen, there's still a good
chance you'll find the Lapeer native
behind a grill.
"He's quite the chef,' said Long's
roommate, redshirt junior offensive
lineman Adam Kraus. "He loves to
get on his grill and get working. He's
a good cook ... He loves to cook his
meat and potatoes, big Michigan boy,
he's always on the grill with his chick-
en or steak or pork chops."
When he fires up his grill, Long
has all the ingredients necessary for a
great meal. And when he puts on his
pads,Long features everything it takes
to be Michigan's next great offensive
lineman. The menu includes:
Physical ability - size, speed,
agility; you name it, Long has it.
Heart - after sustaining a serious
leg injury in 2005, Long gritted his
teeth, rehabbed in record time and

played in pain.
Leadership - Thanks to his jovial
but intense personality, Long's team-
mates elected him captain for the
2006 season.
Long brings plenty to the table, but
Wolverine fans have yet to see just
how good he can be. One game into
the 2006 season, this much is clear:
Long has the goods to deliver a hefty
serving of whoop-ass to opposing
defenses this season.
The specimen
In the minds of casual football
fans, offensive linemen are those
nameless fat guys who push people
around while the stars do the glamor-
ous work. So why, then, would Michi-
gan coach Lloyd Carr demand that his
offensive linemen lose weight?
Turns out that even though bigger
is sometimes better, a lineman carry-
ing extra flab can break down late in
games. It was a lesson the Wolverines
learned the hard way during their dis-
appointing 7-5 2005 campaign.
"Losing weight does a lot," Long
said. "Last year our whole thing
was to finish a game. You know, we

couldn't finish a game. And fatigue
could have been a part of that. And
we just wanted to come back this
summer, lose weight, get stronger, get
quicker and become a better offensive
line, and get our conditioning up to
finish games."
Along with his teammates, Long
worked with Michigan's strength and
conditioning staff in the off-season to
achieve his personal weight-loss goal
of about 20 pounds. For a big boy
like Long, the commitment to drop
pounds naturally came with a few
sacrifices. Long limited his intake of
fatty foods, including his favorite fast
food meal, No.6 at Taco Bell.
"It was really hard at first because
you're used to the foods you're eat-
ing," Long said. "But after a week or
so it got easier, and now eating good
food is a better lifestyle. I'm glad I did
it, and I'm glad I lost the weight."
The difference is striking. Minus
the Chalupas, Long's baby fat has
melted away, replaced by new sheaths
of muscle. After shedding 20 pounds
and working out ferociously all
summer, Long is about as cut as a
313-pound man can be. His massive
tattoo-laden biceps peer menacingly
from under his shoulder pads, and his
frame rests comfortably on tree-trunk
legs well suited to drive defenders into
Fresh off his weight-loss and
workout regimen, Long shows off an
imposing figure. His natural physical
ability is just as intimidating. He was
a three-sport athlete at Lapeer East
High School, where as a first baseman
he set home-run and RBI records and
the school's all-time mark for field-
goal percentage in basketball. On the
football field, he was much more than
a grunt offensive tackle.In three years
playing varsity football, he notched
281 tackles and 11 sacks playing on
the defensive line, and picked up four
touchdowns playing fullback during
goal-line situations. But even though
he occasionally made his way into
the end zone, Long knew his future
wouldn't be in the backfield.
"I wasn't a very good running
back' Long said. "I didn't do very
well at it. So that was a short-lived
Even if Long never touches the
football again, his speed and athleti-
cism can still be difference-makers
at the tackle position. Linemen aren't
stationary; lateraland forward move-
ment are both extremely important
aspects of what they do. And Long
can cover plenty of ground.
"For him to be one of our heaviest
offensivelineman,herunslike adeer,"
fifth-year senior offensive lineman

Rueben Riley said. "It's unbelievable
how great he runs long distance."
Senior defensive end and fellow
Michigan captain LaMarr Woodley
boasts a similar combination of size,
strength and speed. When the two ath-
letes match up in practice, fireworks
are inevitable. Despite their trash-talk-
ing, Woodley has nothing but respect
for his counterpart. Going up against
Long, Woodley knows that the offen-
sive lineman is a special talent.
"Whenever you go against Jake,
it's going to be the best battle because
he's the best offensive tackle, to me,"
Woodley said. "It's gonna be that
best look, it's gonna be that game
look, Jake's never gonna let up on
you. So it's either you're gonna get
pancaked by Jake, or you're gonna
win the battle. That's the only two
choices you got."
As strong as he is now, a year ago
Long was in a world of hurt. During
the 2005 summer training camp, for-
mer Wolverine defensive tackle Gabe
Watson and center Mark Bihl - all
634 pounds of them - fell on Long's
lower left leg, seriously injuring it.
Before his 2005 season got off the
ground, Long went under the knife.
"When I look back at Jake's injury
a year ago during training camp,

we really thought that he would not
be able to come back before a bowl
game' "Carr said.
A return to action during his red-
shirt sophomore season appeared
unlikely, but Long was determined to
come back and make an impact. He
fought through an exhaustive training
and rehabilitation program in an effort
to strengthen his leg enough to play.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines were
struggling in a way Long hadn't seen
during his three years on the team.
Once ranked as high as No. 3 in the
nation, the 2005 Michigan squad
crashed down to earth with three
losses in its first six games.
Michigan's injury-plagued offen-
sive line was partially at fault. With
the big guys up front failing to domi-
nate the trenches,the Wolverines' run-
ning game sputtered, and quarterback
Chad Henne made too many throws
with defenders in his face. For a com-
petitor like Long, watching his team
and his unit struggle was extremely
frustrating. But it also served as moti-
vation to hasten his recovery.
"It was very tough," Long said.
"Because there was nothing I could
do to help the offensive line besides
talk to 'em, and I couldn't be out
there throughout the grind, through
the losses trying to help.... But that
See LONG, page 9C

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