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SportsSaturday - The Michigan Daily - Saturday, October 21, 2006 - 5B
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Kevin Wright I Daily Sports Editor
He remembers the Alamo Bowl, but only from what he saw
Last season, as Michigan flew south to San Antonio, wide
receiver Adrian Arrington traveled west - to home.
"It was tough," Arrington said. "I had not really
been involved in the games the whole season,
so it was tough to not go on a bowl trip
because you want to help support your
team but I gave all the support watching
Rumors swirled about the real motivation
behind Arrington not traveling with the team.
His high school coach, Paul James, heard them
as Arrington played pick-up basketball with
James's son in Arrington's old stomping grounds,
Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Talk of Arrington's lackadaisical attitude and even a possibility
of a transfer circulated.
So in the comfort of his own living room, Arrington watched
painfully as his teammates lost in a furious Nebraska fourth-quarter
Later, Arrington and Carr had several sit-down meetings in the
privacy of the coach's office and worked out their differences.
"You hear something from a guy like that, he knows what's he
talking about," Arrington said. "That's why I just accepted what he
said and worked on myself."
Coming off a broken ankle suffered during the first game of last
season, Arrington used his absence from the team as motivation
entering training camp this year.
Now he doesn't stand on the sidelines or watch Michigan games
from home. Instead, Arrington has become an integral part of a
Wolverine passing attack that was one of the team's biggest ques-
tion marks coming into the year.
For the kid who grew up on the basketball court, Michigan foot-
ball has become a way of life. Arrington's time donning the maize
and blue hasn't always been the easiest. But the redshirt sophomore
saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
It was supposed to be his grand homecoming.
The high school standout, who played a mere half-an-hour away
from Kinnick Stadium, would return to his home state to play Iowa
in front of family and friends.
But Arrington never suited up for last season's game against the
Hawkeyes. His year had already ended seven games earlier.
During the season opener against Northern Illinois, Arrington
stood back at his goal line on the second play of the second quar-
ter, alongside redshirt junior Steve Breaston, waiting for the Husky
kickoff. He fielded the kick at the 15 and returned it to the 30, giving
the Wolverines good field position. But the return cost Arrington
dearly - he broke his ankle on the play.
"My ankle kind of got caught under the pile, and when I fell back
on my back, my ankle was still facing forward," Arrington said.
His mother, Norma Arrington, watched from her seat in the
Big House. She thought her son had sprained the ankle. But she
knew it was worse than she imagined when Arrington didn't re-
enter the game.
The top high school receiver in Iowa came to Michigan to leave
his mark. Arrington knew the great tradition of Wolverine wide-
outs and wanted to be a part of it. grade for in the metro area league.
It made the injury even tougher to swallow. "Everybody was always telling me around
When the coaches decided not to redshirt Arrington his fresh- middle school that I was going to be a foot-
man season, he believed they saw something special in him. After ball player, but I was like, 'No way, not
the graduation of superstar Braylon Edwards, Arrington thought he a chance. I'm a basketball play-
could step into a significant role for the Wolverines in 2005. But, er,' " Arrington said. "When
it wasn't meant to be. The broken ankle shelved Arrington for the I got that first schol-
"I'm a competitor," Arrington said.
"I love this game, so sitting out for a whole
year and having to watch from the sidelines when I
could've had a greater role in it, it really hurt."
But Arrington continued to work. While his teammates
struggled through a disappointing five-loss campaign, Arrington
rehabbed his broken ankle. He entered training camp at about 90
percent and slowly worked his way into the receiver rotation early
And finally, the kid with loads of potential started to show it
off to the nation. It began in South Bend where Arrington com-
plemented fellow receiver Mario Manningham's deep threat with
tough catches over the middle. He broke through in Minneapolis
against Minnesota when he caught both his first and second career
touchdown passes as a Wolverine.
Then, Manningham went down and one question was on every-
one's mind: Who would fill that void?
Arrington answered the call. Against Penn State, he caught
the first and only Wolverine touchdown pass of the day on a 25-
yard grab. And the Michigan fans' worries slowly dissipated as
Arrington caught five passes for 83 yards.
"(The chance to step up was) definitely in the back of my head,"
Arrington said. "I just knew with our offense designed to get the
ball to the open guy, pretty much whoever's open is going to get
They wanted him.
When Arrington was just a freshman at Washington High School,
the scholarship offer came. Iowa had begun its quest for him.
"(We) probably (started recruiting him) when he was in fifth
grade," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz joked. "We have under three mil-
lion people in our state here, and Adrian was a very good football
player at a very young age. We're 25 miles away, so it's hard not to
The Hawkeyes brought the fireworks. They threw the lure of
playing right away, the storied tradition of their program and even
pointed out his chance to stand out at Iowa compared to playing for
a Michigan team stacked with future NFL receivers. Simply put,
Iowa gave him the opportunity to be the star.
Arrington, who considered himself a basketball player growing
up and still does today, had just started playing football in seventh
arship offer, I
was like, 'Maybe
they're right, I am a
football player.' "
But with his gifted athleticism
and height, Iowa saw the potential in
Arrington. It also didn't hurt that he
returned his first-ever punt return for
a touchdown his freshman year of high
Still, the hero of Washington High
School, who caught his team's lone touch-
down in the state championship game his
senior season, had his mind set on another
But not for football-related reasons.
Black socks, baggy shorts and an I-don't-care
These are just a part of the legacy the Fab Five
And Arrington bought into it.
"Everybody wants to wear black socks,"
Arrington said. "You see me right now, I've
got black socks on. I have about a pair of white
socks and 50 pairs of black socks. Fab Five
was definitely the reason I came to Michigan. I
always watched them and looked up to those
guys a lot."
James, his high school football coach, also
coached Arrington's AAU basketball team
throughout middle school. He never doubted
Arrington's love for the Wolverines.
"Dating back to basketball, the Fab Five, Web-
ber and those guys were at Michigan, that's when
Adrian became a Michigan lover," James said. "He
would have T-shirts and hats or different things. He
was always a Michigan fan"
Surrounded by Iowa buzz, Arrington saw
through the cloud of Hawk-
eye recruitment ploys and
set his sights on Michigan,
the school of his beloved
Carr knew Arrington
could be a special talent
the moment he laid eyes on
him. Arrington had made the
trip over to Ann Arbor before his
junior year to participate in the Michi-
gan football camp, and Carr immediately
saw his potential.
"When he was in our camp, it was very
obvious that he's a guy that we liked every-
thing about him," Carr said. "Even at that
age, you could tell he was going to be a big
guy and had great hands and could run."
And with that, Michigan joined the recruiting
battle for Arrington.
As Arrington led Washington High School through an unde-
feated regular season his junior and senior year, he received visits
from then-offensive coordinator Terry Malone, Carr and even then-
defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann.
The trips continued into Arrington's senior season before he
made the decision final. He chose to play at the school the Fab Five
opened his eyes to.
In the spotlight
His phone rang.
When James answered it, his son, Chad, reminded him of that
one catch Arrington made in high school against Xavier. He com-
pared it to the acrobatic touchdown grab Arrington hauled in dur-
ing the first quarter against Michigan State.
Arrington, who confessed to messing up quarterback Chad
Henne's read on the play, skied to corral Henne's pass and still
scraped his foot across the tips of Michigan Stadium's artificial turf
for a Michigan score and SportsCenter-caliber highlight.
Even though Arrington has been opening eyes with his breakout
season, James wasn't surprised by his former wideout's athleticism.
He made those types of plays in high school. It was only a matter
time before he did the same at Michigan.
"He'll make all kinds of acrobatic catches," James said. "He had
the ability to make a lot plays as a return man and wide receiver that
once he touched the ball, he was real elusive."
Arrington's monster season - four of his last six receptions have
been touchdown grabs - has finally shown the Wolverine faithful
the kind of wide receiver Arrington can be.
While it won't be the homecoming Arrington dreamed of,
tomorrow's game against Iowa will provide him plenty of
motivation. Manningham's still sidelined after knee surgery,
and the Hawkeyes enter the Big House fresh off their collapse
"This is my last chance to play them," Arrington said. "It was
definitely more exciting before the season, playing at Kinnick. That
would have been my only time playing the Hawkeyes at Kinnick,
so it was a little more intriguing. This year, I'm finally getting a
chance to play them, so it's real exciting."
And you can bet he'll be wearing a pair of black socks.
In wide receiver Mario Manningham's absence, redshirt sophomore Adrian Arrington has stepped up his game.
Game Rec Yards Tds
vanderbilt 1 7 0
central Michigan 1 5 0
Notre Dame 2 32 5
Wisconsin 4 79 0
Minnesota 3 59 2
Michigan State 1 13 1
Penn State 5 83 1
Past the pylons
Arrington breaks free into the end zone in Minnesota for a
2 Henne finds Arrington a second time against the Gophers
for a 37-yard touchdown.
3Arrington makes an acrobatic catch in the end zone,
recording Michigan's first score against Michigan State.
In the first Wolverine game without Mario Manningham,
Arrington catches a 25-yard touchdown pass.