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September 05, 2006 - Image 63

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-05

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New Student Edition 2006 - The Michigan Daily -11E

Horton's
return
inspires
By Scott Bell
Daily Sports Writer
Every player on the Michigan
men's basketball team experienced
his fair share of losses last season. But
what Daniel Horton went through
transcended the game of basketball
and changed his life forever.
Yes, he faced the 18 losses that the
rest of the team experienced. Horton
also felt the loss of a teammate when
his friend Lester Abram suffered a
season-ending shoulder injury early
in the season. And the loss of his
own season after pleading guilty to a
domestic violence charge seemed to
top it all off.
But the loss that trumped all others
had nothing to do with basketball but
has given him a new perspective for
his final year at Michigan.
"For me, personally, I don't feel
like anything that goes on as far as
basketball really bothers me,' Horton
said. "Things did at first, but I think
going through what I went through
makes me look at things differently."
Horton's low point came in March,
just a day after it looked like things
would turn around for the Texas
native. On March 10, the day of his
teammates's final game of the sea-
son - a defeat at the hands of lowly
Northwestern in the first round of
the Big Ten Tournament - Horton
became a father. But just a night later,
the joy became pain once again, and
Horton experienced the biggest loss
he could imagine. Cameron Jeremi-
ah Horton was taken away from him,
dying from complications after birth.
Missing basketball games didn't
matter anymore. Neither did the
team's 13-18 record.
Horton went weeks without touch-
ing a basketball. He had to decide if
he should even return to Michigan
for his final season. When Horton
did return, he did so as a new man.
He knew he'd have to face ques-
tions about last year. Even though
he doesn't like doing it. Horton also

Dreams can come true: Walk-
on Fisher singles at first at-bat

i

By David Murray
DailySprts Writer

m a~~illillsl iBxR E 4
FILE PHOTO
After the death of his infant son - the day after his team's exit from the
2005 Big Ten Tournament - Horton retumed to the Wolverines this season.

doesn't want to let go of what hap-
pened altogether.
"I want to put it behind me, but at
the same time, I want to remember,"
Horton said. "I want to look back on
it and be able to learn from it and take
things from it to help (me) and this
team be successful now.
This mindset has helped propel
Michigan to its best start in nearly
a decade.
There is no 0-6 start like his
freshman year,no sophomore slump
like he had two years ago and no
dismal 13-18 season on the horizon.
This year's team is 11-2 and is mak-
ing strides toward earning its first
NCAA tournament berth since the
1997-98 season.
Although there's no C next to
Horton's name in the media guide,
there's no doubt who the leader of
this team is.
"He's been a player that's always
had the courage,' said Michigan
coach Tommy Amaker. "He's had
the courage to step forward, to make
a play, to try and pull things in our
direction. He's always willing to step
forward. We want it in his hands."
The team wants it in his hands,
and he has no problem making
those plays.
On the team's first road trip -
against Boston University - Hor-

ton's scoring surge late in the game
secured the win over the Terriers,
who had beaten the Wolverines the
previous two seasons.
It was Horton who stood toe-to-
toe with Irish guard Chris Quinn on
the road against Notre Dame, hitting
a barrage of threes late and making
the game-winning dish to Dion Har-
ris to secure another road victory.
And it's been Horton who has
stepped up and emerged as Mich-
igan's workhorse down the stretch
to fight off potential upset-hungry
teams. He's done it against Butler,
he did it on Saturday against Purdue
and he'sbound to do itagain when his
teammates need him the most.
Why feel pressure?
It's justbasketball.
"I just have fun,' Horton said. "I
try to go out there and play as hard as
I can, but I just try to have fun."
After everything Horton went
through last year, it would be fool-
ish to expect his life to hinge on a
successful final season at Michigan.
But the events from a year ago have
allowed him to emerge as a better
leader;'and the Wolverines' winning
ways have brought back to his face
the smile that was absent a year ago.
- This story originally
ran Jan. 11.2006.

With one swing, Ray Fisher Sta-
dium transformed into Matt Fisher
Stadium.
In what seemed to be a meaning-
less at-bat late in a blowout, a walk-
on became a hero and fulfilled a
lifelong dream.
Michigan had the game in hand,
leading Oakland 14-4 through seven
innings in Friday night's home
opener. Junior Eric Rose was slated
to lead off the eighth,until Michigan
coach Rich Maloney deferred to
the fans who had been chanting the
name of a walk-on every time they
saw his face peek out of the dugout.
"Hey, Fish, you want an at-bat?"
Maloney yelled. Maloney was refer-
ring to junior Matt Fisher.
"I understood the fact that if we
were up by a good amount of runs,
there was a shot I could getsin,"Fisher
said. "I know the way coach works,
and he'll give you an opportunity if.
he thinks that you deserve it."
In a scene that would make Rudy
Ruettigerblush, Fisher trotted out of
the dugout and the crowd - filled
with his family, friends, and 40 of
his Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity
brothers - erupted.
With his loyalists in a ruckus, the
Westchester, N.Y., native stepped
into the batter's box.
"I know our team was cheering
very loudly for him to be success-
ful;' Maloney said."It was the high-
light of the game."
First pitch: A fastball down the
heart of the plate. Fisher took a cut

for the fences, but just managed to
tip it into the catcher's mitt.
The swing and miss didn't phase
the walk-on. Fisher was used to
overcoming obstacles. In his fresh-
man year, Fisher attended tryouts
thinking he had a chance to make
the team, but, to his dismay, he was
the last person cut. Demoralizedbut
motivated, he dedicated his sopho-
more year to making the spring
team. He worked out rigorously and
posted motivational quotations all
around his room. Walk-on tryouts
came around again, but the results
were the same - Fisher made the
fall squad but was released before
the spring.
"The day that he got back from
being cut, I saw him lying on the
futon in tears" fraternity brother
and roommate Mike Hilton said. "I
didn't have to say anything, because
his emotions and his look alone
said enough. He probably laid on
the futon for another day or so, and
he didn't even go to class. The first
thing he said to me was, 'It's over.'
That is all he said to me."
Fisher's psyche was deflated, but
the taste he got fromgetting so close
to making the team left him want-
ing more.
With his family and fraternity
urging him to take another shot at
trying out for the team, Fisher once
again devoted his time to practicing
for the chance to sport the Maize
and Blue. His fortitude paid divi-
dendsin his third attempt at walk-on
tryouts. Fisher made the fall roster,
but this time was also asked to join
the spring team.

Second pitch: A curveball that
hung up in the zone. Fisher waited
on the pitch and pulled it to the left
side of the infield. The ball rolled
between third baseman Rob Merk-
le and shortstop Jonathan Zalen-
ski, who knocked it down. Zalenski
threw a rope to first, but Fisher beat
it out by two steps.
"As soon as I hit it, I knew that I
had a shot,' Fisher said. "I knew it
wasn't right at the shortstop, or right
at the third baseman. So as soon as
I hit that ball, I hauled ass. Once my
foot hit that bag and I knew I was
safe, I guess you could say for that
or single moment I was the happi-
est man alive."
Although the game was already
won, the fans and players in the
dugout exploded as if the team had
just won the College World Series.
Fisher raised his hands in excite-
ment after collecting the first hit
of his career and experiencing the
crowning achievement of his life.
Three years of grit and determi-
nation culminated in one hit, and a
walk-on became an inspiration to
his teammates and peers.
"Being able to get into a home
game for the University of Michi-
gan, and then being able to get a
hit, is worth every single second I
worked,' Fisher said. "Every single
time I was in the weight room, every
tear that I shed afterbeing cut,every
time I went to bed dreaming about
the opportunity of getting a hit - it
was worth every single second."
- This story originally
ran Mar. 30, 2006.

Hockey Band
The tradition continues... C' Ya there!
Rehearsals will be on Thursdays
beginning at 7:30 PM

omen's Basketball Band
Join the Women's Basketball Band
and we'll support you while you support
the team...get paid to play The Victors!
Rehearsals will be on Tuesdays
beginning at 8:30 PM
Men's Basketball Band
Be a part of the Amaker Era...
On the road to victory with
the Men's Basketball Band.
Rehearsals will be on Tuesdays
beginning at 7:00 PM

Auditions will be held at Revelli Hall
Sunday, September 17,2006
through
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Audition will include scales and sight reading.
To schedule a time for an audition
please call 764-0582.
Revelli Hall
350 E. Hoover
Ann Arbor, MI
48104-3707

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