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September 06, 2011 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-06

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-28 -= Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

SPORTSTUESDAY(C31UWN
Brandon Herron's faith can
only take him so far on the field

The minister's son ate
breakfast that morn-
ing like it was any other
morning. He went back, turned
on church
music, read
The Bible and A
"asked God
to show him
favor."
Like any
other morn-
ing. TIM
Later- ROHAN
when Michi- _
gan needed a
game-chang-
ing play in the worst way, with
Western Michigan preparing
to take a 14-7 lead - linebacker
Jake Ryan would launch him-
self through the air, toppling
Western Michigan quarterback
Alex Carder. And Carder's pass
would float, aimlessly, until it
found Brandon Herron's hands.
"I was just looking up and my
legs just carried me," Herron
said.
All the minister's son saw
was the left tackle, and once he
evaded him there was nothing
but green ahead. Aubrey Pleas-
ant, a graduate assistant, always
told him, "Whenever you get an
interception, run it back to your
sideline."
Herron tiptoed that sideline,
refusing to end his magic there.
He was listed as the second-
string weakside linebacker.
Starter Cam Gordon had a back
injury he couldn't play through,
so Brady Hoke wanted to play
an experienced player, a guy
who knew Greg Mattison's
defense, a guy he could trust. So
the fifth-year senior made his
first career start
Had Mattison called a differ-
ent formation, he wouldn't have
been on the field. Herron was

lined up at his new position -
weakside linebacker - the one
he had played all fall camp.
He had a mindset entering
his final season in an otherwise
uneventful career: He was
going to pull out all of the stops,
but he was also going to have
faith.
It made sense - the minister
took him to church a lot grow-
ing up. It was all he knew, he
says now. As sons do, he fol-
lowed his father's footsteps,
picked up his tendencies.
"I didn't have any doubt
because of my faith," he said
of his role on the team. "I just
knew I had to work and work
hard.... But I knew, in my heart,
this was my last year and God
was going to work some things
out for me."
So Herron ran. And pretty
soon he ran out of gas, he said,
but he didn't slow down. His
legs carried him for a 94-yard
interception return for a touch-
down - the longest in Michigan
football history.
This wouldn't be just any
other day.
Later, in front of a throng of
media, the first words he said
were: "Well, for one I want to
thank God."
This isn't the point in Her-
ron's story where you take
the easy way out, follow his
lead, and admit by some act of
a higher power he was in the
right place at the right time. No,
Herron's once-in-a-lifetime Sat-
urday afternoon was due to one
man - Greg Mattison - and
how everything he does is for a
greater purpose.
There's a reason Herron was
where he was. And there's a
reason why Ryan's blitz worked
perfectly. Of course, Herron
had to take care of the rest.

Maybe then faith intervened.
In the third quarter, it was no
accident Jordan Kovacs broke
free around the right side of the
Broncos' offensive line and had
two clean, free, oIly-oily-oxen-
free hits on Carder.
Herron and Kovacs saw
something in the offense pre-
snap. They made an adjustment,
and Herron came off the edge,
freeing up Kovacs for the hit.
Carder fumbled, and guess
who was there to scoop it up in
stride, only to see that beautiful
green grass again.
"I don't want to thank only
Kovacs," Herron said. "I want
to thank all11 guys who are on
the field. Because we all work
as one.
"If I'm doing my job right,
somebody else is going to come
free to make that play. I just
thanked all my teammates
because we did it together."
That's the beauty of a well-
oiled Greg Mattison defense.
That could've been anyone who
made that play. If you're in the
spot you're supposed to be, and
the other team makes a mistake,
then it's all up to you. And your
faith, if that's your cup of tea.
That's what Mattison means
when he says he wants to give
his guys enough "bullets." He
wants to put them in the best
position to succeed. But it's a
pre-determined position, one
that is determined by every-
one else on the field. Herron
and Craig Roh had to distract
the tackles and the Broncos
had to double-team defensive
tackle Nathan Brink, not see-
ing Kovacs, for him to break
through. The secondary had
to cover their men just long
enough.
The right tackle had to
block either Kovacs or Herron.

01

MARISSA MCCLAIN/Daily
Fifth-year senior Brandon Herron has received a lot of attention since he scored two touchdowns on Saturday.

Kovacs went inside, Herron
went outside and each would
have had Carder dead-to-rights.
It just so happened it was
Herron who became the first
defensive player in Michigan
football history to have two
touchdown returns in the same
game. Awards followed. He was
named the Big Ten Defensive
Player of the Week -Michigan's
first since Brandon Graham
won it in 2008. At one point, he
was the No. 1 trending topic in
the world on Twitter.

"I've been getting a lot of
friend requests," he said. "It's
just been ecstatic. I've just been
happy that something like this
has happened. I felt like when I
was out there after the game, I
felt like this wasn't supposed to
happen to me.
"I just didn't - I never knew.
You know, like, coming into a
game - you just - I prayed:
God show me favor. Show me
the way. And to come out with
the performance I had, I was
really shocked."

His teammates told him it
was his bald head that brought
the two touchdowns - the
result of a botched haircut in an
attempt to grow a mohawk.
"It's not my bald head. It's
just God, showing me favor," he
told them.
God, and Greg Mattison too.
-Rohan wants to know who
you think will be the defensive
hero next week. You can follow
him on Twitter @TimRohan or
e-mail him at trohan@umich.edu.

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