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September 21, 2011 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-21

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8A - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com *

'Epiphany' inspires Roh to play better defense

By KEVIN RAFTERY
Daily Sports Editor
The Michigan football team
had just defeated Western Michi-
gan in the season opener and
Craig Roh couldn't help but cry.
The junior defensive end was
used to being one of the Wolver-
ines' main weapons - he'd start-
ed every game of his collegiate
career and had been a rock for the
Michigan defense. But after this
game, the only rock he felt was
rock bottom. He recorded zero
tackles and seemed invisible on
the field.
"I didn't perform that great
(against Western Michigan),"
Roh said on Tuesday. "I just had a
breakdown after that game."
But it was more than just his
poor performance against the
Broncos that triggered the "emo-
tional release." It was the culmi-
nation of a difficult few weeks.
Roh had been taking a lot of
heat from defensive coordinator
Greg Mattison, who is making
it his priority to shape Roh into
a great player. Mattison knows
Roh's potential and is not afraid
to let himknow when things need
to improve.
"I've been pretty hard on him,"
Mattison said. "I think at one
point he said, 'Coach, I don't think
I've ever heard that everything I
did wasn't good before.'
"And I just said, 'Well, it isn't.
Not for the level that I want you
at. "
Not exactly what Roh had been
used to hearing.
"I'm a perfectionist," Roh said.
"I would like to think that every-

thing I do is perfect, and football
is one area where I could be per-
fect. And once Mattison came in, I
wasn't perfect anymore. I was just
completely un-perfect in every
way, shape or form."
It was during camp when Roh
first realized how different this
season would be than years past.
He was still adjusting to playing
defensive end - he played line-
backer all of freshman year and in
eight games his sophomore year.
Roh had only five games at
defensive end under his belt
enteringthis season. The position
change, along with a new coach-
ing staff, challenged Roh to his
breaking point.
"(I was) breaking down, like
with my parents probably," Roh
said. "After games, or just during
camp. Camp was tough. We went
almost every day in full pads. Peo-
ple would be lying if they told you
(camp) was fun. But it's necessary,
and it's made this whole team
mentally tough. But sometimes
it's not always fun."
Following the Western Michi-
gan game, Roh once again didn't
post any statistics in a 35-31 win
over Notre Dame. But during that
game, he felt something change.
"The Western game I felt like
I didn't play well," he said. "The
Notre Dame game, I felt energet-
ic, had fun.
"That was like the epiphany."
Epiphany?
"I just kind of had an epiphany
about football and life," Roh said.
"That's kind of what I detected.
It was just a change, and I thank
Mattison, I thank God for it. It
entailed something that just real-

6

ly relates to Christian belief that But the game against the Fight- him to maintain a more posi-
I'm not perfect, that it's OK to ing Irish was just the beginning. tive attitude in practice and has
be not perfect because God has a Roh saw the game, and life, in a helped him become a better foot-
plan for me. different light. He started having ball player.
"It's like God has put football fun playing football again. And never was that more evi-
into my life because He wants me And he wasn't the only one who dent than midway through the
to play. He wants me to enjoy it, noticed. third quarter against Eastern
and after that, it was like any crit- "All of the sudden, he just kept Michigan last Saturday.
icism I get from Mattison doesn't working andw kept working, and Roh was positioned on the left
tear down my entire world. (Mat- you could see it happen I think a side of the line as Eagles quarter-
tison) is just trying to make me a week ago in practice," Mattison back Alex Gillett faked a handoff
better player, and because of that said. "I saw a different guy. A guy and rolled out to the right, looking
I came in with a much more posi- that said, 'Okay, I'm gonna buy to pass.
tive attitude, even when he does into everything.' " Gillett never had a chance. Roh
get down on me." Roh said his epiphany helped read the play perfectly and busted

through the line. He grabbed hold
of Gillett's shoulder and ripped
him to the ground for his first
sack of the year.
Finally, a sense of relief. Roh
raised both fists in the air as
teammates ran over to congratu-
late him.
"That was a release for sure,"
he said. "I'm just having so much
fun playing football right now."
Despite the epiphany, Roh
remains focused on what lies
ahead.
"It's a journey," he said.

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