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September 06, 2011 - Image 63

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-06
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0 T.-

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-9

RESURRECTED

DERRICK
ALEXANDER
CLASS OF
1993

Lyingthere onthe field, Derrick Alexander did all
he could to fight a truth he'd never had to face.
Desmond and Derrick. Derrick and Desmond. Oh
man, this was supposed to be our year. No, no, no, this
couldn't be happening. The pain shooting through my
knee - pain I've never felt before - it didn't hurt that
bad. Right? I'll just sit out the Notre Dame game and
be back to play against Florida State. Yeah, I'll be back.
"It was the first game of the year (in 1991)," Alex-
ander says. "We're juniors now and Desmond and
I are supposed to be the best receivers in the coun-
try. We're on the road, at Boston College, and we're
doing good. We start off the game great. I think I
had a few catches already. Desmond
had a few. They're kicking the ball off
to us, and I'm running the kick back. f
This is another opportunity to make
a play..."
Another chancetoshowoffhisgift;
everything had always come so easyf
to him.
"It'shard for me tounderstandhow
some people can't do certain things,"
he says now. "I always thought that
I could do anything, and I usually
could."
When he ran, his teammates said
it looked like the 6-foot-3 receiver
was gliding. He wore his skin like a
fine leather jacket, always comfort-
able and confident. They'd call him
aloof, his personality was so laid
back. This is why he never got rattled
- his great self-confidence wouldn't
allow it.
Like the time in high school when Derrick took
flight and slammed home a thunderous dunk on
an opponent's 7-footer, with Bo Schembechler and
soon-to-be-coach Gary Moeller in the stands.
Heck, you know what? Ifelt good enough to play
right now. Jogging up and down the sidelines, every-
thingfeltfine.Right?Coach,putme back in the game,
I'm ready. What had even happened?
"I don't know I made a cut, and nobody even
touches me and my knee is gone," he recalls. "I'm
like, 'Ah man, I'm in pain."'
The truth began to poison his mind, ruin his fan-
tasy. This wasn't how they planned it.
He had decided to come to Michigan, the school
he grew up watching on TV, to be a part of a new
passing revolution. That's what Moeller promised
him.
He met his antithesis freshman year - the short
and loud Desmond Howard - and they took a lik-
ing to one another. He'll never forget the time he
starred in Desmond's commercial for a class. Des-
mond filmed while Derrick flew across the screen,
dunking in the CCRB, doing his best to be Des-
mond's Michael Jordan. They both thought of each
other as stars.

On the field, Derrick was starting to make noise
The coaches had drilled routes into him until th
routes felt as comfortable as he was. By his sopho
more year, he wore the No.1 jersey, the one he gre
up watching Anthony Carter don, the one Moelle
made him earn after he wore the No. 40 his fresh
man year. This was his chance to define himse
and resurrect, re-invigorate, the jersey Antnon
made famous.
Well, he earned it, and to top it all off, his posi
tion coach, Cam Cameron, made the game eve
easier for him, if that were at all possible.
"Cam was a great coach to where when w
would watch film and go over things during th
week, it would be exactly - like if he would say:
this guy is standing in a certain place, they're goin
to run this defense," Derrick said. "It would be tha
way and all we had to do was look at the guy an
we'd know exactly what they were doing.
"It just became so easy for me to go out thee
and just play, where I didn't have to worry abou
what I think the defense was going to do becaus
we already basically knew. Then it was really easy
Two years in, there were no more excuses. Th
plan was set: Desmond and Derrick were going t
dominate the offensive game plan because the

e. wentfor it all!"
e Desmond dove, arms outstretched in the back of
- the endzone.
W "A diving catchfor a touchdown! HOLY COW!" the
r screen blared.
- Derrick's thoughts raced. His career may have
if ended right there on the field in Boston.
y Desmond was just following the script. All of the
passes that would've gone to Derrick were sent to
i- Desmond, and he took off like a rocket.
n "He had a lot more opportunity," Derrick says
now. "Moeller kind of changed the game plan a little
e bit so Desmond, he was all over the field. He played
e every position. I'm not taking anything away from
if Desmond. He did everything he had to do and he
g made every play he had to make. ... I just think the
it situation gave him just so much more opportunity
d to have a chance at those plays.
"He was the punt returner. He was the (top)
e receiver. He was the reverse runner. He got it all."
it Desmond caught 62 passes for 985 yards and 19
e touchdowns, with Derrick watching from the press
." box. Derrick spent two months on crutches and
e when he could walk under his own power, his work-
o out regimen began - slowly climbing stairs, work-
y ing out in a pool, stretching.
He started jogging and running -
slowly, his deceptively fast longstrides
quickened.
By 1992, his redshirt junior year,
Derrick felt like himself again. A large
brace and a big scar were the only
reminders of the first time in his life he
had really been injured. Desmond was
gone now. He left for the NFL, Heis-
man Trophy in tow.
"I was like, 'Okay, now it's myturn,'
" Derrick says. "We ran some plays for
me and I was just feeling great. That
(1992) season was probably the best
season I had my whole career, when
I came back. We were doing a lot of
things that Desmond was doing-they
basically did with me the next year.
"I kinda had that same opportu-
FIE PHOTO/Daily nity, but the other guys were a year
older. They got more chances. Amani
g. (Toomer) ended up being a great receiver, Mercury
d Hayes (too). We had a great trio of receivers."
r Despite the crowd, Derrick still lived up to the
No. 1. Now he was the one making the spectacular
catches, and the No. 1 jersey was running up and
e down the field like it was racing in its own personal
e track meet.
That year, as the team's top receiver and punt
al returner, he was an All American, catching 50
e passes for 740 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also
is returned two punts for scores, in Desmond-like
fashion. His encore included another first-team
All Big Ten selection, as he racked up 621 yards and
- averaged nearly18 yards per catch in 1993.
The 6-foot-3-prototype receiver left Michigan as
al the first in a long-line of modern-day receivers who
made it look so easy. And eventually, for his own
k sake, he came to peace over the 1991 season.
r- "I don't think I was jealous," Alexander said.
r- "Desmond is a great player. And if I had that chance,
at if he had been the one that had gotten hurt, I
i- would've taken full advantage.
91 "So there's no jealously,no animosity.Whenever I
1, see Desmond now, there's not even really a question:
s. He just had a great chance and he took full advan-
3e tage."

Astronomy professor Hazel "Doc" Losh stands with the 'M' Club and their flags before kickoff.

were the only experienced receivers returnini
They were both going to return kicks. Desmon
would handle the punts. The big plays were up fo
grabs.
What if the kickoff had gone to Desmond?
The trainers wouldn't let Derrick back in th
game, and his knee swelled like a balloon on th
plane ride back from Boston.
The next day, he cried sitting in the hospita
when the doctors shattered his world with th
truth. He tore his ACL. His season was over. Thi
wasn't so easy.
After the surgery, Derrick stayed in the hospit
for six days. Desmond visited on a daily basis.
But Desmond wasn't there when Derric
watched Michigan play Notre Dame the next Satut
day. The nurses tried to turn the game off, but Det
rick refused. He watched helplessly, sitting in the
hospital bed as Desmond made one of his first mem
orable plays of what was about to be a magical 199
season. Elvis Grbac dropped back on fourth-and-
as Desmond sprinted downfield past two defender
"Grbac tofirefor it," the announcer exclaimed. "H

The flags were retired, but the
graduate 'M' Club came to fill the
void, offering a giant blue banner
to stretch across midfield when
the team ran on. One of the ban-
ners was stolen, Renfrew recalls,
but the 'M' Club's support has
carried on through Bump - who
needed it most - to Bo, Gary,
Lloyd, Rich and now Brady.
The Doc checks in to hoist the
banner
Hazel "Doc" Losh looked com-
pletely out of place - a misfit
standing among world-class ath-
letes: wrestlers, football and hock-
ey players alike.
But don't be mistaken. Doc
Losh fit right in.
Losh was an astronomy pro-
fessor at Michigan for 41 years,
teaching over 50,000 students,
including Heisman Trophy win-
ner Tom Harmon, Bob Ufer and
Ron Kramer. There was no stron-
ger supporter of Michigan athlet-
ics than Doc.
Losh picked up her first job at
the University in 1927 teaching
astronomy after earning her PhD
in 1924. She was later selected as
Michigan's first Honorary Home-
coming Queen. For years she
attended every football, hockey
and basketball game.
And over the years she had a
reputation for rather cheeky grade
distribution.
"She was the professor who
graded her kids A, B, C - A for
athlete, B for boy, and C for co-
eds," Renfrew laughed, remem-
bering an old friend. "She wasn't
like that, but we always said that."
"I've got this awful football

problem," Losh told the Michi-
ganensian Yearbook in 1978.
She smiled and added, "And D
for dummies that believed it."
Because of her popular-
ity among the athletes, Losh was
asked to speak to the undergradu-
ate 'M' Club on multiple occasions
- an honor reserved for the most
influential folk around campus,
like band leader William Revelli.
Given that opportunity, Losh
and former Michigan letter win-
ner Ernie Vick joined the 'M'
Club's efforts with the flags and
joined the ever-growing tunnel
emerging onto the Michigan Sta-
dium turf.
According to Renfrew, Doc was
the first woman ever allowed onto
the field at the Big House.
"Well, there were no women
who were letter winners, either,"
Renfrew continued.
"She was quite a gal."
On Nov. 20, 1964, Losh gave an
impassioned speech at the base of
the library steps, looking out at
4,000 faces at a pep rally - mem-
bers of the band, the football team
and more.
She voiced her frustration over
the failures of the football team,
having not gone to the Rose Bowl
for 14 years.
"Remember this," Losh coun-
seled. "Scholarship is not the only
important thing at Michigan. Go
Blue!"
The next day, the Wolverines
blitzed the Buckeyes, 10-0, to
punch their ticket to Pasadena.
Michigan Men through and
through
The original 'M' flag, now 49

years o
from th
dium, 1
baseme
The
wood i
remain
its mak
Thef
ter.
Marl
After A
from tl
Depart
is
imj
at
they re
St., witl
House'
Acro
poem h
Michig
on a cli
has slo
forgott
Renf
how hi
used to
Red Wi
once, p
send al
the min
Hej
Wing g
Gadsby

ld, still rests just a block St. after a game. The only issue
he pillars of Michigan Sta- was not telling his wife about it.
tucked away in Renfrew's "She thought she was being
nt. attacked," he says. "They all had
colors have faded and the 100 stitches."
s worn. But the stitching Renfrew remembers having to
s immaculate, evidence of call Marge after his Wolverines
er's handiwork. won the national championship in
flag even outlasted its mas- 1964 because there was no radio
coverage.
ge passed away in 2007. But, most of all, Renfrew
d and Marge stepped away has stories of the coaches - his
heir posts in the Athletic friends.
ment ticket office in 1991, Renfrew looks down at a photo
of a dozen men huddled around a
hockey goal and smiles. He knows
the place - it's the old Coliseum -
Scholarship but the time is fuzzy. He pegs it as
sometime in the early 1960s.
not the only "In those days we were a close-
knit family," Renfrew says. "Title
portant thing IX hadn't kicked in then, and all
the coaches were on one floor
Michigan." there.
"We had a hockey game when
the kids went home for Thanks-
giving or Christmas. We had pret-
tired to a home on Snyder ty near the whole staff there, plus
hin easy eyesight of the Big we used to have (Jim) Northrup
s brick fagade. and some of the old Tigers come
ss the basement, Rice's up."
iangs on the wall. A 2011 With the players gone on break,
an football schedule hangs the coaches would just use the
oset door. Renfrew's world team's equipment.
wed down, but he hasn't Simply put, it was a fraternity.
en his passions. "We'd get a couple kegs of beer
rew has stories. He tells and put them in the dressing
s Michigan hockey teams room. One of the guys, who was
play against the Detroit an assistant football coach at the
ngs. His team beat Detroit time, was Jack Nelson, who later
rompting Jack Adams to coached the Vikings. He was a
handful of players back to pretty good high school player.
tors. But Dave Streck didn't know how
remembers sending Red to stop when he put skates on.
reats Gordie Howe and Bill "When they got a couple beers
over to his house on White in them, they became very brave."

But it wasn't all fun, beer and
games. As Renfrew repeated over
and over, "it was a different era
then."
While new Michigan coach
Brady Hoke's staff preaches
accountability, those coaches
lived it pretty well.
Renfrew recalls a time when
his son was at home on White
Street and somehow managed to
rip his toenail off. As he stood in
the upstairs bathtub with blood
gushing out, his sister Judy ran for
the phone and dialed the Athletic
Department's number.
Minutes later, help arrived to
drive the hockey coach's injured
son to the hospital.
"I called over there and Bump
Elliott came to the door," Judy
said.
"The head football coach," Ren-
frew repeated. "That wouldn't
happen today."
But Renfrew doesn't harbor any
bad feelings for the way teams are
being run these days. He's still just
as big of a supporter as always.
"They're on the right track,
they just need good players, that's
all," he said. "When Lloyd left he
left them nothing. Poor Rodriguez
never had a chance."
Two weeks ago he and Judy
watched a replay of running back
Mike Hart slicing through Michi-
gan State's defense for 110 yards in
2007.
"It's a great rivalry," Renfrew
says of the Spartan-Wolverine
matchup. "But it isn't the biggest,
and that really makes them mad.
"It's a good rivalry and a clean
rivalry - nothing like Ohio. Those
people down there are idiots."

"' 8 1 FootballSaturday - September 3, 2011

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