The Wolverine

October 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 32 of 91

H By John Borton e enunciates the name with great clarity and flair, putting an emphatic ���T��� at the end: Toussaint, pronounced Too-SAAAAHHNT. It���s French, and also the name of his Haitian father. Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan���s redshirt sophomore tailback from Youngstown, Ohio, has never been to Haiti. But it���s on his list. ���Port-Au-Prince is the spot,��� he insisted. ���If I get a chance, I���m going to go. I still have family there.��� In the meantime, he���s trying to make a name for himself in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and beyond. Doing so would be infinitely easier, were it not for unscheduled vacations away from football. he garnered no more carries than anyone else in the NCAA-record crowd of 114,804. The shoulder flared up again, and that stung ��� not as badly, though, as watching the Wolverines and Irish line up to do battle on the big stage, and knowing he couldn���t compete. ���That really hurt,��� insisted Fred Jackson, Michigan���s long-time running backs coach. ���That disappointed me. I���m sure it disappointed the kid. ���The play before the last play of the Western Michigan game, you see where he gets slammed down and what the injury is, and there���s nothing you can do about it. If you���re a ball carrier, you���ve got to have all your stuff working right.��� Brady Hoke with his physicality and toughness. U-M offensive coordinator Al Borges noticed as well. At 5-10, 200 pounds, Fitzgerald can pack a punch as a ball carrier. ���Fitz is a tough guy,��� Borges said. ���He���s relentless. He���s not afraid of the defense. He makes no concessions to the defense. He���s good inside the tackles. He���s got pretty good speed outside. ���His game is good. He has pieces of his game that still need improvement, but he���s going to give you everything he���s got. He has the ability to break a long run.��� The third-year Wolverine can dish it out. Taking it ��� in terms of how much he can, or should ��� remains a question for close scrutiny. Hoke Giving ���Em Fitz Fitzgerald Toussaint Is Seeking His Health And Consistent Contributions Toussaint bolted for 61 yards the first time he ever touched the ball in a college game. He���d missed Michigan���s first three contests in 2010 with a knee injury, but put a buzz into The Big House on his very first carry against Bowling Green. A moment later, he burst into the end zone on a five-yard touchdown run. Amid the joy, pain arrived to dampen the celebration. His shoulder didn���t feel right, leading to five more games of watching, waiting and rehabilitating. Toussaint didn���t give up on the season. Instead he fought his way back to appear in Michigan���s final three games, even garnering his first career start in the Gator Bowl. He then emerged the victor in a hard-fought running backs battle in fall camp 2011, reeling off a careerhigh 80 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against Western Michigan. But when the Michigan Stadium lights flicked on the following week, Toussaint rushed for a career-high 80 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against Western Michigan, and ran for 67 yards in the win over San Diego State. photo by lon horwedel Toussaint knew his stuff was wrong on Michigan���s big night. In the moments before the Notre Dame game began, the intermingled feelings of excitement and helplessness grew almost unbearable. Fitzgerald spoke to freshman back Thomas Rawls, who himself lent only his lungs to the Michigan effort that night. ���I���m not playing, but I���m so amped up and I wanted to be a part of it,��� Fitzgerald recalled sharing. ���I felt like I didn���t have anything to do but to go all out and get amped up. I was just sick that day. I knew I was tough enough that I could have played. But something was telling me, you just need to take care of yourself ��� you���re not ready for this right now. ���I knew Notre Dame is a great team and hard-hitting. I was thinking, maybe I���m not ready for this moment.��� The mental assault isn���t all that���s hitting him early in the 2011 season. Defenders look to drill him, and Toussaint isn���t the least bit afraid to hit back. He earned the starting job in Michigan���s opener in part because he impressed head coach wants his backs to be able to deliver a blow, and while Jackson concurs, he has seen enough injured tailbacks over the past few years to last him the rest of his career. He watched Brandon Minor pursue a raging bull mentality on the field, taking on anyone and everyone. Jackson also saw Minor miss major stretches of Michigan football through an inability or unwillingness to avoid the kind of contact that stops a back from going forward. ���I think about Brandon Minor, who I knew could have been a great back here,��� Jackson said. ���He had all of the tools it takes to be on my wall here, and he was hurt every year. ���Fitz is just like Brandon Minor. That���s the thing that���s scary. If the guy has the opportunity to make you miss or run through you, he���ll run through you, and that���s not necessarily good. You try to teach them other things, but then they���ve got those natural instincts of doing certain things. ���That���s how Brandon was, and Fitz is out of the same mold. He���s got the same toughness ��� I know that.��� Toussaint rejects any notion that October 2011��� ������ the wolverine��� 33

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