The Wolverine

October 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 21 of 67

22 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2018 BY JOHN BORTON S hea Patterson could always control a huddle, even when he was five years old. Those were the days when Michigan's junior quarterback stood worlds away from crowds of 110,000, millions watching on television and Charles Woodson's number embla- zoned on his jersey. Hulking linemen and lanky receiv- ers weren't hanging on every verbally machine-gunned word of his intricate play call. But Patterson's big sisters had to listen, and he made certain of it. "He made his sisters throw footballs to him, or play baseball, whatever, when it was their time to watch him," recalled Sean Patterson, Shea's dad. "If they would get tired, he would say, 'If you guys stop, I'm going to run away down the street, and you're go- ing to get in trouble from Mom.' "He would make those poor girls throw him bombs. To this day, they come to every one of his games." O l d e r s i s t e r s Abby — a former softball player at Texas A&M — and Kacie weren't the only ones impact- i n g P a t t e r s o n ' s pre-Jim Harbaugh development. It's been a family affair all along. Older brother Sean Jr., a football coach and former Ole Miss staffer, cer- tainly cemented some toughness in the Michigan QB at an early age, their father offered with a laugh. "Sean would put a helmet on his 2-year-old brother, grab the earhole and tackle him," Sean Sr. recalled. "He'd say, 'He's tough! He's going to be good! You should see him catch!'" Toss in younger brother Nick, a 6-3, 215-pound tight end who just commit- ted to the University of Michigan for 2020, and mom Karen — about whom Sean Sr. insisted, "She's the rock" — and you've got a family heavily in- vested in maize and blue over the next several years. It wasn't an easy or fun path at times, especially extricating from the mess that Ole Miss became. But Pat- terson's decision to go deep and head north impacted Michigan's football season like a double-move long ball just at a crucial moment of the game. "It's very important," Patterson in- sisted, just before the season began. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not many people can look back and say they've had the opportunity to be the quarterback at the University of Michigan. Coach Harbaugh was a team captain and an All-American here, and now he's the coach. How many people get to do that? "He's getting us prepared like no other. He's the best coach I've ever been around. He's making the most of his opportunity, and so will I. "I'm just going to go out there and attack it. I know there's not going to be another shot. I'll only get this time once in my life." ESCAPE TO THE BIG HOUSE Patterson thought he'd have the time of his life in Oxford, Miss., af- ter emerging from IMG Academy as a five-star quarterback and the most sought-after prep signal-caller in the land. Certainly, he enjoyed many good moments in the deep south. He threw for 3,139 yards and 23 touchdowns there as a freshman and sophomore, connecting on 63.8 percent of his passes that second year, before getting injured. But while Patterson developed, the Rebels' program de- volved under the cloud of NCAA scan- dal. Several Mississippi players, Patter- son included, were allowed to trans- fer away without penalty. The moves weren't well received by the football- crazed community in Oxford. Threats, fury and insults became part of the process for those rebelling against the home team. "He tried to handle it all. I think he handled it very professionally," Sean Sr. said. "I don't think he got a good sendoff, either, when he left Ole Miss, and he didn't do anything wrong. Somebody's got to get thrown under the bus. Somebody's got to be the scapegoat. "Those guys were rookie coaches, and they really didn't speak highly of Shea when he left. Shea did great things for that program. He still holds the record for most yards in a game. He did everything he could do. It was just a bad breakup. "Fans are fans. But your coaches are your leaders, and they're going to take the road the coaches take. No coach ever stood up to defend him, and he played through the tough part of the schedule — LSU, Auburn and Ala- bama." Once he made the break, Patterson sought several crucial aspects in a new school and head coach. A boss with job stability, a strong track record, perhaps someone who'd performed in the NFL, and a good academic school were all high on the list. Enter Jim Har- baugh and Michi- gan. Harbaugh's approach imme- diately impressed the Pattersons. The transferring quar- terback might be handed the foot- ball, eventually — but he'd have to earn it. "He told me the opportunity that we have," Patter- son recalled. "He didn't promise me anything. That's the cool thing about Coach Harbaugh. He's never going to lie to you. He's always going to tell you the thing you need to hear, not what you want to hear. "He told me, 'You're going to have to come in here and compete. We've got some guys in the quarterback room who are very good.' He said we've got an awesome defense and a complete team. I was excited to just come in here and work, try to get that job and just do my part." Sean Sr. elaborated: "Coach Har- baugh was completely transparent through the whole thing. He said, 'We SHEA HAS HIS SAY Shea Patterson Steps Up As Michigan's Triggerman Patterson started his Michigan career on the road and under the lights against a tough Notre Dame defense, but still finished 20-of-30 passing for 227 yards and an interception. The following week, he threw for three touch- downs on just 17 attempts against Western Michigan. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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