The Wolverine

October 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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OCTOBER 2018 THE WOLVERINE 61   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? That made it tough for everyone inside Schembechler Hall. For a redshirt junior in 2010 — one good enough on his feet to appear repeat- edly at Michigan press conferences — those were difficult days. "When you live in Ann Arbor and you play for Michigan, there's noth- ing you can do to avoid some of the negative media that you're seeing cir- culate," he said. "Especially when you have the blessed privilege of doing so many of those press conferences. I got to answer those questions all the time. Is your coach on the hot seat? Is your team concerned with the rumors?" Those only grew in 2010, while Michigan slogged through a 7-6 sea- son — Rodriguez's last in Ann Arbor. "The Mississippi State game, the Ga- tor Bowl, we all knew before the game that our coaching staff wasn't going to be around the next year," Van Bergen said. "It wasn't concrete, but every- body had heard the same information, and the sources were reliable." Michigan again found itself in a coaching search. Team leaders, by now including Van Bergen, pondered how everything had plunged so far so fast. "It was tough," he said. "My last year in high school was the 2006 sea- son, and that was the Shawn Crable hit on Troy Smith, with the No. 1 versus No. 2 game, Michigan versus Ohio State. I had every expectation that we were going to continue com- peting for Big Ten championships, going to Rose Bowls, maybe national championships. "We were seeing some of these guys go through their senior year, a 6-6 non-bowl game season. You could just see how it impacted them, after their last game in the locker room, what their faces looked like, their body language. "We learned how you didn't want to feel following a season." The hiring of Brady Hoke pro- duced hope for some, and a who's he from Van Bergen. That's before he heard Hoke's raspy voice, one that had coached him as a prep at Michi- gan's football camp. "He was my position coach, back when I was coming to those camps," Van Bergen recalled. "It was an im- mediate relief. I was so excited to see him again. I had a great relationship with him." Michigan's seniors waved off any talk of another transition season. They intended to win. They had to win, following three years featuring a combined record of 15-22. They responded, ripping through the 2011 campaign at 11-2. They made history under the lights against the Irish in The Big House, taking them down in a 35-31 thriller, featur- ing a rally from a 24-7 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter. "That's something I'll never for- get," Van Bergen recalled. "When you watch film and it's really loud in the stadium, there might be some zig zags. You might not be able to make out everything. "It was so loud in the fourth quar- ter of that game, that when the Mich- igan defense was on the field, you could barely make out the shapes of bodies. I've never seen anything like that. It was like an earthquake." They also shook the Michigan Sta- dium turf by taking down the Buck- eyes (40-34) and Virginia Tech (23-20 in overtime) in the Sugar Bowl. "It wasn't the Rose Bowl, but it was our Rose Bowl for the people who committed to coming to Michigan," Van Bergen said. "It was that experi- ence that we wanted." A foot injury in the Sugar Bowl impacted his training, and he wasn't drafted into the NFL. Following a short stint as a free agent with the Carolina Panthers, he opted for a business career — first in sales in Chicago, then with his own business. Blue Lion Fitness in Ann Arbor. He and business partner Daniel Roth's operation features hour-long free weight classes and has taken off in its initial three and a half years. "We're actually in a position now to have to tell some people that a class doesn't have availability," Van Bergen noted. "When we first talked to our investors and said we were going to have 120 members by the year-two mark, they kind of scoffed. "Now, we have almost 200 mem- bers, and we're as full as we can be. The next meetings I'm having are with people who are interested in helping with our expansion to an- other facility, a second location. It's a great position to be in." ❏ Van Bergen (left) is a co-owner of Blue Lion Fitness in Ann Arbor, a weight-training facil- ity that opened in 2014. PHOTO COURTESY RYAN VAN BERGEN The Van Bergen File Michigan Accomplishments: Played in 50 games with 38 starts on the defen- sive line … Wound up with 134 tackles, including a team-leading 12.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a fifth-year senior … Earned the Robert P. Ufer Bequest (enthusiasm and love for Michigan) his final year. Professional Accomplishments: Worked in Sales for Accurate Thread Fasten- ers in Chicago from 2012-14 … Co-owner of Blue Lion Fitness in Ann Arbor, 2014-present. Michigan Memory: "My Michigan experience would be best summarized when we would go from the field to the student section after a win and sing 'The Victors.' That's when you felt the most alive, the most accomplished. "It was the immediate moment following the game, where you and your team- mates are at the top. The first 15 minutes after a win, the feeling that gives you is the thing I remember most, the feeling of joy with the guys with whom you got to play." Education: Earned a bachelor's degree in sociology in 2011. Family: Van Bergen has a fiancée, Kristy, and the couple plans to wed in Sep- tember 2019. They have a 3-year-old golden retriever.

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