The Wolverine

December 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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60 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2018 BY JOHN BORTON M any dream of pulling on the winged helmet and leaping to touch the banner on a football Saturday. Few do so while asleep, possessing the talent to make dreams come true. Consider former Michigan run- ning back Gerald White (1983-86) unique in that regard. The cov- eted ball carrier out of Titusville, Fla., enjoyed his pick of schools. He'd already visited Notre Dame, UCLA and Pittsburgh before ever setting foot on Michigan's cam- pus. In fact, he'd made a verbal com- mitment to Pittsburgh coach Foge Fazio. That changed one week later, after a trip to The Big House and a life-changing night of sleep thereafter. "When I got home, I had a dream," White recalled. "That dream was me, in the tunnel. I saw my name on the back of a jersey, my helmet bobbing up and down in the tunnel. I ran out of the tunnel and touched the ban- ner. "I never came down — I woke up. At that moment, I knew that's where I had to go to school. I dreamed about it, and that's ulti- mately the reason why I chose Michi- gan, because of a dream. I truly am a person who believes in dreams." There are dreams, and then there's the hard reality of Bo Schembechler in the early 1980s — driving, demanding and determined to toughen young men into Buckeye-beating warriors. It didn't take White long to find that out. In fact, his toughest task in the fall of 1983 involved remaining in Ann Arbor to live the dream — or so he thought, during Schembechler's with- ering shaping process. "I got kicked out of practice sev- eral times as a freshman," White re- called. "I could block and hold blocks, but one of the things I didn't like to do was cut [block] my teammates. I would get kicked out of practice be- cause of it. "He called me soft. He used another word for soft [laughs]. He kicked me out. Told me to go back to Titusville. I wasn't worthy of being there. Take my equipment off and I could take the next flight home." At one point, White complied, at least with the first part of the direc- tive. He trudged back to the freshman locker room, sitting there in stunned passivity for several long minutes, before assistant coach Elliot Uzelac ambled in to play good cop. Uzelac, no stranger to this scenario, knew how to counsel without first consulting the head coach. "He said, 'Gerald, he just wants to see how you're going to respond to this,'" White recalled. The freshman protested, plaintively. No, Coach, he doesn't want me here. White recounted: "He said, 'No, he wants you here. I want you here. I want you to go back in the huddle and don't leave. Whatever he says, I want you to get back in that huddle and don't leave. Do whatever he says to do, but do not leave the hud- dle.'" The rookie pulled his gear back on, returning to the practice field but — still a bit shell-shocked — remaining on the sideline. "I just sat there, and Coach Uz- elac kept looking, kept looking," White said. "Finally, I jumped in the huddle. Bo looks up, he looks at me and says, 'I thought I told you to get out of here. Get out! GET OUT!' He's yelling and spit- ting, with craziness. … "I said, 'I'm not going any- where, Coach.' He goes, 'You're telling me you're not leaving my huddle?!' I said, 'I'm not going anywhere, Coach. I'm staying.' He goes, 'Okay.'" Having passed that test, White heard Schembechler order up a play calling for him to cut block the outside linebacker. This proved a now-or-never moment, both sides properly motivated. "Now, mind you, he tells the outside linebacker, if I beat him, he would be on demo [demon- stration teams] for the rest of his life at Michigan," White said. "That he would never start. He created this competition so that he would come hard, and I would go hard. "We blocked that play four times in a row. After that, he looked at me and goes, 'Now that's how you prac- tice! Every time, White!' And then he laughed. That's who Bo was." Who White was impressed Schem- bechler enough to get the 5-11, 212-pounder onto the field in three games as a true freshman, one of only two such to make the travel squad. He learned plenty from Rick Rogers and Kerry Smith, the backs ahead of him. They all battled through the prac- tice "games" each Tuesday and Wednesday, 34 plays, top offense versus top defense. Those, White re- called, rendered football Saturdays "a cakewalk." Part of what White learned from his elders involved reading defenses. "That was one of the things that changed things for me and helped me appreciate the game even more,"   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Gerald White Lived The Dream At Michigan White had visited Notre Dame, UCLA and Pittsburgh before making the trip to Ann Arbor, but a dream after returning home made it obvious he needed to pick Michigan. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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