The Wolverine

December 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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66 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2018 W hat was supposed to be a simple question about Rashan Gary's health be‑ came the latest example of what makes the 2018 Michi‑ gan team special. Yes, the last two chapters had yet to be written follow‑ ing Michigan's 42‑7 drub‑ bing of Rutgers in Piscat‑ away, N.J., but it was even more clear during an ex‑ change between junior de‑ fensive end Gary and junior quarterback Shea Patterson during the postgame press conference's last question. Gary laughed while performing a variety of karate‑type moves to demonstrate that he was fully recovered from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for three games and limited him in others earlier this year. Patterson, standing next to him after arguably his best game in a Michigan uniform in which he threw for 260 yards and three scores in a biting, howling wind, cracked up before turning seri‑ ous. "He's been playing through an injury all year," Patterson said. "He could have sat the rest of the season out and concentrated on his goals and dreams, but it's all about the team with Rashan." Gary's ultimate goal and dream is the NFL, of course, and the huge contract about to come his way, most likely after this season. Many project the 6‑5, 283‑pounder as a first‑round pick next April, and there were whis‑ pers he could go the Nick Bosa route — the Ohio State defensive end left the team midseason to rehab from his own injury and prepare for the draft. But Gary looked and acted every‑ thing like a guy who was enjoying the moment. He talked about how special it was to be playing with his brothers, and even before the presser had a permanent grin while repeat‑ ing under his breath, "it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine." He was also genuinely touched by Patterson's words. "I appreciate you, man," Gary said. Patterson nodded at him, and the two exchanged a quick bro hug be‑ fore heading back to the locker room to celebrate with their teammates. On the surface, it was nothing more than a nice moment between a pair of former prep five‑star recruits. To those who have been around long enough to recognize the significance, it was the latest sign of what makes a championship team. When they talk, head coach Jim Harbaugh said, they don't talk about themselves. They're quick to accept blame when things go wrong, even if it's not their fault, and to give credit to teammates for their own accom‑ plishments. After the Rutgers game, one in which senior running back Karan Higdon eclipsed the 1,000‑yard mark, he thanked his teammates, redshirt junior tight end Zach Gentry said. That's leadership. And that's what builds a winner. Neither Gary nor Patterson are captains on this team, but they carry themselves as though they are. "He's the same, good, genuine, down‑to‑earth person he's always been," Harbaugh said of Gary when New Jersey media asked about their hometown boy in the Rutgers post‑ game. "He's very respectful; he's quiet somewhat. When he talks, it's something important. He always works continually; he al‑ ways works hard." "The guys, they choose. Nobody gets to choose for them how hard they work, how hard they play, how precise they are, how smart they are. Nobody gets to choose that for them. They choose that for themselves. "He's always done things at the highest level." Ditto fifth‑year senior defensive end Chase Winov‑ ich, another who isn't a cap‑ tain but might as well be. Patterson's leadership, though, is the epitome of what's made this team work. He came in as the outsider, a transfer from Mississippi, but never felt like anything but a guy who'd been here his entire career. His response was sincere when he was asked how he could possibly have the same disdain for Penn State as his teammates who'd lived last year's 42‑13 beating. He wasn't there when the Nittany Lions tried to run up the score, but he said he might as well have been. "I get it from the brotherhood that we have here," Patterson said. "We're so close to all these guys, and I think that's why we're being really successful right now. "Just to know that they did that to my brothers, I think it's just as per‑ sonal. It gives me that much more motivation to get back at them." There's at least one more game on the list to which that applies, and there are no guarantees. Winning in Columbus is a tough proposition, and as we saw two years ago, even when you're the better team, bad breaks (or calls) can be the equalizer. But this team has all the tools to do it, starting with the character of its leaders. Win or lose, they've already made this a season to remember. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Following The Leaders Although junior quarterback Shea Patterson was not in Ann Arbor last year, he took Penn State's 42-13 victory over the Wolverines in 2017 as personally as his teammates who were around when the Nittany Lions tried to run up the score. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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