The Wolverine

August 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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AUGUST 2020 THE WOLVERINE 5 I t's as jarring as a snow bank on a Paradise Island shore- line, or a scarlet stripe on a winged helmet. The thought of Michigan Sta- dium sitting empty, sunshine bouncing off 110,000 unused seats on a September Saturday renders restless more than a few fans. The cherished gatherings of friends at tailgates, the antic- ipation-filled march to the sta- dium and other time-honored traditions could be swept away in 2020's unrelenting cruelty. There are bigger issues out there, of course. Michigan miss- ing a football season isn't life and death, and the coronavirus has actually left many battling for their lives. Still, hope lingers for a bit of normalcy. Even if fans can't pack the stands, the sight of Michigan football players surg- ing onto the field in The Big House gives some comfort. Imagine what the late July uncer- tainty feels like for a fifth-year se- nior, one with an excellent chance of getting voted a captain for a second straight year. Imagine a last shot at pulling on the uniform, capturing the big rivalries and winning the Big Ten getting sacked by a virus no- body heard about a year ago. Welcome to Carlo Kemp's world. The veteran defensive tackle worked hard to get a fifth year in a Michigan uniform. Head coach Jim Harbaugh labored on his behalf to make it happen. When it did, Kemp began dream- ing of all that would play out in his final season — the fans, the biggest games, the Saturday insanity in which anything is possible. Some of that's already gone. Kemp and Michigan's other seniors won't be playing in front of packed houses this fall — if they're playing at all. If the season gets moved to next spring, they'll have to decide between it and the NFL Draft. Needless to say, this isn't how they pictured it. Kemp recently made an appear- ance on former U-M All-American Jon Jansen's "In The Trenches" podcast to talk about the hoped-for season to come. The Colorado na- tive described the "awesome" feel- ing of rejoining his teammates back in Ann Arbor and getting back into the routines of football — although temperature checks upon entering Schembechler Hall aren't routine. Kemp knows there are no guar- antees. Other teams in the Big Ten have already shut down workouts, gone into quarantine because of COVID-19 case flare-ups. Steady as she goes for the Wol- verines — at least through late July. Keeping it that way requires diligence. "Right now as a team, we're do- ing such a great job of taking care of the business that is bigger than us," Kemp explained. "I think to myself, maybe we're taking it a little too se- rious, because we work out and we kind of just go home. "I'm so used to, after a workout, going out and hanging with every- body, hanging out with everybody on the D-line. Especially in the sum- mer, I like to do cookouts, burgers and hot dogs. We work out, and we kind of just go home. We live with who we live with, and we see each other in the morning the next day." It's the COVID life, even when you don't have COVID. Even when you're 22 years old, 6-3, 286 pounds and in the best shape of your life. Michigan players — and oth- ers across the nation — face a huge showdown to win, even before they get to any actual football games. Can they beat a virus that is of negligible harm to them, statistically, but could affect their coaches and their families? "That's what really matters — our fight to help contain the spread of COVID," Kemp said. "But going forward, as students return, and businesses and restaurants continue to open, it's just going to go back to the things we're really harping on as a team. "For us to play, and for college football to continue to happen this year, we've just got to be smart. The things we have been doing right now are really good. Guys are work- ing out, we're wearing our masks, we're checking in, we're being hon- est with how we're feeling. It's a lot bigger than just yourself right now." It's a life lesson in discipline, that may or may not pay fall football dividends. For Kemp and Michi- gan's others seniors, the virus re- mains the sword of Damocles, dan- gling over their last hurrah. "It's hard to escape," Kemp ac- knowledged. "It's on the TV, it's on your phone, it's on social media. Everybody's got their opinion: oh no, it's not happening, no way. No, there's going to be football, trust me. "The biggest thing I've been doing is just going day by day. That's all I can do. I don't control what's going to happen. None of us on the team control what's going to happen." That's a life lesson in itself. ❏ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine. WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON A Captain Watches U-M's Season At Risk Fifth-year senior defensive tackle and returning team captain Carlo Kemp admits "none of us on the team control what's going to happen" in regard to football this fall, but he and his teammates are doing everything possible to prevent a COVID- 19 outbreak from spreading throughout the squad. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN

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