The Wolverine

August 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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AUGUST 2020 THE WOLVERINE 53 BY JOHN BORTON R oy Roundtree draws on plenty of lessons learned at Michigan. The new wide receivers coach at Grand Valley State can tell his players if they only make one catch in a game, it could still be remembered forever. Nobody knows that better than Roundtree, who soared above a Notre Dame defensive back with time run- ning out in the first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium. He levitated just long enough for Denard Robinson's 16-yard TD toss to hit and stick to his gloves, sealing a 35-31 comeback win in a thriller for the ages. Roundtree recalled: "Once I knew the call, I told Denard, 'Just give me a shot. We've got enough time. I'm going to make a play.'" He made one, securing a place in the all-time Michigan highlight reel. There were more than a few ups and downs in U-M football from 2008-12, but this one didn't get away. Of course, Roundtree wasn't assured of his place in Michi- gan football lore from the start. He originally committed to Purdue and then-head coach Joe Tiller. But when Tiller an- nounced his retirement during Roundtree's senior prep sea- son, everything changed. The senior found himself on a path that would lead to Ann Arbor. New Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez tried to recruit Roundtree earlier. But the prep standout wasn't having anything to do with West Virginia and told Rodriguez not to waste his time. Soon enough, Rodri- guez approached Roundtree with an offer he couldn't refuse. "The next thing you know, Coach RichRod calls," Roundtree recalled. "He says, 'Now can I recruit you?' I said, 'Yeah, that's a no-brainer. I just wasn't going to West Virginia.'" He did go to Michigan, eliciting a memorable Tiller one-liner about los- ing a recruit to a "snake oil salesman." "I've got my article still framed at home," Roundtree said, with a laugh. "I was in USA Today, being called the snake oil kid by Coach Tiller. Coach Tiller was upset and said I should have never gone to Michigan." Roundtree himself might have ex- perienced some doubts at the end of his first season in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines infamously plummeted to 3-9, Michigan's 33-year bowl streak abruptly ended, and U-M fans were decrying a historic disaster. The rookie hadn't seen the field, but found himself getting an earful. "I didn't really understand the tradition of Michigan," Roundtree said. "It was like, 'You guys broke the bowl streak.' I'm like, 'I'm not even playing. I'm a freshman.' "Having one of the worst seasons in Michigan history was new to me. I was not used to losing. I don't think RichRod really had the team. He tried to change the culture there. The seniors didn't like it and clearly it showed." Roundtree felt ready to show plenty after a season away from the field. After overcoming the com- mon freshman doubts about sticking around, he poured himself into prep- ping for what was to come. He'd performed on scout team in practice his entire freshman year, mimicking the other team's best re- ceiver. Now, he found himself deter- mined to become Michigan's best. It didn't happen immediately. There were lessons to be learned, even after he enjoyed big opportunities as a redshirt freshman. In his third game ever on the field, Roundtree hauled in a 76-yard bomb at Illinois. The problem was, he needed 77 for a touchdown. Michigan never scored on that drive, and wound up losing to the Illini. "I got caught," Roundtree ruefully recalled. "I caught a deep ball, and I ended up get- ting hawked at the 1-yard line. I remember Brandon Graham telling me: 'Tree, it's a whole different tempo once you're out here on Saturday than it is in practice. That really stuck with me. "Every time I started, I thought about the Illinois game. Every time I practiced, I thought about the Illinois game. That was the turning point for me." The very next game, the redshirt freshman wideout "went off" against Purdue, making 10 catches for 126 yards and a touch- down. He secured nine grabs for 116 yards in a loss to Ohio State. "After I got my feet wet, it was like, okay, I've really got this," Roundtree said. "I ended up making the Fresh- man All-America team and a lot of things off four games." Roundtree became a major weapon for Rodriguez in the latter 's third and final season at Michigan. As a redshirt sophomore, the wide re- ceiver experienced the best statistical year he'd post as a Wolverine. He nailed down 72 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns. Roundtree's 16-yard touchdown catch as time expired gave the Wolverines a 35-31 win over Notre Dame on Sept. 10, 2011, in the first night game at Michigan Stadium before a then NCAA- record crowd of 114,804. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Former Receiver Roy Roundtree Passes On Michigan Lessons

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