The Wolverine

November 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 68 of 75

NOVEMBER 2021 THE WOLVERINE 69   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? offered. "Why not? Bo always said, 'I go with my seniors.' With talk like that, and he told me during the summer, 'As long as you compete for the job, the job will be yours.' Well, it didn't end up that way." It probably didn't help that Elzinga got knocked out of two Michigan preseason scrimmages. Or that a hotshot fresh- man lefty, Rick Leach, had arrived on the scene. Whatever the reason, Schembechler went against form in handing the keys to the rookie. "He decided to start Rick," Elzinga noted. "This was up in Wisconsin. Dur- ing this time, we had tremendous de- fenses. This was Bo's forte. Mo was the defensive coordinator, and Bo ran the offense. Our offense was archaic. "He didn't check that box, of that cre- ativity. If you had 10 boxes to check as a coach, that was the only box he didn't check — creativity on offense. It was three yards and a cloud of dust. "That first game, Ricky threw three interceptions. My parents picked up some friends in Chicago, and they drove up to Madison, Wis." Elzinga's father — himself a Navy fighter pilot and a Central Michigan Hall of Fame football player — and mother weren't thrilled over the QB selection process. Elzinga needed to calm his mom. "She was the heavy in our family," he noted. "She said, 'Hey, if you don't tell Bo, I will.'" So Elzinga set up a meeting with the coach. He recalled it this way: "I told him, 'Bo, Rick threw three interceptions. I didn't throw an interception or fumble the ball last year, my first game.' He said, 'Well, I'll tell you what. How about if you come in, in the second quarter? You can play the second quarter and the fourth quarter.' "I came in, in the second quarter, but I never saw the field after that. He wanted to start Rick, and we had a pretty good season." In fact, the Wolverines wound up 8-2- 2, with a 14-6 loss in the Orange Bowl to a powerhouse Oklahoma crew that wound up ranked No. 1 in both the As- sociated Press and coaches' polls. "We were better conditioned," Elzinga insisted. "Had we kept the ball on the ground … Ricky got knocked out late in the first quarter. I went in and played, did alright. We were moving the ball, but we didn't have a screen pass in our play- book. That would alleviate a lot of pres- sure on the quarterback. "Another play we never practiced was [running back] Gordie Bell throwing the ball. We get down to the goal line, and I pitch it to Gordie and went and blocked [defensive lineman] Lee Roy Selmon. "So Gordie throws the ball. I don't know where that play came from. They intercepted in the end zone. "I think, had we won that, we would have ended up national champions. Oklahoma beating us was the eventual national championship that year." It proved to be Elzinga's final game at Michigan. "After the bowl game, I was a frus- trated, pissed-off, 22-year-old man," he said. "I was upset with the whole situ- ation at Michigan. I had worked my ass off for four years at Michigan, figuring that, well, give me a chance. Let me lose it on the field. "That didn't happen. So in February of '76, I left school. I was probably 30 credits short of graduating." After several short-term jobs, Elzinga enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1980. He wound up as an MP (military police), and on the HMX-1, the presidential helicop- ter squadron. He eventually found his way back to Ann Arbor and finished up his degree from 1990-95. After finding the peace back home, he began keeping it, graduating from the police academy at Washtenaw Commu- nity College. "I became a cop at the ripe old age of 45," Elzinga noted. "I liked it. It was al- ways busy. Never a dull moment." And with two Big Ten championship rings, an Orange Bowl ring and watch, and his M ring, he has no complaints. "That's some nice hardware," he said. "They haven't seen that in a while. That's one of the things I'm proud about as a team." ❑ Elzinga served four years in the Marine C o r p s a n d t h e n f o r 1 8 y e a r s a s a Washtenaw County Sheriff 's Deputy, retir- ing in December 2017. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETICS The Mark Elzinga File Michigan Accomplishments: Played for two Big Ten championship squads … Threw for 237 yards and three touchdowns as a backup quarterback, while rushing for 197 yards and three more TDs. Professional Accomplishments: Served four years in the Marine Corps, hon- orably discharged in 1984 … Worked in construction for former Wolverine Don Dufek … Served as a Washtenaw County Sheriff 's Deputy for 18 years, retiring in December 2017. Michigan Memory: "Mine is eventually graduating from the University of Michigan. I have lots of great memories, with great, great people. This was a re- ally good choice, regardless of how it worked out athletically. A lot of the friends I have are from almost 50 years ago — Billy and Don Dufek. Donnie was my roommate, one of the first people I met. The graduation was a significant thing. There are not many guys who came to school here, went to the military and then finished up back here." Education: Earned a bachelor's degree in sports management and communi- cation in 1995, returning to school in 1990 following 14 years away. Family: Has a daughter, 39-year-old Nicole, and has been widowed the past three years.

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