The Wolverine

January 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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32 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2022 B efore the fall, many wondered if sixth-year senior center Andrew Vastardis would keep his starting job. Second-year freshman Zak Zinter was working at the position, and Vastardis was coming off an inconsistent, injury- plagued season. Months later, Vastardis was sitting at the postgame podium in Indianapolis talking about how it felt to lead U-M to its first Big Ten title since 2004. He'd gone from walk-on to captain and second-team All-Big Ten selection to champion, and the smile on his face told the story. Vastardis' work in the summer with strength coach Ben Herbert helped him overcome back injuries and turned him into one of the conference's best linemen. "I mean, shoot," he said, beaming. "I've been a Michigan fan since I was little … just always loved this team, loved this program. I always wanted to be a part of it. Just coming in at a time where energy was high like that, where we fully believed that at some point or another during our legacy something would hap- pen … something would put Michigan back on top. "I think just every guy that's come in after I've been here, because I'm the old head, apparently — but every guy that's come in here after I got here has just bought into that and done everything they can to make that happen. And, gosh darn it, I'm just so excited to have people around me that care, love each other and just put it all on the line for each other, because that's what it's all about." Like Vastardis, the 2021 Michigan team was pretty much overlooked. The center and his teammates shouted "two percent!" when they ran into the locker room following the 42-3 win over Iowa, calling out the prognosticators. "So, the beginning of the year, the odds — I don't know, whatever it was, two percent likely we'd win the Big Ten championship. That was the preseason prediction," Vastardis recalled. "But we believe in each other. We believe in our- selves, but there's always that little ex- ternal motivation; [we were] internally motivated to bring each guy along. But sometimes some of the stuff that's out there, you just take it and ride with it and it's fuel to the fire. That's where that was from." They came together to make their col- lective dream come true. "It's the framework for how a team should be, relational, giving everything you've got for the guy beside you," Vas- tardis said. "The expectation for how the season goes is going to be high. But I think the framework, the expectation is more so how the team operates within itself, like the brotherhood, the family, the relationships. "We've put on a clinic of that this year with our brotherhood, how we care about each other, how we play for each other." Led by their sixth-year senior captain, a guy who came in as a walk-on and will go down as one of the best leaders in re- cent Michigan history. — Chris Balas AIDAN HUTCHINSON NAMED TEAM MVP, OTHER AWARDS ANNOUNCED Michigan held its annual awards show, presented by the U-M Club of Greater Detroit Dec. 19 at The Big House. The 2021 team award winners were recog- nized, and seniors were celebrated before receiving their 'M' rings and other gifts. Junior defensive end Aidan Hutchin- son was voted the Bo Schembechler Most Valuable Player by his teammates, after racking up a program-record 14.0 sacks and 58 tackles in the first 13 games. Redshirt junior Josh Ross won the Roger Zatkoff Award, handed out to the Wolverines' top linebacker. Ross' 95 tackles lead the team by 30 stops, and he's tallied 8.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Redshirt junior right tackle Andrew Stueber took home the Hugh H. Rader Memorial Award, presented to the squad's top lineman. Stueber leads a group that is one of four finalists for the Joe Moore Award, annually given to the nation's best offensive line. He allowed no sacks and just nine pressures, accord- ing to Pro Football Focus.   MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Andrew Vastardis' Dream Comes True Vastardis came to Michigan as a walk-on, and the second-team All-Big Ten center left as the team captain of a conference champion. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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