The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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104 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW made and shared a tearful hug when moving into their first, tiny apartment. Miles away in Ann Arbor, Mich., Funch- ess, like millions of others, took it all in. Like some, he could relate. "That could have been me," he said. "It was the same type of thing." A Time Of Transition Growing up, Funchess was too young to distinguish his normal from anyone else's. Like him, other kids had fathers behind bars — his own had been since Funchess was 2 years old — and he would cling to the phone calls and the one, hazy recollection that lingered. "I remember I used to have a toy horse, and he would put me up on the horse," Funchess said. "That's the only memory I have." It wasn't until 10th grade, though, when he moved to the suburbs in Farmington Hills, northeast of Detroit, that he started to ques- tion what was fair. He'd returned to his apart- ment complex from school one cold, late- autumn day to find everything he owned out on the street. "I found my mom and asked what hap- pened. I didn't know what was going on, and to see my stuff out there …" He paused. "We'd gotten evicted and had to move back with my grandmother," he shared. "After that, I moved to Farmington with one of my little league coaches. I didn't want to keep driving to Detroit, so I asked if I could stay with him." It would be a tough transition for anyone, let alone a kid enduring natural changes in his formative years. From that point, he started to view life from a more hardened —- some would call it adult —perspective. "When I had to move to the suburbs, all I'd see is two-parent homes," he said. "I was like, 'Never had it.' It was jut like, 'What's going on?' I'd watch TV … all the families would have two parents." He remained introverted at times, a self- described goofy guy at others. Harrison coach John Herrington would sometimes take it for aloofness or cockiness, Funchess recalled, causing them to butt heads at times. Still, Funchess continued to progress, sprouting to 6-5, overcoming the knee soreness associated with his growth spurt to become a Division I prospect. His mother, meanwhile, continued to work through gambling issues that had gotten the family in financial trouble. It was an addiction she couldn't control, and one Funchess wasn't equipped to understand at such a young age. "She's been to therapists to take care of that, but we had a bad connection at one point in high school," he said. "I'd always refuse to see it. Why would she keep doing it after we just got evicted? I'd say, 'Why do you keep doing this and that?' I didn't get it. "Now I get it, because I have addiction too. I'm always on my phone — can't put it down. I guess that's my addiction. My grandfather had an addiction and couldn't put the liquor down, so he stopped for my mom. My mom stopped for my sister and me, and I'm going to stop for me and my mom." Aiming Higher That's where his goals begin, not end. Some already project him as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft even after a year that had its ups and downs, including 748 yards in recep- tions but also a number of dropped passes. He hauled in four catches for 112 yards and two scores at Penn State, but he dropped key passes at Iowa in frigid temperatures — plays that would have extended drives. Conditions were so bad around the Mid- west that few would have blamed Funchess or any of the many receivers who let balls Following In The Footsteps Of … Paul Jokisch (1984-86) Why Jokisch: Jokisch was unique with his size (6-7) and could go up high for passes, a basket- ball player who happened to play football. Funchess followed the same path, only taking football seriously in the 10th grade, and he's a similar route runner. Though he dropped some balls last year, Funchess has big hands like Jokisch and can snatch balls away from defenders. The difference — Funchess is more athletic than Jokisch, and he's faster. Jokisch was a strider, while Funchess has deceptive speed that allows him to break away from defenders. What it could mean: Jokisch caught 37 passes for 681 yards in his best year, and Funchess already eclipsed that with his 748 receiving yards a year ago. The Wolverines threw more than usual under Bo Schembechler in 1985-86 with Jim Harbaugh at quarterback, but this year's team will air it out much more and Funchess will have more opportunities than Jokisch did being that he's option No. 1. That's something Jokisch never was at Michigan, though he did earn honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. Overall: Funchess isn't the route runner former Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards was and he's not as fast, but he also has some of his qualities — specifically, an ability to go up high and get the ball. Edwards dropped some balls early in his career, too, before becoming a record setter. Funchess will have an opportunity for a 1,000-yard season if he continues to progress, and he insists he's putting in the work to attain his goals. — Chris Balas After making seven catches for 151 yards and one touchdown versus Minnesota last season, Funchess was named both the John Mackey Award Tight End of the Week and the College Football Performance Award National Tight End of the Week. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 102-105.Devin Funchess.indd 104 6/19/14 8:53 AM

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