The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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54 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY JOHN BORTON J on Falk and Bruce Madej are storytellers nonpareil. Like Abe Lincoln sauntering into a modern day classroom, shoving aside textbooks and launching into com- pelling tales of Civil War drama, these two can spin out the sagas one after the other. They lived them. When Bo Schembechler delivered a quip about Jim Harbaugh's famous "guarantee," Falk was there to hear it. When the U-M coaching icon fired his baseball cap at supersonic speed following a disappointing win, Madej was there to duck. The two witnessed it all unfold in Ann Ar- bor, Falk from 1974 on and Madej from 1978 on with a brief time away. They witnessed the championships, mingled with overpower- ing personalities and immersed themselves in the ongoing compelling drama of Michigan football. It just so happens, they decided to get out at the same time. Not completely out, mind you. Falk won't be overseeing football equipment duties anymore, but he'll be riveted to every snap this fall and has hundreds of former play- ers with whom to talk shop. Madej stressed, "I'm not retiring from life," noting he'll have some yet undisclosed irons in the fire. He served as Michigan sports informa- tion director from 1982-2010, before moving on to work on special projects, and has too much energy to sit and watch the world go by. Both have a tale to tell — several actually — and now, perhaps more time to share. Falk Grew Into U-M's Equipment Icon Nobody could have imagined that Falk would grow past juggling kicking nets, picking out shoes and making sure Michigan's sweat- soaked uniforms came out pristine. Nobody would have tabbed him as an author, confidant of coaches, and emotional guru to players from the most anonymous walk-on to a future three- time Super Bowl champion. Not back in 1974. Falk insisted he wasn't even coming to Michigan. He didn't want to leave his post as equipment manager at Miami (Ohio). Really, he didn't want to leave his mother and grandmother to fend for themselves. He'll never forget his mother coming to him, in the middle of the night, tears in her eyes. She told him he was going to accept an offer from Schembechler and Michigan to go north. She told him the Michigan coach would take care of him. And that Schembechler did … in his own classic style. Falk walked into Schembechler's office, wearing his red Miami (Ohio) jacket, and discovered immediately he wasn't in Oxford anymore. Falk recalled: "Bo looked up, and he says: 'Get out of my office. Nobody wears red in my office. Get yourself a blue coat. You're a Michigan man now.'" Startled, Falk went scrambling down to the equipment room that would become a second home. Outfitted with a Michigan jacket, he returned to a less prickly welcome. "Coach Schembechler looked at me and he says: 'Good. Now, we'll talk,'" Falk recalled. "He proceeded to talk to me about the passion and the love that you have to have to work and play at Michigan. He talked about the dedica- tion and the desire that it takes to win the Big Ten championship at Michigan. "Then Bo told me: 'Jon, it's your job to be in that locker room every night, to talk to the players. Talk to them about the Big Ten cham- pionship. Talk to them about the determination, the dedication that it takes for Michigan to win.' That's why I got so close with the players in the locker room, every night." For the next 40 football seasons — 17 of them producing Big Ten championship rings and one a national title — Falk made that equipment room a haven. The shoes got se- lected, the laundry got done, but so much more came along with it. He befriended four decades worth of Wol- verines and enjoys the rich rewards of those relationships to this day. "That's just the camaraderie you have," Falk said. "[Former Michigan offensive lineman] Veteran Farewells Former Football Equipment Manager Jon Falk And Sports Information Director Bruce Madej Have Seen It All At Michigan 54-59.Retiring Legends.indd 54 6/19/14 11:26 AM

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