The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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56 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW bus in '86 featured No. 2 Michigan against an unranked Minnesota team at Michigan Sta‑ dium. The players had collected cash, about $400, to do something special when Schem‑ bechler broke the record for career wins at Michigan. "I went out and bought a real nice plaque," Falk said. "It was beautiful. Like a dummy, I put down Michigan versus Minnesota. I had the area to put the score, and I put the date on there. "We go out, and lo and behold, we get beat by Minnesota in the last second of the game. Of course, Jimmy comes out and guarantees the win against Ohio State. "I'm sitting in the locker room after the game with Bo, and I said: 'Bo, what did you think about your boy today, guaranteeing that we're going to beat Ohio State?' He looked at me, and laughed. He said: 'Well, at least he didn't say we were going to lose.'" Michigan didn't lose. Falk scrambled to set the plaque situation right, but encountered another issue on the way to Michigan's stirring 26‑24 victory in Columbus. The Michigan football equipment truck lost its brakes and smacked into a semi on Lane Avenue in Columbus. Nobody got hurt, but the Columbus Police Department was already in game mode. "That was before we had our big Michigan truck," Falk noted. "It was just a rent‑a‑truck. I'm all dressed up in my Michigan gear, and the police officer says to me: 'What have you got in that truck there?' "I said: 'It's all Michigan football gear, sir. We're heading over to Ohio Stadium.' "He goes, 'Is Jimmy Harbaugh's gear in that truck?' "I said: 'Yes sir, it is.' "He says: 'I'm awful sorry, but I have to tell you that all this equipment is going to have to be impounded for the next 48 hours.'" Falk's relationships often crossed enemy lines. He once saved the day for Bob Knicker‑ bocker, Michigan State's equipment coordina‑ tor, when the Spartans were in town. Knickerbocker is a friend, but was a pan‑ icked one on Oct. 13, 1990, when the Spartans came in to face No. 1 Michigan at Michigan Stadium. MSU's phone lines went down that day. "Bob Knickerbocker ran over to me and said: 'Jon, you've got to help me. George Per‑ les is going to kill me. The phones went down, and he can't talk to anybody in the press box. He's going to kill me, Jon.' "I said: 'Calm down, Knick. I'll take care of this for you.' I always had backup to back up the backup, wherever I went. I had an extra set of phones backed up for us. I put a set on the field during the game, and I went up and put a set in the press box. They got the phones back up." MSU also dialed up a 28‑27 victory that day, complete with uncalled interference in the end zone, when MSU's Eddie Brown tripped Desmond Howard on a crucial two‑point con‑ version attempt. Amid the postgame misery, Knickerbocker insisted upon introducing Falk to Perles. "I went into the shower room and Knick‑ erbocker says: 'George, this is Jon Falk. He's the one who got your phones up today so you could talk to the press box,'" Falk recalled. "George laughed, and he says: 'I always won‑ dered if there was somebody down here at Michigan you could ever trust. Today, I've met one.' "He has told that story to many people, about how I got the phones fixed for them." The Spartans, including basketball coach Tom Izzo and athletics director Mark Hollis, even put on a lunch spread for Falk in honor of his retirement. Knickerbocker said he was go‑ ing to take him to lunch and then brought him to the old Jenison Fieldhouse, where a host of well‑wishers awaited. "Tom Izzo has been a good friend of mine for a long time," Falk noted. "He and I talked for 20 minutes. All he wanted to hear were Bo stories. "That's a competitive group, but at the same time they had the time to do that. After about 30 minutes, Tom said: 'I've got to get back, but Jon, any time. You're a good man, you've done a good job, and you've been a friend of mine.'" Izzo's affinity for Schembechler's toughness and the program he ran is well known, and Falk reached the point of some pretty good give and take with his boss. "He was always hot about something," Falk said with a laugh. "One day, we went by the pop machine at the old football building, and he didn't have his money. I said: 'Hold on, Bo, I'll get you a dollar.' I loaned him a dollar, and as I opened up my billfold, I had my lottery tickets in my billfold. "Bo looked at me and he said: 'What do you have that lotto ticket for, Falk?' I pay you a good wage here. I said: 'Let me tell you something, Coach. The day I hit the lottery, I'm SITTING DOWN WITH Retired Football Equipment Manager Jon Falk Most Exciting Michigan Football Game I Saw: "The 1976 game down at Ohio State. Bo had never beaten Ohio State in Columbus, and it was my first chance to go to the Rose Bowl. It was 0‑0 at the half, and we won 22‑0. That was really exciting for me." Most Excruciating Loss: "Losing to Miami [31‑30 in 1988] after being up on them 30‑14 with five minutes left in the game. Them coming back and beating us like that in the last seconds. Second would be the Colorado game on the Kordell Stewart pass [a Hail Mary tipped to Michael Westbrook for a 27‑26 Colorado victory at Michigan Stadium in 1994]. That was a devastating loss, too." Favorite Big Ten Road Venue: "I loved Minnesota. They've got good restaurants and a clean city. I enjoyed going to Minnesota. The second best is going to Columbus, Ohio — because you're from Michigan." Favorite Road Trip Ever: "Hands down, the Rose Bowl. You go there, you've gone to the Grand‑ daddy of them all. You're in Los Angeles, where you see a lot of people on TV and in the movies. You got to see a lot of big‑name guys." Toughest Wolverine I Ever Saw: "Rob Lytle. He was a tough son of a gun. He played his heart out every game and was a great leader. He was just a tough guy." Most Talented Wolverine I Ever Saw: "Anthony Carter was a great talent. Anthony Thomas was also a great talent and a tough guy. He'd fall in with the tough, talented guys." Favorite Book: "If These Walls Could Talk, by Jon Falk. [Hearty laugh]. Nothing like a good plug." Favorite Movie: "'The Natural,' and I'll tell you why. We were playing in the NCAA district championship game in baseball in 1985. We had to beat Central Michigan to go to the World Series that year. "We were up in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, and we got rained out, so we went to see 'The Natural' that night. It was just great to see Roy Hobbs come up and hit that home run to win the game, after everybody had gone through so much. "That was the way that team was, back in '85. The next day, I'm sitting in the stands, and Barry Larkin is up. I said: 'Wow, we need a Roy Hobbs here. If Barry Larkin could just be Roy Hobbs.' Barry got a base hit, stole second, went to third and came home on a wild pitch, and we beat them 2‑1." Favorite Vacation Spot: "We went down to the Florida Keys this year, and I really enjoyed Key West." Favorite Meal: "Steaks. T‑bones, sirloins, porterhouse … those are the best." Favorite TV Show: "'NCIS.' I love Mark Harmon. It was really neat when he came to Michigan last year." On My Bucket List: "I would love for my wife Cheri and I to see our kids grow up, have great lives and give us wonderful grandchildren." — John Borton Falk singled out the Wolverines' 22-0 win over Ohio State at Columbus in 1976 as the most exciting game he saw at U-M, in part because it resulted in his first trip to the Rose Bowl. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS 54-59.Retiring Legends.indd 56 6/18/14 3:51 PM

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