The Wolverine

August 2015 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 164 of 177

  WHERE ARE THEY NOW? BY MICHAEL SPATH I n terms of inauspicious starts, few can beat the beginning of Ryan Van Bergen's college football career. The Whitehall, Mich., native, a four-star prospect in the Class of 2007, had salivated over the prospect of meeting Ohio State in a matchup similar to the 2006 No. 1 vs. No. 2 classic. However, his first collegiate game, on Sept. 1, 2007, is largely considered one of the darkest days in Michigan football history — a 34-32 upset defeat to Division I-AA Appala- chian State. "When you're driving past churches, and there are signs out front saying, 'Pray for Michigan football,' you realize that something really bad happened," said Van Bergen, now 26 and back in Ann Arbor running Blue Lion Fitness. "I was shocked as much as every- one else was when our [game-winning] field goal was blocked. The whole game I was anticipating we'd find a way to win." Van Bergen's career was defined by transition. He played for three different head coaches — Lloyd Carr in 2007, Rich Rodriguez from 2008-10, and Brady Hoke in 2011 — and four defen- sive coordinators. He played on the worst defense, statistically, in the history of Michi- gan football — the 2010 team allowed 450.8 yards of of- fense and 35.2 points per game — but he also played on one of the best, ranking sixth na- tionally in scor- ing defense (17.4 points allowed per game) and 17th in the country for to- tal defense (322.2 yards surrendered per game) during the 2011 campaign. "The longer you stuck around — and a lot of guys in my class felt this way — you have a responsibility to turn it around," said Van Bergen. "By my second year, I'm a starter. I'm one of the 11 guys making a contribu- tion, and if we're not winning, that's not coach's fault, or the administra- tion's, or the fans' — that's on us. It speaks to the character of the guys that no one was afraid of that challenge. "Guys were prepared to grind to get through those rough years and ex- pected to be rewarded in the end." Starring in a town of 2,500 people on   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Ryan Van Bergen Brings His Michigan Experience To Blue Lion Fitness After redshirting as a freshman, Van Bergen posted 13.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss as a defensive lineman from 2008-11. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN

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