The Wolverine

November 2015

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 189 of 193

A thletics at every level, in every sport, feature different person- alities — nice guys, bad guys and folks in between. Some leagues, of course, are worse than others. Take the NFL, and one from the "unbeliev- able, but so believable" files. For the first time in six years, a month (Sep- tember) went by where nobody from the league was arrested. None of them were in national headlines for all the wrong reasons on the field, either — for whatever reason, that doesn't seem to be the way it works. On Oct. 17, Australian fifth-year senior punter Blake O'Neil — all- around good guy and great teammate, accord- ing to everyone who has encountered him — had his name figura- tively engraved on the "unfortunate happenstance" plaque reserved for biggest gaffes in sports history when he dropped a punt snap that Michigan State returned for the winning touchdown in a 27-23 victory in Ann Arbor. As is often the case in life, it's not fair. "So much love for Blake O'Neill," Michigan football assistant sports in- formation director Zach Eisendrath wrote in a supportive tweet. "One of my favorite people from the first day I met him." Personality, flair … he's got it all, his team- mates say. The Austra- lia native and graduate transfer from Weber State also has been one of the reasons for the Wolverines' resurgence under head coach Jim Harbaugh, dropping punts inside the 10-yard line with regularity and changing field positions with big kicks. "He's a guy that's been lights out for us all year," former Michigan punter Chris Stapleton (1989-93) said. "He has put us in position many times and put the de- fense in great position … and now he's going to be remembered for this. Hell yes, I empathize with him. It's a high-pressure situation, and I turned to my wife right before it and said, 'Just catch the snap.'" He wasn't the only one who felt his pain. Another former punter — Will Hagerup (2010-12, '14) — also INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Fate Nabs Another Nice Guy Fifth-year senior Blake O'Neil is considered to be an all- around good guy and great teammate, but will probably only be remembered for his dropped punt snap that allowed Michigan State to escape The Big House with a 27-23 win. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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