The Wolverine

May 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? n his six NFL seasons prior to 2011, former Michigan All-American lineman David Baas encountered as much stability as a high-wire special- ist in a hurricane. San Francisco's sec- ond-round pick in 2005, Baas went through six offensive coordinators in six years, three head coaches — "four if you count interim," he noted — enough playbooks to stock a small library and no promise that it would ever get better. It was unfamiliar territory for the David Baas Adds To His Legacy I BY CHRIS BALAS former prep All-American out of Sarasota, Fla. Family and familiarity were two of the biggest factors that sold him on Michigan over Notre Dame, Florida and others, in fact. Many of the same coaches' pictures he saw on the Schembechler Hall walls during his visit had been there for years. He'd run into an aunt, un- cle or grandparent if he traveled an hour or two in any direction, a warm blanket of reassurance that he could be comfortable hundreds of miles from where he was raised. "It was kind of a little home away from home," Baas recalled. "I had a bunch of aunts and uncles up there, my grandparents, too. They all took me in under their wings. I was mov- ing away from home and my imme- diate family, but I had relatives up there, so it wasn't like just going off to Washington where I had nobody. "When I went up there, I just kind of got wrapped in the tradition, soaked it all in. It embraced you. The coolest story was my mom came with me, and of course during the whole tour thing, we saw all the captains on the wall. She said something like, 'You'll be up there one day.' I kind of brushed it off, not thinking anything of it. But I look at it now, and there I am up on that wall." He's also part of an even more ex- In his first year with the Giants, Baas started all four playoff games, including the Super Bowl, on New York's road to becoming NFL champions. from guard to the middle in his fi- nal (2004) season at Michigan, but it would open doors later in his career. His Rimington Award as the nation's top center had NFL scouts adding "versatile" to their scouting assess- ments, and Giants general manager Jerry Reese still remembered Baas' stint as Michigan's center in courting him last year. Baas spent the first part of the 2011 season acclimating to new teammates and a new system after six seasons in San Francisco. Though he spent his last year with the 49ers at center, he was still a guard first. It took some time to adjust and adapt. "I became a lot more comfortable," clusive group now — former Wolver- ines who have become Super Bowl champions — after making the tough decision to leave the Golden State for New York in the offseason, signing a five-year contract to center the Giants in front of quarterback Eli Manning. It was a move essentially made out of desperation when Baas switched 76 THE WOLVERINE MAY 2012 Baas said. "I had a good year the last year at center with the Niners, but I had a lot of work to do after playing guard pretty much my whole life. I'd only played center for two years. It's not like all those bad habits at guard have gone away. "You're constantly battling trying to change habits, do things differ- ently at center — a lot more. Making PHOTO COURTESY NEW YORK GIANTS sure you get the ball to the quarter- back, that's the first thing, and then making calls, getting people on the same page. If you're a smart player you're doing that anyway at guard, recognizing fronts and everything, but there's more leeway at guard. You can get up and look around ver- sus center, where you've got to be over the ball, neck up only so far, especially when you're hurt." Which Baas was for much of the 2011 season. As Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said recently, it's rare that a player will go through a year without feeling the effects of such a violent sport. Baas was no different. He struggled with a knee issue, ex- treme migraine headaches and a neck burner, to name a few, and missed a few games during the regular season. Come playoff time, though, he'd begun to peak, and so had his team- mates. The Giants, 9-7 during the reg- ular season and an NFC wild card, throttled Atlanta in the wild card game before stunning Green Bay at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin. That set

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