The Wolverine

October 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 19 of 75

20 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2016 Jon Jansen has been there. He served as a Michigan football captain in one of the program's finest moments — a national championship in 1997. He also faced what turned out to be the impossible task of liv- ing up to a standard of perfection the following year. He knows there's more to being a captain than getting a plaque embla- zoned with your image on the wall at Schembechler Hall. "You're definitely excited and you're honored because your teammates have chosen you captain," he assured. "There's ac- tually a lot of pressure that comes with it. Now, teammates are going to be looking for you to be doing things right." Moreover, Jansen explained, captains will be inextricably tied to the bottom line for a team, in any given year. "Good or bad, right or wrong, doesn't matter," Jansen said. "That's the way it is. If you end up 8-4, your legacy as a captain is that you're an 8-4 captain. That may be as good as your team could do, but that's just where you fall and rank among other captains that have held that position." Jansen will forever be known as a 12-0 captain. The Wolver- ines of 1997 got it rolling ver- sus Colorado and never looked back. Lloyd Carr's '97 crew certainly didn't lack talent. It featured a Heisman Trophy winner in Charles Woodson, along with NFL talent up and down the lineup. "That team was easy to lead," Jansen offered. "We had guys who understood what it meant to be a senior, what it meant to play your position, what it meant to play football at Michigan and everything that was expected of every guy. We had a ton of talent, and we knew we had a chance to be successful." All of which doesn't eliminate pitfalls. The Michigan defense fended off Notre Dame, 21-14, despite three U-M turnovers in its own half of the field. Three games later, any dreams of perfection appeared destroyed by intermission. "We got down against Iowa, 21-7, at halftime," Jansen re- called. "We knew, going into the second half, what we had to do if we were going to make a run at a Big Ten championship. "We didn't even think about a national championship at that point. We were just thinking about winning all our games and winning a Big Ten championship. "Let's just go out there and perform, and do what we're sup- posed to do — win this game." They did precisely that, rallying to take down the Hawkeyes, 28-24, and surging on to an unblemished season and the national title. The toughest part of serving as a two-year captain lay ahead. "We started out [1998] with a loss to Notre Dame and a loss to Syracuse. We're 0-2, coming off a national championship," Jansen recalled. Jansen and fellow captain Juaquin Feazell faced a devastated squad, one that could have let the season slip away. Words weren't going to solve the problem, but they had to come up with some. "Even when I was in the NFL, I despised players-only meet- ings," Jansen said. "We never had a players-only meeting. But there were times that week where I had to say something, or Juaquin Feazell had to say something like, 'Hey, our season is not over. Are we going to win a national championship? No.' "But we hadn't yet played a Big Ten game. We could still go out there and win a Big Ten championship. We had to make sure the guys realized what was still attainable. That was prob- ably the toughest conversation or moment I ever had as a cap- tain." That team rallied to share the Big Ten title. Jansen went 2-for-2 in conference crowns as a captain, and he's pulling for Michigan's current leaders, knowing it's been far too long. Senior tight end Jake Butt, Jansen noted, embodies the self-sacrifice that can make a great captain. "I really respect his decision to come back as a senior," Jansen said. "He had everything in front of him. He could have been a very high draft pick and could have been making millions of dollars right now. "But he sacrificed all of that because there was still business he wanted to accomplish at Michigan. His teammates respect that, see that, understand that. "He put his career on hold. He put one year of his NFL play- ing years on hold because he wanted to make sure he went out as a champion at Michigan. That speaks volumes for him as a person." Both Butt and fifth-year senior defensive lineman Chris Wormley are laying the foundation for future Michigan suc- cess, Jansen stressed. "Both of those guys practice the right way," Jansen said. "You talk to the coaches and you listen to them talk about how they watch film and how they lead the guys when the coaches aren't around, in terms of: 'This is how you watch film. This is how we run. This is how we work out. This is what we do. It doesn't matter if the coaches are here or not.' "You talk to the team and you listen to the things that they say, those two guys were the guys who had things going this summer, had things going when the coaches weren't around last winter. They've gotten this team to where it is." — John Borton Jon Jansen Recalls Pride, Pressure As Captain Jansen is one of five two-time Michigan team captains over the last 25 years. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS

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