The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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18 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2016 BY JOHN BORTON C hris Wormley's career at Michigan crash-landed be- fore it ever got off the ground. The fact that he climbed out of the wreckage and reached the heights he has makes it all the sweeter for those around him. The fifth-year senior captain and defensive lineman surveyed the land- scape during Michigan's bye week, and the view proved breathtaking. The Wolverines stood 6-0, ranked No. 4 in the land (U-M would rise to No. 3 after the off week), with a defense slotted at No. 1 nationally. Gone are the days of missing bowl games and struggling to hang on against the likes of Akron and UConn. The Wolverines are now taking such competition and pounding it into sub- mission, leading to an average score of 50.0-10.3 at the midway mark of the regular season. Wormley stands tall in the middle of it all, a 6-6, 302-pound giant in both stature and status, one who commands attention with every directive he gives and every quarterback he plants. It didn't have to be that way, though. In fact, not so many years ago, Wormley limped along in the shad- ows, the folks back home in Toledo, Ohio, wondering if he'd ever fulfill his promise in a winged helmet. They knew him well, this All-Ohio performer out of Whitmer High School. Toledo is only a wind-aided punt over the state line, much closer to Ann Arbor than Columbus, and it made perfect sense for Wormley to head north. It made no sense whatsoever for his freshman year to head south, so quickly and shockingly. During the opening week of padded practices in August, 2012, Wormley crashed to the turf, his freshman-sea- son hopes falling with him. Trainers rushed to his aid, checking to see what part of his knee betrayed him. Soon enough, the verdict every foot- ball player dreads came back: torn an- terior cruciate ligament. See you next year … if then. It's a crushing blow to any football player, at any time. When you've barely put on pads at the collegiate level, it can produce a tsunami of doubt, not only for the player but also for those looking on. "You never know when a kid gets his knee hurt, how hard it is on him," Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison recalled, wincing at the mem- ory. "He was so talented coming in. You were looking at him and thinking, 'This guy is going to play.' "A week into the camp, he blows his knee out. You never know how long it's going to take to come back. Some- times it's a year. Sometimes it's a year physically, and then it's another year mentally." Wormley did come back, becom- ing first a force then eventually a cap- tain, voted by his teammates to lead in a final season with the Wolverines. There's no doubt he's taken that job seriously. "It's a dream," Wormley said. "Espe- cially for me, growing up only 45 min- utes away, going to multiple games a year with my dad. It's something that I dreamed of for a while. "As it got closer, with recruiting vis- its and seeing players run out of that tunnel, to get to do that is something special — something I'll remember for the rest of my life. Hopefully, I get to do that eight times this year, and walk up that tunnel eight times with victories." CAPTAIN IN THE MAKING Plenty went into Wormley becoming one of two designated leaders for Jim Harbaugh's second Michigan squad. Wormley first demonstrated an ex- tremely high level of buy-in — not to mention accomplishment — with the first one. As a redshirt junior, he posted 6.5 sacks among his 14.5 tackles for loss, both representing team bests. He'd earned the John F. Maulbetsch Spring Award after missing his true freshman season, the honor going to "a freshman based on desire, character, capacity for leadership and future success both on and off the field." All of those assessments/projec- tions were unfolding in a year that garnered Wormley a share of the Richard Katcher Award as the best de- fensive lineman on the team. He also drew third-team All-Big Ten notice, a designation that had teammates and coaches shaking their heads because they thought it too low. No matter — by that point, Wormley clearly knew who he was and where he was in Harbaugh's ever-building machine. "Last year, you saw him really start seeing that, 'Hey, I can be some- thing pretty darned good,'" Mattison recalled. "I'm so proud of him, be- cause he's worked on his technique, he's worked on getting stronger, he's worked on every phase of his game. He's reaping the benefits now." The benefits, for Wormley, have ev- erything to do with the team and the resurgence of Michigan football itself. "It's incredible," Wormley told the Big Ten Network recently. "Being with these guys each and every day, work- ing to be the best team in the nation … cracking that top 25 last year was a great moment for all of us, and now we're in the top 5. It's pretty special." Those around him see his physi- cal sculpting and acknowledge that's special as well. They come away duly impressed. "This man is a Greek god — 6-6, 315 pounds, running a 4.7 40," marveled junior defensive end Chase Winovich. "That's impressive." Winovich underscored the impor- tance of the veteran's maturity and leadership in the captain's role. The fifth-year senior doesn't lord it CAPTAIN OF HIS FATE Fifth-Year Senior Defensive Lineman Chris Wormley Rose Above Setbacks To Shine Wormley was named third-team All-Big Ten in 2015 by league coaches and shared Michigan's Richard Katcher Award for the top defensive lineman with classmate Ryan Glasgow. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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