The Wolverine

January 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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18 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2017 BY JOHN BORTON M ichigan's 96th annual Football Bust featured an unusual combination of events — an MIA MVP, the head coach blaming "jive tur- keys" on false whispers of his depar- ture and more. But the heart of the annual pro- duction at Laurel Manor in Livonia remained the same Dec. 13 — grate- fulness for Michigan football and a feast laid out by the University of Michigan Club of Greater Detroit. In the true spirit of the student- athlete, redshirt sophomore line- backer Jabrill Peppers — voted by his teammates the Glenn E. "Bo" Schembechler MVP Award winner — remained in Ann Arbor to take a test. He didn't have much choice, given recent absences for other award cer- emonies, including the Heisman Tro- phy presentation in New York. "They said if he didn't make up the test tonight, he may not be eligible for the [Orange Bowl] game," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I told him to go to the test." The packed house at Laurel Manor burst into uproarious laughter and applause, like it did several times throughout the evening. Meanwhile, Harbaugh praised the third-year Wolverine who performed in 15 dif- ferent roles for his team this year. "I've been watching him for two years," Harbaugh said. "I estimate it's somewhere in the neighbor- hood of 280, 300 practices that I've watched him, and I'm amazed every time I watch him practice the game of football. "The level of energy that he brings, the athleticism, the emotion that he brings, the smart football player that he is. You all know what he's done for our football team in the many positions he plays. "The things that we've asked him to do defensively, the things that we've asked him to do offensively, the things we've asked him to do on special teams — it's mind-boggling that he does it all and does it all so well at the very highest level. I con- sider him the ultimate team player." Harbaugh wasn't finished, de- scribing to an appreciative audience the value of someone whom he said will be "a tremendous pro football player," with no mention of another year at Michigan. "There is many a practice that has been ignited by the way Jabrill Peppers practices," Harbaugh said. "Many a game ignited, and turned in our favor, the way Jabrill Peppers plays. "He's honest. I love that about him. He is an honest guy. He will pat a teammate on the back if they deserve to be patted on the back, and he will tell them to pick it up if they need to pick it up. He always does it by example and an encouraging word. I can't say enough about him. "I also believe he's the best tackler in all of college football, one of the best tacklers I've ever seen." Michigan actually listed the four runners-up in the players' vote for MVP, in no particular order. The fi- nalists were fifth-year senior wideout Amara Darboh, senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis, redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight and se- nior tailback De'Veon Smith. The MVP announcement usually draws the loudest cheers of the night, and the crowd certainly proved ap- preciative. It might have driven the decibel meter highest — via both ap- plause and laughter — when Har- baugh fired off a response to recent rumors about him possibly departing for the NFL. The architect of back-to-back 10- win seasons at Michigan made cer- tain everyone knew he's staying put. During a week in which huge recruit- ing news was set to break for the Wolverines, he offered an assessment over the reason for the chatter. EXTRA VALUE Do-It-All Jabrill Peppers Is Michigan's MVP Peppers is just the second Wolverine to ever earn unanimous All-America honors at line- backer, joining Mike Taylor (1971). PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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