The Wolverine

January 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 26 of 75

JANUARY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 27 BY CHRIS BALAS L owell Perry. Ron Kramer. Jim Mandich. Eric Kattus. Der- rick Walker. Jerame Tuman and Bennie Joppru — all are former Michigan tight ends consid- ered to be the best U-M has had to offer over the years. Each is now look- ing up at Jake Butt (Perry, Kramer and Mandich from the Great Beyond), the Wolverines' new career leader for catches and yards by a tight end. When Jim Harbaugh took his first collegiate coaching job at San Di- ego, his former coach and mentor Bo Schembechler asked him only two questions … "are you going to have a fullback?" and "are you going to have a tight end?" Harbaugh assured Schembechler that yes, he would employ both, and he was true to his word. He turned Coby Fleener into a star at Stanford, and Butt's eyes lit up when he learned Harbaugh would be the one to coach him at Michigan. Two years later, almost all of his dreams have come true. Butt earned the Kwalick-Clark Tight End Award for the second straight year, recogniz- ing him as the Big Ten's best at his position, and was the team's Big Ten Sportsmanship award recipient. He won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end, and was the team's second-leading receiver with 43 receptions for 518 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season. He is Michigan's all-time leader among tight ends in career receiving yards (1,618) and career receptions (135). "It's a great honor at such a historical program like this to be the No. 1 guy," Butt said after the 59-3 win over Maryland, Nov. 6, when he caught five passes for 76 yards to pass Mandich for first all time at U-M with 1,521 career receiving yards "I want to just give credit to my teammates, though. It's a collective ef- fort. It's not a one-man record. The O- line, the receivers and running backs, the coaches and defense, the special teams — all the credit to those guys. "Whatever awards we get, those are team awards. We've got a lot of guys very deserving of a lot of awards. A rising tide raises all ships is what Coach Harbaugh says, so it's great for the team." After a day in which both sides of the ball dominated and there were several worthy recipients for player of the game honors, head coach Jim Har- baugh called Butt to the front of the locker room following the Maryland game and gave him the honor. "We gave Jake a game ball after the game. You talk about Kramer and Mandich and Kattus — some tremen- dous tight ends have come through here," Harbaugh said. "And I know I'm leaving some out. "Most yards by a tight end in the history of Michigan football. That's a great accomplishment." THE LONG JOURNEY Few might have guessed Butt would rewrite the Michigan tight end record book. Though listed as a generous 6-6, 230 pounds as a senior in high school (he was closer to 210), he needed to add plenty of weight and strength to compete at the Big Ten level. He knew it from the first day he arrived. "That first workout, I really strug- gled through it," Butt recalled about the fall of 2013. Then there was the case of loyalties and family ties. Ohio State was al- ways his No. 1 team — he grew up in Pickerington, Ohio, just outside of Co- lumbus — and Michigan wasn't even his No. 2. His grandfather, Bob Lally, played at Notre Dame, and in three years with the Fighting Irish won two national titles and never lost a game. He never dropped one in high school either, Butt once reported, winning 63 straight … a fact that got him featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not! magazine. His mindset started to turn when Butt made it to Ann Arbor for Michi- gan's first-ever game under the lights in 2011. Butt had originally been scheduled to go to the Alabama-Penn State game, a fact he shared in an ar- ticle for former New York Yankees standout Derek Jeter 's The Players' Tribune website, but was talked into going to the Michigan game by one of his dad's friends. Plus, it was an opportunity to see his No. 2 team — the Irish — in action. Notre Dame got out to an early 14-0 lead and went up 24-7 in the second half, but U-M came back in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Denard Robinson capped off a furious comeback with an 80-yard drive and a touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree, and U-M had Butt's full attention. Four years later, Butt had opposing defenses' full at- tention. He excelled as a se- nior despite game plans to stop him, earning numerous All-America honors in addi- tion to his other awards, and caught five passes for 58 yards in a disputed loss at Ohio State, his last trip home as a Wolverine. Three Pickerington natives — Butt, senior teammate and defensive end Taco Charlton, and OSU captain and center Pat Elflein — were on the field, a source of pride for Butt and the small town outside Columbus. Butt left knowing the Wolverines had largely outplayed the Buckeyes, but bad breaks and controversial officiat- ing robbed him of his chance to go out a winner against the team that barely gave him a sniff in the recruit- ing process. "I watched the film," he said days later. "It hurt. It definitely hurts. I know the big thing people want to Butt won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end after hauling in 43 catches for 518 yards and four scores dur- ing the regular season. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Jake Butt In The Michigan Tight End Record Book Jake Butt has made his mark in the Michigan career record book and still has one game to add to it. His accomplishments: Career Receptions: No. 1, 135 Career Receiving Yards: No. 1, 1,618 Career Receiving Touchdowns: No. 2, 11 Season Receptions: No. 2, 51 (2015) Season Receiving Yards: No. 3, 654 (2015) Season Receiving Yards: No. 9, 518 (2016) Season Receiving Touchdowns: No. 9, 4 (2016) Redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight on Butt "He's the type of player who will live on once he's done here at Michigan."

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