The Wolverine

September 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Linebacker Sam Sword Now Teaches The Lessons He Learned At Michigan lades over the years, even predating his playing days at U-M. He was a second-team prep All-American at Saginaw (Mich.) Arthur Hill before becoming a first-team All-Big Ten line- backer in 1997, one of the Wolverines' best-ever tacklers and the Roger Zat- koff Award winner as Michigan's best linebacker in 1997 and 1998 before en- joying a four-year NFL career. Now a math teacher and advisor at F ormer Michigan linebacker Sam Sword has earned several acco- BY CHRIS BALAS Hastings Youth Academy, a juvenile center for high-risk youth near Palm Coast, Fla., Sword has added "mentor" to his lengthy list of accomplishments, calling it one of his most important yet. One of his duties in that role is to teach, and one of the lessons he preaches is that everybody makes mistakes — it's learning from them that helps define an individual. Sword himself was a regular mem- ber of the pre-breakfast club for way- ward Wolverines, at least early in his career. Young and admittedly naïve, he came to Michigan after flirting heavily with Michigan State, where some of his former Saginaw Arthur Hill team- mates played. Head coach Lloyd Carr wouldn't give up on him, however, making frequent visits and staying in contact during his recruitment. Like many 17- or 18-year-olds, Sword finished his career with 377 tackles — which ranks eighth on Michigan's all-time list — and was twice named the Wolverines' top linebacker (1997 and '98). PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN just awesome. I know that I can call him and that if I don't call and check in, I know he'll check in expecting me to call him. It's great to have that rela- tionship with your coach." The tutelage is one of the reasons Sword had illusions of playing and starring early on the biggest stage. He'd sulk at times when things didn't go his way, not realizing what he grew to know when he got older — when he was getting lectured, he was being taught lessons that would help him on the field and in life. "I was a frequent visitor to the 6 a.m. Stadium club," he quipped. "But Lloyd, he's my second father up there. I'm blessed to have two, my dad big Sam in Saginaw and Lloyd in Ann Ar- bor. I think we really got close when I was in trouble at Michigan, walking and talking to him those mornings, just getting to know him, him getting to know me even more. "We have a lifelong friendship that's 92 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2012 that Sword has dedicated a good por- tion of his life to helping underprivi- leged and troubled youth. He was a frequent visitor to Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor during his playing days, bringing smiles to kids' faces when he wasn't devoting time to school or football. He became a fixture in the community during NFL stints in Oakland and Indianapolis over four years, talking with children about stay- ing on the straight and narrow and finding outlets to stay out of trouble. Sports happened to be Sword's es- cape growing up in Montgomery, Ala., and during his high school years in Saginaw. Both cities proved to have their challenges and, like most kids, Sword had his moments of weakness. Though he avoided the worst of it, two of his brothers and six nephews spent time in prison. Four of the latter are still locked up in Alabama, he noted somberly. and Saginaw, two areas where there's a lot of trouble, I wanted to do some- thing to help kids and prevent them from getting in trouble where I would be doing them a service," he said. "I felt I was blessed to come from the type of environment I came from, to be able to play college football and go to a big school like the University of Michigan. I want to help the young kids realize there are consequences be- hind decisions they make, and there's a better way. It doesn't really matter where you come from. To me, that's an excuse. "Me, I just got involved with sports "After growing up in Montgomery at a young age. I followed my brother to baseball practice one day and from there I just caught the bug. Now I'm teaching kids it doesn't even have to be sports — just find something to do af- ter school, join a club. I will encourage them to participate in a sport, because you learn how to work with other peo- ple, the value of teamwork and being accountable for your actions. There are a lot of life lessons you can learn." The value of selflessness, for exam- ple. Michigan's 1994 team might have

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