MIAMI, Fla. (WOOD) — As Jim Harbaugh and his teammates celebrated in the locker room after their 1986 Big Ten Championship, Andre McIntyre said, “Bo told me if I come here, those who stay will be champions and I’m a champion. And I feel good.”
They were the driving words for then head coach Bo Schembechler since he took over the Wolverines program in 1969.
Now, over 50 years later, they have a renewed confidence as the Wolverines find themselves as the Big Ten Champions and two wins away from a National Championship. But this Michigan team has redefined that motto. In a college game where most of the top athletes will never see four or more years at a university, the Wolverines are packed with veteran senior talent.
They have found their place in the Michigan program and given life to the banner that hangs in the locker room. Quarterback Cade McNamara is a prime example. He remembers being a red shirt freshman and never seeing any action, how the team culture was different and the “vibe” between players just wasn’t the same.
“When I think of those who stay will be champions, I just think of how far this program has come in the last two years, especially following last season, what a disappointment that was,” McNamara said. “It feels good that we can say that phrase with confidence now.”
Graduate student Linebacker Josh Ross says those words mean everything to this team.
“Coming in here as a young freshman earlier on, you see those words but you never really seen it acted out,” Ross said. “We were the ones who stuck it out, who stayed through the thick, who stayed through the good and bad times and got to the end of the road, and it means everything, and it feels good because we are champions and we’ve still got more work to do.”
Hassan Haskins’ journey to be a champion has been different than some of his teammates since he came as a freshman. He moved to linebacker before switching back to running back and become one of the top rushers and scorers in the country this season.
“The culture on this team definitely changed, and I’m loving it. Everybody has just been buying in, coaches, players, and we’re just all coming together. The energy is top tier,” Haskins said.
Star defensive lineman and Heisman runner-up Aidan Hutchinson says his journey isn’t much different than his teammates. He followed the motto. He stayed and they’re champions.
“We both stayed, we both grinded,” Hutchinson said as he looked towards Ross. “We are in it in the hard stuff, we are in the mud, and we came out, and now we’re both finishing up our careers and really putting a staple on our legacy here at Michigan, and now we’ve just got to finish the job.”
Both Hutchinson and Ross said they were also proud of coach Harbuagh for how he changed and adapted this past season to raise the bar to championship level.
“I mean, to do what he did this year, I think he brought in the perfect chemistry of guys this off-season in terms of coaches, in terms of our defensive staff, which was changed up a lot,” Hutchinson said. “And I think he found the perfect blend of guys, and it’s really what makes the team work.”
“To see how far he’s came, how far this team has came in the position we are now, I couldn’t be more proud of our head guy leading the way,” Ross said.