Inside the Michigan Bust: Highlights from the Wolverines' postseason banquet
LIVONIA -- Quarterback Denard Robinson captivated fans with his singular athletic ability.
Safety Jordan Kovacs needed two student-body tryouts just to make the team.
Two very different players.
Both honorable Michigan captains.
Robinson and Kovacs were big draws Monday night at the Wolverines' 92nd football bust at Laurel Manor. Kovacs wrestled the team's MVP honor away from Robinson, who captured it the past two years, but both delivered impassioned speeches detailing their individual journeys to stardom.
Some highlights from Kovacs' turn at the podium, which began by coach Brady Hoke saying he looked like an accountant:
"Just for the record, I look better than accountant, and if Coach Hoke keeps humiliating me, I'm no longer going to hold his hand on the sideline.
"I'd first like to thank (Rich) Rodriguez for allowing a slow, unathletic and undersized kid a chance to play football at the University of Michigan. That was really nice of him to allow Drew Dileo to play football here.
"I'd like to thank (the training staff) for all the voo-doo they performed on me, and a special thanks to (trainer Paul Schmidt) for kicking me off the team (because I failed a physical), because trying out for this team once simply wasn't enough.
"I'd like to thank (sports information director Justin Dickens) and the rest of the media relations staff for forcing me to talk to the media on a daily basis, and for flying me out to Arkansas -- Springdale, Ark., mind you -- to watch myself lose an award (earlier today).
"I'd like to thank coach (Aaron) Wellman and the rest of the training staff for molding me into the physical specimen that stands before you tonight.
"I'd like to thank you guys and the rest of the fans as I developed from a young, slow, physically insufficient football player to an old, slow, physically insufficient football player.
"I'm actually going to try to get serious now, so we'll see how this transition goes. I'd like to thank Dave Brandon and the rest of the athletic department for everything they've done for the best university in the nation. I'd like to thank Coach Hoke, Coach (Greg Mattison), Coach (Curt Mallory) and the rest of the staff for furthering my development as a football player. I can honestly say we have the best coaching staff in America, and it's been a privilege playing for them the past two years.
"I'd like to thank my teammates for their commitment to each other over the past four years. We've had our ups and downs, but we've never wavered and I commend them for that. I love each and every one of these guys, and I can't wait to take the field with them one last time.
"And Devin (Gardner), please stop texting me. I'm not going to give you a shoutout.
"Last but not least, I'd like to thank my parents, Lou and Sue Kovacs. Several years ago, I was just another kid with a silly dream to play football at the University of Michigan. However, through the values they instilled in me, and through their love and support, that dream became a reality. A dream that is not so silly today.
"These past four years have been a dream for me. They've had their ups and downs, but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way because it was those points of adversity that made me the man I am today -- and I'm pretty damn proud of it.
"There are many things I'm proud to call myself. I'm proud to call myself a Michigan football player. I'm proud to call myself a walk-on. I'm proud to call myself a Sugar Bowl champion. I'm proud to call myself a captain of Team 133. But more than anything -- more than anything -- I'm proud to call myself a Michigan Man."
Fellow captain Denard Robinson, who was named the team's MVP the previous two years before injuries derailed this season, followed Kovacs with the final senior speech:
"I want to say thank you to God because without Him, my story wouldn't have come true. I went from Deerfield, Fla., to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, making a lot of fuss. I want to say thank you to my parents, Dorothea Robinson and Thomas Robinson, for giving me everything, just giving me an opportunity to not have to worry about a lot. I want to say thank you to my brothers and (sister) for showing me the ropes, and just showing me how to be humble. I was the second-to-youngest, so I could never get away with anything because they were always on top of me. I want to say thank you to Coach Rod for giving me an opportunity to play at the University of Michigan.
"I want to say thank you to Coach Hoke and his staff, because they gave me an opportunity to play quarterback and continue my goals and my dreams. To be honest with you, I want to say thank you to (offensive coordinator Al Borges) for giving me the opportunity -- for him to deal with me, because I know there were millions of nights where he went home to his wife, talking trash about me, saying I was giving him headaches. I want to say thank you to his wife, because I know he's bugged you a lot about me.
"I want to say thank you to the training staff. ... I know I've been a lot, and you guys have helped me continue to be healthy.
"I want to say thank you to (offensive line coach Darrell Funk) because he did a great job with the offensive line, and I don't think I'd be anywhere without those guys. I want those guys to stand up right now, the whole offensive line, because without them I wouldn't be anything. Those guys do the real work. I'm the flashy guy, I guess, but those guys do all the tough jobs.
"I want to say thank you to the academic staff, because Megan (Walters), I know I can be a headache, I can be a free spirit and you can't get in contact with me, but thank you for actually staying on top of me. This winter, I'll be the first of my family to graduate from a four-year college. So I want to say thank you.
"I want to say thank you to (the strength staff). Thank you for teaching us everything is mental. If you have a broken leg, it's mental. You can play through it.
"I want to say thank you to Dave Brandon for bringing in Coach Hoke, bringing in a guy here to bring back the tradition, and showing us the ropes -- bringing back the old guys who used to be part of the tradition.
"I want to say thank you to Devin (Gardner) for stepping in and doing a great job and leading the team (after I hurt my elbow).
"It's been an honor working with you guys, and I wouldn't trade this for nothin' in the world, to be honest with you. Being here with you guys, I never thought in a million years I'd have so many brothers and I could depend on for whatever.
"Even though we didn't accomplish our goal of winning the Big Ten, we fought every time we stepped out on the field."
Some other highlights:
Jake Ryan, after winning the Roger Zatkoff Award for best linebacker: "I'd just like to thank my dad. I actually have to say that, because I just spilled coffee all over his brand-new shirt he let me borrow."
Receiver Roy Roundtree: "I would like to thank Coach Rod for giving me an opportunity to come to the best university in the whole country. ... I would like to thank Coach Hoke and this amazing coaching staff I've enjoyed since Day 1. They really established how important it is to be a Michigan Man, and I didn't have that at first, or got that vibe from my last coach. Once this coaching staff came in, I really felt what being a Michigan Man really was.
I got a text my senior year (of high school) saying, 'Oh man, you might get offered by Michigan.' I thought Mike Shaw and Brandon Moore were lying. But, it was the truth. So even though I was committed to Purdue, I was like, 'Man, I get that offer, I'm coming to Michigan.' I mean, I always watched Michigan. I was like, "Aw, yeah, that winged helmet will look good on me.'
"Another special man, (director of athletic counseling) Greg Harden -- I'm going to try to not get emotional. I told him I might cry, man, because ... sorry (crying) ... Mr. Greg Harden, thank you, cuz man, you pushed me. I came in as a freshman acting up, I rarely told my parents what was going on and you always had a positive influence in my life. I want to say thank you because without you, man, I don't even know if I'd still be at Michigan. You really pushed me to the limit. You made me see the right light to get where I'm at now. You made me face the toughest battles that I've overcome, and now with that said, I've graduated and I'm in grad school."
Defensive back Floyd Simmons: "Man, it's going to be tough to go after that, 'Tree. You big crybaby."
Tailback Vincent Smith: "I'd like to thank Coach Rodriguez for coming down to Pahokee, Fla., to recruit me to play at the best university in the nation. If it wasn't for that, I'd probably be (back in) Pahokee chasing rabbits trying to get fast. ... To sum up, I'd just like to say thanks, Coach Hoke, and Coach Jackson for the knowledge you taught me on and off the field, and also teaching a 175-pound back how to cut-block defensive ends."
Right guard Patrick Omameh: "If you're somebody who should be thanked and I don't mention you, chill. I forget things. ... I know what you're all thinking right now. Why's this man sweating so much? Bear with me. It's what I do. It's my trademark"
Center Elliott Mealer: "I'd like to thank my parents and my brothers, who have been unbelievable. As many of you know my story (about my father and girlfriend dying in a car crash), my father wasn't able to be here. But he's been a tremendous support for me, just like my mother has. I'd like to close with a quote he always gave me growing up: 'If you don't have good dreams, you have nightmares.' That was something I always kept in mind. With him being gone, it's something that's helped me since to no matter what the situation is, always have a positive attitude. Because that's really the only way you can look at things."