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Posted on Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

Scenes from the Michigan football tailgates: Who sent in the Stormtroopers?

By Ben Freed


Mike Alexander stands with his football helmet collection, worth between $4,000 and $5,000 dollars, outside Pioneer High School.

Ben Freed |


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    On a football Saturday in Ann Arbor, tailgaters gather from all over the state, the region, the country and the world.

    Spread out across neighborhoods, golf courses, and the Pioneer High School parking lot, partiers gather with food, drinks, music and televisions to celebrate Michigan football. capture these vignettes before Saturday's home opener against Central Michigan University.

    Helmets galore:

    Mike Alexander’s helmet collection looks like it would be more at home in a museum than at a tailgate.

    “I started bringing the helmets down two years ago, and we’re undefeated at home since then, so I’ll keep bringing ‘em until they lose,” he said.

    Alexander, from Swartz Creek, said he first fell in love with Michigan because of Bob Ufer, the beloved Michigan football radio announcer who died in 1981, Alexander has been coming to every home game for the past 12 years.

    Set up in front of the food and televisions, his helmet collection spans generations of Michigan teams, and Alexander estimates it’s likely worth between $4,000 and $5,000, though he says some of the helmets are irreplaceable.

    “I can’t pick a favorite, they’re all so great,” he said. “Just the winged helmet. It’s so unique. It really stands alone.”

    The helmets are just a small part of a Michigan collection that Alexander said contains a large number of model cars, model trucks, bobbleheads, clocks and other Michigan memorabilia.

    “I wouldn’t dare say how much my full collection is worth. At least not in front of my wife,” he said.

    “It just keeps growing and growing. It’s usually better for me to ask for forgiveness after buying something than permission to do it beforehand.”

    On Lord Vader’s orders


    Jon Leopold shows off his Stormtrooper outfit outside Pioneer High School before the Michigan football game Saturday.

    Ben Freed |

    Jon Leopold is easy to spot at Michigan football games, and if you don’t see him, you can certainly hear him.

    For the last 10 years, Leopold has been attending home games dressed as a "Star Wars" Stormtrooper and eight years ago he gave the outfit a full maize and blue makeover.

    “I come to about half of the home games in the outfit,” he said through a microphone that filters his voice to make him sound like an actual character from the George Lucas movies.

    “We’ve never lost a game that I’ve come to as a Stormtrooper.”

    In addition to home games, Leopold, who works for Ford Motor Company, also takes the outfit to Mott Children’s Hospital to entertain patients.

    “It’s a lot of fun interacting with the kids, I’ll be going back and doing it again later in September,” he said.

    Leopold said he won’t be able to attend the Notre Dame game next week due to a wedding, but he’s hoping that the outfit’s good luck will rub off on the team when he attends the official pep rally Friday night.

    “It’s the first time I’ve done something official with the athletic department,” he said. “So that should be a lot of fun."

    Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2

  • Comments


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 4:57 p.m.

    The helmets collection is really cool. Keep coming Mike, you are good luck.


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 11:16 a.m.

    Question of the Day Will Mr. Alexander some day be embarrassed that he ever wore that outfit?

    Honest Abe

    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 1:52 a.m.

    If people cared about other people as much as they do Michigan football, the world would be a better place. I HATE UM football! These fans would take a football game over a starving mouth any day.


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 11:18 p.m.

    Abe, If you dislike U of M football so much why are you viewing Michigan football tailgates? Do something you like. Watch paint dry for example.


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

    Honest Abe; Ohio (State) fans are the absolute worst. It is difficult to see your point of view because Michigan fans are probably the middle of the road compared to other Big Ten and SEC football programs. I try to keep it perspective.


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 10:12 a.m.

    Abe - do you work in soup kitchens in lieu of hobbies and vacation?


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 4:25 a.m.

    Yes, shame on people for having fun.(sarcasm) I hate your false piety. Nothing is so bad as holier-than-thou types who get off lecturing others on their supposed moral failures. Truly decent human beings don't waste their time lecturing, but doing. Hopefully, someday you will realize this.


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 2:46 a.m.

    Let them eat cake.


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 2:18 a.m.

    Get off my lawn!


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

    Millions of years of evolution have led to this ....


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 3:12 p.m.

    You do know that head is another name for a toilet?


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 2:44 a.m.

    Maybe that's the real reason they closed Main St - it was coming to a head.


    Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 8:15 p.m.

    Wow...that's time and money well spent...


    Sun, Sep 1, 2013 : 1:01 a.m.

    Seems better than people who shop as a hobby... To each their own. I imagine we're all spending money on something that seems frivolous to the next guy.


    Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 9:37 p.m.

    Huh. My comment above was supposed to be surrounded by fake "Sheldon Cooper" HTML tags, but I guess this site ditches anything between angle brackets that it doesn't understand.


    Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

    Is that sarcasm?