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Posted on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 4 p.m.

Catching Up With ... former Michigan running back Tim Biakabutuka

By Michael Rothstein


Michigan tailback Tim Biakabutuka became part of the Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry lore when he rushed for 313 yards in a 31-23 upset of Ohio State in 1995. (Ann Arbor News file photo)

Welcome to "Catching Up With..." an occasional feature here at where we chat with someone who used to be involved with Michigan athletics. If there's someone you'd like to see catch up with, e-mail

Tshimanga "Tim" Biakabutuka spent three seasons in the Michigan backfield and still holds the program's single-season rushing record with 1,818 yards in 1995. He finished his college career in 1996 in 10th place in career rushing yards with 2,810 yards.

He was taken with the No. 8 pick of the 1996 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers, where he spent five injury-filled seasons. He now owns two fast food restaurants. caught up with Biakabutuka earlier this summer.

Q: What have you been up to the past few years?

Tim Biakabutuka: “Trying to be a businessman. I’ve been trying different ventures. I’m in the Bojangles fast food business in Augusta, Ga., I’ve got a couple of places there. Just being a businessman and trying to figure my way out in life after football.”

Q: Did you think you’d go into business after football? How’d that come about for you?

TB: “I always had a desire to be involved in business and I think a lot of athletes have the same desire. One, because we don’t know any better. We don’t know how tough it is. I had a mentor who was the owner of the Panthers (Jerry Richardson, who opened the first Hardee's franchise in 1961). He became a mentor and he is the reason why I got myself in the Bojangles business. He and some partners bought into the brand and he thought it was a good fit for me to get involved in. … It’s very tough, much tougher than football, being in business. I have good support. I made mistakes and I learned from them and I have got a bunch of mentors that are caring and are spending time helping me. The transition has been tough but it has been enjoyable.”

Q: You say it’s harder than you think. What's the lesson you've learned?

TB: “In football, especially in my case, football came pretty easy when you work hard and you have your natural, God-given ability take over and you are willing to pay the price and work hard. In business, a lot of it has to do with being willing to start at the bottom and learn and to realize what you don’t know. Sometimes, because you did something well, you automatically think you’ll do everything well. But it’s two different beasts. In business, there are so many moving parts. In football, you start when you are young and you develop over a long time and then you reach that level. Those guys start playing when they are 8 years old. I started playing when I was 16, but still there were six years before I got to the professional level. In business, you’ve got to be able to start at the bottom.

"The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be humble, be willing to learn and get your hands dirty. And understand what makes your business work and listen and listen and learn. Listen and take as much as you can from people that have been out there. It’s a different game. Until you learn and you ask questions, you don’t grasp it. But once you grasp it and you’re persistent and you work hard, a lot of the elements are the same in football and in business. But the mental part of business is different than football. There’s a lot of learning and a lot of skills. You get a lot from people who have built businesses from the ground up and you realize how much work and detail and sacrifice it takes. The resiliency and hard work and sacrifice, the working through downs and ups and keep pushing is similar to football. So it’s a natural transition but it requires a different type of ability.”

Q: Where do you see your future in business going? Do you know yet?

TB: “God willing, I have a bunch of these locations, these fast-food businesses I enjoy. It’s a lot of teamwork, which I’m confident with, and hopefully we can just keep growing the business. It’s doing pretty well, but we are a young company, getting the right people on board and bringing them in and trying to get them to buy into your vision and your goals and working together. So far, it’s going pretty well.”

Q: One football thing. When you look back on your football career, both college and pro, what’s the one memory that stands out to you?

TB: “When I got into the pros I got plagued by a lot of injuries and I never got to do what I wanted to do. ... Today I was going through my rookie cards because I have a bunch of boxes of my trading cards and I was cleaning my garage. You have the sense of unfulfilled expectations and not doing what you thought you could do because of injuries. ... You worked hard, but the uncontrollable came back and got you in the end. So you look back and have that unfulfilled dream.

"You look back in college and you remember the fun and you remember the camaraderie, a bunch of little kids with little money in their pockets playing hard for each other and still have that friendship. When I went back to the golf tournament, some of the guys you play with, it just reminds you how much of a good time that part of your life comes with. For everybody, I’m sure, college is the best time of your life. Even in the pros, college was that time, the best time of my life. So I’m very, very happy to have it as a Wolverine.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein


Brian M.

Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 2 p.m.

The game against OSU was my first Michigan game. I'll never forget it. I seem to remember a lot of talk about how smart he was back in the day and how he spoke a ton of languages. Good to see he's finding his way in the business world.


Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 10:13 a.m.

Awesome interview. Actually, you can give credit to WolverineHistorian's YouTube channel for this video.

Dan Pritts

Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 8:33 a.m.

Biakabatuka and the offensive line really transcended that day. Sad the NFL didn't work out for him, but I'm glad he's seeing some success. @Macabre - it's a lot of work running any small business, and there are a million things to screw up. Sounds like he found a few of them. I attended that game with my cousin and best friend (both OSU grads, alas). The trash talk before the game was pretty bad, as you might imagine. They shut up pretty early :) A girl came in late, solo, and sat next to us; I never saw her before or since but by the end of the game we were jumping up and down hugging each other.


Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 8:27 a.m.

I'm glad to see the story mention his real first name because it reminds me of a story one of my professors at Michigan told us. The professor had TB as a student and one day asked him why he didn't use his real first name. His response was that he didn't want to make others feel uncomfortable by having to try saying such a difficult name. TB has a very interesting life story and it's good to hear him doing well. As an aside, I've ate at Bojangles before and wouldn't mind TB bringing that up here to the north country.


Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 6:45 a.m.

That game is on my top 1000. Actually, I don't have a favorite I love em all and I find the current program under RR is most fascinating. For you complainers that don't understand my reasoning it is very simple, the rebuilding process especially now is what has kept me coming back all these years not the winning that's just frosting boys and girls. Beating up the big 10 all these years actually bored me, oh I can see where the complainers can't handle adversity or a work of art in progress just becuase they, the complainers don't understand what the game is really about which is not winning but learning to live life through adversity and the rewards at the end of the hard work and effort, it is also about patience which you better have in this world or your going to be in for a life of anxiety and disappointment. Winning is fine but winning comes automatically after hard work and patience. I want to see these young men molded and shaped into the best they can be, RR is doing that and don't think for 1 hot minute that these young men have not noticed how RR has stood his ground and through all of his own mistakes RR has shown, no quiting, keep fighting, keep the hard work ethic these are attributes that unfortunately our quitters have failed to understand.

Sean T.

Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 12:27 a.m.

His Middle name is "Tshimanga Joseph". Yeah, my Aunt was really Ticked-off!


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 10:31 p.m.

An all time great UM player who played perhaps the single greatest game in the history of UM football. That day he sliced and diced the defense of the (previously) unbeaten Buckeyes defense and completley outshined Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George was a memory I will never forget. To top it off, I was at that game with my brother sitting right next to a completely cocky OSU fan who thought the Bucks and George were just going to come to the Big House and walk through UM. As Tim ran wild, my brother and I kept yelling things like "Somebody here deserves the Heisman, but it ain't Eddie George!" and "Eddie Who?" The Buck fan was so mad by the end of the game he was yelling at his girlfriend over nothing and screaming at UM fans to "Shut Up!" Ahh...a priceless memory indeed. Thanks Biakabatuka!

David Briegel

Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 9:28 p.m.

Macabre, I disagree as usual! Sean, did he name him Tshimanga or Tim? mjwinkle, and it wasn't future Heisman winner Eddie George!! chuck, ain't folklore just great?, Thank you very much for the wonderful video!! His jubilant post game celebration is priceless!! Can you imagine?


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 9:21 p.m.

That game is on my top 5 I was able to attend, ranks up there with AC's catch against Indianan and Desmond's fourth down touchdown catch.


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 8:47 p.m.

Oh for the days of Touchdown Tim to return...


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 8:39 p.m.

I still get a chill thinking about the day he torched OSU for 313. Every OSU fan I know can resite that yardage number!


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 8:13 p.m.

Michael Rothstein, this is great "Welcome to Catching Up With..." keep these features coming!


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 6:41 p.m.

Some good memories but some good stuff coming with RR coaching and a new fast style en route.


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 5:40 p.m.

I remember in his post game interview he siad he just wanted to show everyone in the country who the best running back was that day.


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 5:22 p.m.

I agree all the previous comments. Great credit should go to the offense line and the offensive coordinator. But, Tim's efforts was one of true folklore against a supposed better team. Maybe this year will be the break out year for the young wolverines.

David Briegel

Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 4:58 p.m.

Simply one of the greatest performances in Michigan history. What a great guy! Who could ever forget "Touchdown Tim"? I saw Ron Johnson run through the slop against Wis and I can't imagine anything better than what Biakabatuka did that day. Much credit to Jon Runyan and the great blocking of his teammates. That sunny day in Michigan history will never, ever be forgotten by those of us who were fortunate enough to bear witness.


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 4:51 p.m.

I'd like to know his opinion of Rich Rod and how low the program has sunk.


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

Payroll, advertising, employee scheduling etc. i would think it's a lot harder than most people think. But then again i think most things are.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 4:41 p.m.

That was a wonderful surprise, Biakabutuka just destroying the OSU defense, again and again. I miss those days when Michigan football was competitive. I'm puzzled why running a fast food franchise is so difficult, it's not like there aren't plenty of formulas to follow. This wasn't the most positive follow-up article.

3 And Out

Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 4:19 p.m.

The days of Michigan RBs putting up dominating performances and season totals like what TB did.... are long gone under this current offense.

Sean T.

Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 4:19 p.m.

My Uncle liked him so much that he named my cousin after him. The Family misses your explosive running style! Go Blue


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 3:28 p.m.

Nice article. I'll never forget that game. Biakabatuka absolutely shredded Ohio State's defense in that game. He had an unreal game. One attribute he had was amazing acceleration out of the backfield. I haven't seen any Michigan backs since then that have compared in quick first steps after the snap. Plus, he was decisive in running. Too many less successful backs wait too long looking for a hole. He would make a quick decision and run full speed ahead - that's a big reason he did so well. It was too bad his pro career was so injury plagued. I'm glad he's doing fine running his own business. Good luck to him and thanks for the memories!


Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 3:23 p.m.

Sad becasue he was looking good in Carolina but those injuries kept coming and coming. But hey, he's getting his business on, seems like he's doing well.