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Posted on Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan receiver Junior 'Big Play' Hemingway concludes winding career as Sugar Bowl MVP

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway pulls in his second touchdown catch of the Sugar Bowl over the head of Virginia Tech's Antone Exum.

Melanie Maxwell |

There are a lot of people who say bowls are meaningless.

Those people should take a look at Junior Hemingway as he accepted his MVP trophy after the Sugar Bowl.

Hemingway is a fifth-year senior, party to a Michigan football class that is the first since the 1920s to play for three head coaches at the school. They'll be remembered for the depths to which they sank, and the ability to still triumph.

On a day little went right for the Wolverines' offense, Hemingway, the team's leading receiver, had just two catches. They both went for touchdowns — Michigan's only touchdowns — in a 23-20, overtime win against Virginia Tech.

It all came to a head on that stage near midfield of the Superdome.

"It shows our hard work," Hemingway said, caressing his trophy, head bowed, voice cracking, tears streaming down his face. "It shows everything we put in from Day One, all the long days, long nights. Man, I'm telling you, it feels too good, man. Too good."

It didn't always feel good against Virginia Tech, as the offense sputtered to fewer than 200 yards, its worst production of the year, and had difficulty sustaining drives.

But Hemingway capped the Wolverines' longest drive of the day with a 45-yard touchdown catch, grabbing the ball just moments before Virginia Tech safety Eddie Whitley swooped in for a possible interception. That gave Michigan its first lead, 7-6, in the second quarter.

“I heard the safety coming over; I didn't know if he was going to take me out or what," Hemingway said. "Snatched the ball in there, ran it in for six.”

Hemingway's second catch came early in the third quarter, when he went up high for the ball deep in the back of the end zone. It was reminiscent of a play late against Iowa, when Hemingway went up for a possible game-tying score, but officials ruled the play an incomplete pass and Michigan lost the game.

Not this time, as Hemingway dragged one foot in bounds for the Wolverines' final touchdown, helping to ensure the loss against the Hawkeyes would be the last for Team 132.

“It was an all-goal play and I got behind the safety, and I was thinking in my head: 'Please, Denard, throw this up, please, I want you to so bad,'" Hemingway said. "And he threw it up. He threw it up. And I made a play on it."

Hemingway finished with only those two grabs, but they were big ones, further bolstering the nickname teammates have bestowed upon him: "Big Play Hemingway."

He averaged 20.6 yards per catch this year, third most in the country. Eleven of his 34 receptions went for at least 25 yards.

Hemingway finished with 34 catches for 699 yards and four touchdowns this year, all career highs.

Touchdown No. 1:

Touchdown No. 2:

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

For those who aren't quite ready to close the book on the 2011 season, I point you to this: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> There's some remarkable analysis -- offense and defense --in that post. Also a few naughty words. ;)


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

To me, there are two big questions going into 2012: (1) Will Denard improve as a passing QB? (2) If not (1), then will Borges give up and use Robinson in a different capacity? For (2) I don't necessarily mean lining him up at slot or whatever. He can stay QB. But if he's not good at being a pocket passer, then don't use him as a pocket passer. Give up on the experiment and go back to a pure spread read option with Robinson. Or go with Gardner and ask Robinson to play another role. I think the offensive line will be better than you project, but that's just my opinion.


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

Pretty good stuff Don. It's the kind of actual analysis that this site woefully lacks. That's what happens when you have a bunch of fluff writers with little or no understanding of football. They pretty much write whatever the UM athletic department hands them. Sometimes I think Brandon runs this web site. I am pretty sure they ( answer to him. Back to the mgoblog. It pretty much showed the offensive line getting blown out and Denard's inability to execute the required pass. With an inexperienced o-line and Denard coming back, this doesn't bode well for the 2012 season.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 6:56 p.m.

Dubious honor for a player on a team that SHOULDN'T have even played in the game.


Sun, Jan 8, 2012 : 5:01 a.m.

someone needs a hug.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

Why the cynicism? Sour grapes, eh? And who are you to decide what team plays in which bowl game? Off you go.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

cry me a river...


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

The highest compliment I could pay any receiver is to say: He reminds me of Lynn Swan. THAT is exactly what I thought when I first saw Junior Hemingway go for an &quot;impossible&quot; catch and make it. I could say the same thing about Hemingway and Jerry Rice. This guy is one great receiver and his career in the NFL will prove that. Thanks, Junior Hemingway, for all you endured and all you gave to the Michigan Wolverines and Wolverines fans.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

Michigan receiver Junior 'Big Play' Hemingway concludes winding career as Sugar Bowl MVP Is that headline in English? What exactly does &quot;concludes winding career&quot; mean?


Wed, Jan 11, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

I dunno, like long and winding road?


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

I think they're trying to reference the fact that RR's system put Hemingway and Roundtree somewhat in the background. Remember: we haven't had the greatest QB passing to help receivers, either. LOL!


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

Junior, as a Summerville resident, I have watched you throughout your career at Michigan, and you have been one of the best.I wish you luck in whatever you do in life. I'm sure you will be successful. Thanks for the excitement over the years.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.

J Hemingway was the only guy to get anything against that Hokie defense. Two catches for 2 touchdowns. What a great ending to a fine career.

Stephen Landes

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

I just finished reading John Bacon's book, &quot;Three and Out&quot;, so I have the whole Michigan career of this group of seniors in my head like a fresh memory of four years compressed compressed into as many days. The book leaves this group of players on the cusp of Brady Hoke's arrival: what a comparison one can make of their early years and this incredible season they completed in the sugar Bowl. The story is incidentally about Rich Rod, but primarily about the players, their determination to succeed, and perseverance, and their love for each other. Seeing all of that come through in the Sugar Bowl victory is wonderful to watch. Some people call the victory and &quot;ugly win&quot;, but to me it was a beautiful win demonstrating the very best in the Michigan tradition.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

Agreed that Bacon's excellent book highlighted the character and integrity of Junior and his teammates. These players who persevered through turmoil during the time of RichRod, though he was not accepted by some as a &quot;Michigan Man,&quot; themselves personified the very concept of Michigan Men. Congratulations and best wishes to Junior Hemingway and the other graduating seniors.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 5:27 p.m.

@Scott - &quot;Mr. Bacon could write another great book just about this remarkable season.&quot; Indeed. If not Bacon, them someone. I'd title it, &quot;First and Goal&quot;


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Mr. Bacon could write another great book just about this remarkable season.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

No doubt Junior Hemingway was the difference in the Sugar Bowl game. His two catches were the best since Barylon Edwards vs MSU. Too bad Junior did not get the wear the #1 Jersey. Well done; Michigan Man!


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

TH, Thanks for your time at Michigan. The most important thing accomplished was you faced adversity and never gave up. A true &quot;Michigan Man&quot; You stayed and became a champion. Good Luck where ever you travel. Go Blue!


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

After a 15-22 beginning in his first three seasons, Hemingway has helped lead this group of seniors to an overall winning record (26-24) in their four years. Not a great record, but a winning one nonetheless. Considering how poorly things started for this group, to go out with an overall winning record is quite an accomplishment. I feel that this group will go down in history as a group that never gave up and, against all odds, left as BCS bowl champions. They truly epitomized the saying, &quot;Those Who Stay Will Be Champions.&quot; Go Blue!!!


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

..thanks Hemingway.. wish you were a &quot;junior&quot;.. hope to see you on sundays.. Go Blue! v


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

That endzone pass and catch was nice. Either TD or incomplete, but little chance of INT unless some freak-of-nature tip occurred. I wonder whether that would have been caught back in the old days of bare-handed receivers? I wonder how much those gloves help with catching balls with the hands?


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

Well, they had to give it to somebody.

Theo's Brother

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

10% of life is what happens to you. 90% is how you respond to it. Persistance and dedication. He epitomizes that. Well done Junior, you have indeed left a legacy. GO BLUE!!!


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

Is Hemingway NFL bound?


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

Id bet that some teams are definitely going to give him a chance, I just worry that he doesnt run well enough to play at that level. But id love to see him get a shot, and maybe make a squad.


Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

Maybe. Possibly. If not there is always Canada. The average salary is only $55k but it comes with health insurance, pension, a little fame and a lot of nice people.