Michigan wide receiver Darryl Stonum earns Wolverines' trust on and off field
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
At age 87, Nettie Stonum boarded an airplane for the first time in her life last week for a flight from Houston to Detroit.
That experience was nothing compared to watching her grandson play for the Michigan football team in Michigan Stadium.
“A lot of the people in the stands were trying to calm her down, because they didn’t know if she was going to have a heart attack or what,” said junior wide receiver Darryl Stonum.
“From what I heard, she was screaming and jumping out of her wheelchair in the stands, and just having a good time.”
On the field, he led another kind of aerial display.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound receiver enjoyed a career afternoon, catching three passes for 121 yards and two momentum-changing touchdowns in Michigan’s 42-37 win over UMass. The first, a 66-yard bomb from Denard Robinson down the left sideline with 1 minute, 1 second left in the first half, narrowed the Wolverines’ deficit to 17-14.
“We knew all week the defense would key on Denard’s running, so he starts out and then kicks it back to me down the sideline,” Stonum said. “I just had to run past the cornerback.”
Forty-five seconds later, he scored again, catching a 9-yard touchdown that put Michigan (3-0) in the lead for good.
For Stonum, the game marked a personal breakthrough after two years of excelling mainly as a kickoff returner. He hopes to build on the momentum this week when the No. 21 Wolverines host Bowling Green (1-2) on Saturday at noon.
So far, Stonum has started all three games this season, and caught a team-high 12 passes for 188 yards. But it’s not only on the football field where he has matured.
In September 2008, his freshman year, police charged him with operating a vehicle while visibly impaired. In July, he was jailed for three nights in the Washtenaw County Jail for multiple probation violations.
Stonum doesn’t like to talk about his three nights in jail. “It’s a dark moment in my life, and I want to get rid of it,” he said.
But it’s clear the three-day stint marked a low point. Since then, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez seen a new resolve.
“When a guy messes up and everyone wants to throw them out to the wolves, it’s pleasing when you see a guy grow and mature, and he gets it,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes you think, ‘OK, he’s messed around for a year or two, and now he gets it.” It started clicking for Stonum immediately following the Ohio State game last year in Ann Arbor.
In the locker room, outgoing senior Greg Mathews took Stonum and Junior Hemingway aside. Mathews told them it was their turn to step into a leadership role, then went one step further.
“He gave us his gloves and helmet and said ‘it’s on you guys now,” Stonum said. “We kind of took that to heart. He passed the torch down to us, and I’m pretty sure Mario and Braylon had passed it down to him.”
Following the likes of Mario Manningham and Braylon Edwards to the NFL is an enticing prospect. For now, Stonum is concentrating on getting his act together and helping the 2010 Wolverines.
He wears five bracelets on each hand. He never removes them. They are reminders.
Several were earned during summer camp and bestowed upon him by coaches. They’re similar to Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong bracelets, except they’re blue and contain Wolverines slogans.
“These are our team thing,” Stonum says, showing them to reporters. “We kind of, we hold ourselves accountable to our teammates and coaches. This one, this one is ‘all in.’
“This one is, ‘you can count on me.’” For the first time in his Michigan career, he’s earned that trust on and off the field.
Pete Bigelow can be reached at (734) 623-2556 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.