Michigan's Ryan Van Bergen, and his illustrious hair, finishes career as de facto captain
NEW ORLEANS — Ryan Van Bergen's name won't be found anywhere on the Schembechler Hall wall that honors past Michigan football captains.
That doesn't make him any less of a team leader.
The Whitehall, Mich., native is a fifth-year senior who has become an imposing force on the Michigan football team's defensive line. He has 41 tackles, and his 12 tackles for loss lead the team — four more than anyone else.
He has a team-high five sacks, four pass break-ups, three quarterback hits, three fumble recoveries and one fumble forced.
Yet, his biggest impact isn't a stat at all. It's his leadership.
Still, there was Van Bergen, only another vote or two away, a technicality he hasn't allowed to diminish his role as a team leader.
"I still felt a tremendous amount of responsibility for leadership, so Coach Hoke treats me like a captain," he said. "The fact I won’t be on the wall doesn’t make a big difference to me. I just want to be a leader on the team."
Van Bergen was one of two players to speak to the media each week this season, and became a team spokesman on many of the most difficult subjects. He became a face of the program, and one that people have begun to recognize.
He said he heard chants of "Go Blue!" every time he walked down Bourbon Street, the hub of New Orleans nightlife, even though he often wasn't wearing Michigan gear.
Of course, it also could have been "Flow" — the pet name he's given his long, blonde hair.
"Everywhere I've been, if I've been out on the streets, someone has come up to me and given me the 'Go Blue,'" Van Bergen said. "I think it's the hair. The thing about being recognized is most people can do it only straight on.
"But, with Flow, you've got the profile and even the back, too. It's kind of a 360-recognizable."