Ohio State's Justin Boren ignores jeers, celebrates return to Michigan with win
But the Ohio State offensive lineman heard the things he expected he would in his return to Ann Arbor two years after leaving the Michigan football team for rival Ohio State.
As he has since his departure, Boren - who questioned the Michigan's family values under Rich Rodriguez - ignored the disparaging comments. It was a task made easier by the Buckeyes' 21-10 win over his former team that provided Ohio State an outright Big Ten championship.
"It doesn't get any better than that," Boren said as he left the field.
For the past week, Boren didn't read newspaper accounts of what was being said about him by his former Michigan teammates. Occasionally, his Ohio State linemates provided him snippets of what was being said in Ann Arbor.
He ignored it all.
"It just try and tune it out and concentrate on what I can concentrate on," Boren said during Ohio State's post-game press conference . "You hear things and you just laugh in the back of your head and at the end of the game, it's whatever."
Boren said his mother worried about what awaited him Saturday, when he made his first trip into Michigan Stadium as a member of Ohio State's roster. Despite Boren's comfort level in his return after leaving nearly two years ago, Buckeyes' coach Jim Tressel said he imagined Boren keeping focused on his job wasn't always easy.
"I'm sure he's glad this day is over because he has a lot of great feelings for Michigan and it runs deep in his feeling," Tressel said. "So I'm glad he feels as if he came in and competed and we came away with a win. But I'm sure he's glad it's over."
Boren's emotions only got the best of him once Saturday. On Brandon Saine's 29-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Boren pancaked defensive tackle Mike Martin, who Boren said had been talking throughout the game.
"I'm not usually one to talk, but I got caught up in the moment," Boren said.
Boren called his return to Ann Arbor "interesting," seeing the stadium renovations and Michigan's new indoor practice facility for the first time. He spoke briefly with some former teammates - including former quarterback Chad Henne. And although the chatter on the field wasn't as intense as he thought it might be, Boren doesn't understand the feelings some fans maintain for him.
One sign greeted Boren reading, "Matt Damon's Latest Film Trilogy, The Boren Quitter, The Boren Traitor, The Boren Loser."
It's an intense rivalry - I grew up a Michigan fan in a Michigan family, and I knew about the rivalry," Boren said. "I don't know why (people say what they say.) I guess some people take it pretty seriously. But I'm just a kid trying to play football."
Jeff Arnold covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or 734-623-2554.