We begin this week with a remarkable journey that began at Harvard, got sidetracked by a rare disease and heavy doses of chemo, moved to the glittering canyon$$ of Wall Street, and ultimately finished in Ann Arbor’s Big House, and a roster spot on Michigan’s 2016 football team.
His name is Michael Hirsch and his football career started as a Harvard JV fullback in 2010. The following spring, as he inched his way up the depth chart, Hirsch noticed that there was blood showing up in his spit on his daily walks across the Charles River to practice.
He was diagnosed as having Wegener’s Granulomatosis, a rare autoimmune disease in which there is no cure. An annual cycle of chemotherapy can keep it in remission.
He went on to graduate from Harvard, and took a job on Wall Street at a leverage credit sales desk at Citi, working 12-hour days, but felt something was missing, and harbored a secret burning desire to attempt walk on at Big Blue.
His parents Karen and Dan met as Michigan freshman, and there were Wolverine posters all over his room growing up.
Quietly Hirsch began two-hour after-work workouts at the gym, and started studying for the GMAT exam.
Some forty pounds later, and almost four years to the day of his diagnosis, and with the blessing from Citi, Hirsch pulled up to the Michigan’s campus riding in an Uber.
He walked into Schembechler Hall for the Wolverines annual walk-on meeting. Knowing he had to make an instant impression, he spotted offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and went over and made his rehearsed pitch. “We said he played at Harvard, that’s good football, this guy just wants a chance,” the coach said.
Drevno told Hirsch to return the next day and he set up a meeting with head coach Jim Harbaugh. The fiery Wolverines headman listened to Hirsch’s remarkable story, nodding and smiling along. He then picked up the phone to a compliance officer and asked, “What’s the next step to get Michael Hirsch on our football team?”
Michigan opened its season with a cupcake, the University of Hawaii, and with the score reading; 56-3 in the fourth quarter, with ten minutes left to play, Michigan fullback Michael Hirsch, wearing number 41, tugged on his helmet, and ran out to join the huddle.
QB Shane Morris hit the miracle man with a short pass that Hirsch turned up-field and into a 15-yard gain for a first down. Trotting back to the sidelines, “I think 30 or 40 guys, offense and defense, all came up to me and gave me hugs. I think they understood how much it meant to me just to get out there and try to help at all,” said Hirsch. “To fight for a dream, that doesn’t ever feel inconsequential.”
This weekend, let’s see hardworking teams keeps its dream alive by overcoming huge odds to capture a hard fought victory, and which simply fold feeling it isn’t up to the challenge.
No. 8 Wisconsin at No. 4 Michigan (Ch.5, 3:30 p.m.) Even though the season is still in the early stages, this Wisconsin eleven has become a “big cheese.”
And that is a title of some significance in a state that prides itself on the award-winning quality of the cheese it produces.
Wisconsin is the cheese-capital of America, curdling in with an impressive 2.9 billion pounds per year. And from that Grand Canyon sized vat comes some 600 varieties, totaling more than one-quarter of all the cheese product consumed in the United States.
Coach Paul Chryst’s (14-3 in his one-plus seasons) Master Cheesemakers, who have defeated a pair of AP Top-10 teams, in the same season, for the first time since JFK was swimming nude in the White House pool (1962), slices behind a D that has shown nary a hint of Swiss.
The nation’s seventh stingiest (11.8) eleven anchored by a trio of attacking backers T.J. Watt (4.5 sacks, and brother of JJ), and his compadres Jack Cicy, and T.J. Edwards, stones runners (10th best), is solid defending against the pass, and plays with the confidence of Arnie over a six-foot putt. (Our small tribute to the King.)
The pedestrian offensive attack (75th overall) has had an exfoliation since it inserted southpaw r-shirt freshman QB Alex Hornibrook (3 TDs-2 Ints – 67%) into the starting lineup.
The fearless director, who should be giving leadership lessons to Congress, is assisted by a pair of solid tailbacks Corey Clement, and Dave Ogunbowale, while wideouts Jazz Peavy, Robert Wheelwright, and tight end Tony Fumagali are reliable targets.
It’s been awhile, but the Big House is a fun house once again as Michigan is seeking its first victory over a top-ten team since the last days of W’s Administration; -2008.
The architect of this Ann Arbor carnival is Coach Jim Harbaugh, a 21st century reincarnation of an era when another tempestuous head man; Bo Schembechler was snarling, spitting, and winning on the Big Blue sideline. “I want a Michigan man coaching Michigan.”
And these “Sons of Tom Harmon” have been as dynamic Tom Hanks in “Sully.” (A must see.)
The nation’s fourth highest (52 pts. a game) scoring machine is under the guidance of QB Wilton Speight (9 Tds-1 Int, 63%) who hits his target better than Daniel Boone
The Michigan marksman relies on a quartet of quality tailbacks; De’Veon Smith (over 6 yds. a carry), Chris Evans (7 yds), Ty Isaac, and Kazen Higdon, while wideouts Amara Darbough, Jehu Chesson (18 yds a catch) and All-America tight end Jake Butt are glue fingered chain movers.
The Wolverines D, the 13 stingiest D (13 pts.), is anchored by its All-World backer and long shot Heisman contender Jabril Peppers (9.5 TFLs-2.5 sacks, 22 solo tackles), and partners backer Ben Gedeon, and safety Dymonte Thomas is also tops in sacks, and tackles for losses, and hits harder than the a Belichickian glare toward an unsuspecting reporter.
In a game that certainly isn’t cheesy, and one that carries national playoff implications for the Big Ten Conference, we think that the spirit of Bo once again leads a “Michigan Man” to a Big Blue victory.
No. 3 Louisville at No.5 Clemson (Ch. 5, 8 p.m.) This game is similar to the Hamilton/Burr duel, with the loser knocked from playoff consideration.
In the Derby City, Louisville has displayed better numbers than a swimsuit prime Elle Macpherson.
These “Sons of Johnny U” move at, with apologies to Mel Brooks, “Ludicrous Speed” from “Space Balls” leading the nation in total offense with an eye popping 682-yards game, while lighting the scoreboard with a Wilt Chamberlain-esque average of 63-points per contest.
The maestro of this symphony is the current Heisman frontrunner, a dual-threat Baryshnikov, QB Lamar Jackson (13 TDs-3 Ints), who in addition to firing as the nation’s sixth most efficient passer, has also dusted opponents for 12 rushing touchdowns, averaging a nation’s best 18-points a game.
This “Louisville Leonardo” is assisted by tailback Brandon Radcliff, who gallops along at 9-yards a touch, while a trio of receivers; James Quick, Jamari Staples, and Jaylen Smith can stress any defense, and average a jaw-dropping 22-yards a catch.
The 13th ranked D, led by safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, and backers Keith Kelsey, and Devonte Fields motors with the same speed as the thoroughbreds down the street at Churchill Downs.
Clemson has been mysteriously stuck in neutral.
The Tigers offense under the direction of its Heisman candidate, QB Deshaun Watson (9 Tds-4 Ints-60%), has performed like a Yugo, once described as the Mona Lisa of bad cars.
The Heisman caliber QB is assisted by tailback Wayne Gallman, who has also been mired in a funk, while field- stretcher receivers; Ray-Ray McCloud, Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and tight-end Jordan Leggett are dangerous touchdown makers.
The Tigers third ranked D has certainly shown its stripes.
This ferocious eleven, led by backers Joseph Kendall, Ben Bouleware, and tackle Lawrence Dexter clamps opponents like a Venus Fly Trap, surrendering a miniscule 11-points a game, and ultimately will determine if Dabo’s Tigers earn consecutive playoff invitations.
Fully aware that this game is being played in Death Valley, and fully aware that Clemson is a sleeping giant, we think Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals are the real deal, and fly off with the victory inserting its name into the playoff conversation.
No.7 Stanford at No.10 Washington (Friday Night – ESPN, 9 p.m.) The offense of Boys on the Farm has been as shaky as Donald Trump’s performance on Monday’s debate stage, or Wells Fargo CEO John Stumph testifying in front of Congress.
It’s only prime-time performer has been its Heisman contending tailback/receiver/kick-returner Christian McCaffrey, who continues to shine as the nation’s second leading (145 a game) rusher.
But the rest of the offense (95th in scoring 25 pts. a game) has been weaker than Ted Cruz’s pathetic endorsement of the standard bearer of the Republican Party.
These “Sons of John Elway” directed by its new starting QB Ryan Burns (3 Tds-2 Ints- 61%) who ranks dead last in passing yards (131 yards per game) in the Pac -12, while his receivers Irwin Trenton, and Michael Rector, have yet to stress a defense.
But if the offense is in need of immediate remedial assistance, the Cardinal D is a candidate for an Oxford Rhodes fellowship.
America’s eighth stingiest (12 pts.) D, anchored by nose tackle Solomon Thomas, backer Peter Kalamdayi, and strong safety Zach Solomon attacks with the force of Donald Trump suit toward one of his sub-contractors.
The magnitude of this game is exactly the reason why Coach Chris Petersen, the Ex-pat from Boise State, (his Huskies have won 7-straight), journeyed to Seattle, searching for an equal opportunity to earn a spot in the national playoff.
This will only be the fourth time that Husky Stadium has hosted a pair of AP top-ten teams, the last occurred when the “randy-one” Bill Clinton was “courting” Monica – 1997.
These “Sons of Warren Moon” (10th in scoring – 45) mush behind one of nation’s best lead dogs, QB Jake Browning (14 TDs-2 Ints-70%), who as the nation’s third most efficient passer, dissects defenses with surgical precision of a sushi master.
The rocket-armed dart thrower is assisted by tailbacks Myles Gaskins, and Lavon Coleman, while a quartet of touchdown makers, receivers; John Ross, Chico McClatcher, Dante Pettis, and tight end Darrell Daniels have combined for: 50-catches, and 13-TDs.
The UW D, which is tied for the lead in takeaways, is led by backer Azeem Victor (22 solo tackles), his monster (346 lbs.) tackle Vita Vea, and a starry free safety Budda Baker, who hits like a blacksmith pounding out a shoe.
This is the 87th meeting between these rivals (41-41-4) and the stakes for this game are Himalayan high.
We think the Friday night celebration on the shores of Lake Washington goes deep into the wee hours of Saturday morning, as Petersen’s Huskies cements it name into the national title conversation.
No. 11 Tennessee at No. 25 Georgia (Ch.4, 3:30 p.m.) For the Volunteer faithful, the line screamed by Gene Wilder; “It’s alive” in “Young Frankenstein;” aptly summarizes the fortunes of Butch Jones’ Rocky Toppers, who dug itself out of a grave last week ultimately saving its season.
But if the “Sons of Reggie White” are to reach its goal of capturing the SEC East Crown, and the opportunity to play in the conference championship game, it will rest on the arm of its senior QB Josh Dobbs (10 TDs-5 Ints-57%-4 rushing touchdowns), who can be as erratic as Sarah Palin espousing on matters of US foreign policy. “I can see Russia from my house.” Really?!
His scatter-shot performance has hamstrung the Tennessee offense. The senior leader is assisted by tailback Jalen Hurd, and a pair of field-stretching receivers; Josh Malone and Jauan Jennings.
The D of the “Sons of Payton Manning” is led by its All-America disruptor, end Derek Barnett, with assists by backers Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cortz McDowell, but outside of a few advantageous spurts, has been as bland as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The Dawgs faithful should be asking; where is Mark Richt when you need him?
Unfortunately its former Bulldog headman (he only won 9 or 10 games every season), finds himself happily ensconced in Zika and Dengue infested Miami, strutting with an undefeated, and 14th ranked group of talented and dangerous Miami Hurricanes.
Ex-Bama assistant Kirby Smart is the new sheriff in Athens, but was left with a cupboard that appears almost as empty as a family home in Sinuiju, North Korea.
These “Sons of Vince Dooley” are scratching out 25-points a game (93rd), and meandering with a defense (30-points a game) that has more holes than the evidence cash bags that were stored at the Braintree Police Department.
QB Jacob Eason (5 TDs-3-Ints-52%) directs this “gang that couldn’t shoot straight” with a big assists from All-America tailback Nick Chubb (questionable – ankle), his talented partner Sony Michel, and Elijah Holyfield, the son of the former heavyweight champion, Evander.
When he does make a connection, and his receivers help him out by holding onto the ball, wideouts Isaiah McKenzie and Terry Godwin have the ability to stretch a defense.
The D, led by backers Roquan Smith, Natrez Patrick and tackle Triton Thompson has been so porous it should have Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night in Georgia” as its theme song.
Tennessee never makes it easy, and Georgia is a proud and desperate bunch, but we think the Vols find a way to get another huge SEC East victory on the road.
Navy at Air Force (CBSN, 3:30 p.m.) This is the 49th meeting between these Academies, with the Air Force holding a 28-20 victory advantage. But the visitors from Annapolis have won 10 of the last 13.
The Middies are also looking to start 4-0 in consecutive seasons for the first time since Jimmy Carter was checking on who was using the White House tennis court: 1978-79.
The men in Navy blue are also riding a streak of 19-consecutive victories against unranked opponents, but this game will be quite a challenge.
As always, the “Sons of Roger Staubach,” sail on the wind of the nation’s fifth best rushing attack (316 yds. a game), ripping up the turf in a triple option maze which features fullback Chris High, his partners Dishan Romine, and Toneo Gully, while the tiller –man (apologies to Cat Stevens) is manned by QB Will Worth.
Navy’s D drops anchor behind its trio of backers: Micah Thomas, Daniel Gonzales, and D.J. Palmore who operate with a bend, don’t break attitude.
The “Sons of Chelsey Sullenberger – class ‘73” who landed his plane in the Hudson, soar with the nation’s second best rushing attack (359) that features senior QB Nate Romine, tailback Jacobi Owens, and fullback D.J. Johnson. (Remember when every team used to have a fullback? Ah, those were the days – run Riggo run!)
The “Force be with you” D, led by end Ryan Watson, and backers Grant Ross, and Jacob Onyedchi squeezes the run better than Anita Bryant in her prime pushing Florida Orange Juice, allowing a microscopic 51-yards a game, which ranks second in the nation.
But be assured, that average will definitely climb from an afternoon trying to slow the Midshipmen.
We think Navy’s 19-game non ranked opponent’s winning streak gets torpedoed, as the Force is with the Boys from Colorado Springs.
Last week: 1-4 Season record: 9-11.
That’s it from cyber-space. We’ll be up and running with our recap by noon on Sunday. Until then Peace, and listen to the music. pk