December 17, 2012
Borton's Blog: Hard Lessons
Here's a quick one, out of the "What Were You Thinking" file. Three Michigan players, two of them starters at their respective spots, give themselves a return ticket from Tampa before they ever arrive.
Senior cornerback J.T. Floyd, senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne and junior punter Will Hagerup opt out of the Outback Bowl by opting into a violation of team rules. They'll leave the Wolverines shorthanded going into an already tough game against South Carolina.
First, the disclaimer. We're not big player bashers here, and shouldn't be. These are 18- to 22-year-old kids, subject to the same mistakes as thousands of their peers, only under 1,000 times the scrutiny. They operate in the fishbowl known as Michigan Football. That doesn't confer sainthood on anyone.
That said, they know the deal going in. They know they're special, and the scholarship, the trips, the meals, the spotlight and the adulation all scream it to them. Somewhere in the back of their consciousness, they also know they're under a closer eye, with greater consequences for screwing up.
Brady Hoke says he's got 115 sons. There's a poignant side to that whole approach, and there's a foot-implanted-in-rear aspect of it. Any dad who's worth anything knows it.
Hoke's big on accountability, and two of these players (maybe three) ended their careers in debt.
Floyd was a starter in one of the nation's better defensive backfields. Getting suspended for the bowl doesn't mean he's a bad kid, but it means he didn't take the whole senior leadership business all that seriously.
Same for Hawthorne. He didn't have as big of a role, but could have supplied a special teams play to put the Wolverines over the top. Whatever took him out of the last game of his career could have waited until Jan. 2.
Hagerup is making a habit of missing bowl games. This will be two in three years, under two different coaching staffs. He's been suspended three times, and whether or not that equates to three strikes remains to be seen.
Anyway, it's a sad ending for some who didn't have to go that route. And hopefully, it's a cautionary note for some freshman who understands that he doesn't want to end his career in the absolute wrong kind of spotlight.
"It is an honor to play football for the University of Michigan, and we have high standards and expectations for everyone that represents our program," Hoke said in announcing the suspensions. "These young men used poor judgment in each circumstance, and these suspensions are teaching moments for our team."
And hopefully, learning moments.
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