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February 6, 2013When Michigan signee Dymonte Thomas originally tried to recruit cornerback Ross Douglas, the four-star easily rebuffed Thomas' pitch, insisting his future was at Penn State. That was, until the Nittany Lions were crushed by sanctions, forcing Douglas to consider what was truly in his best interests.
"To be honest with you, I had no idea what to expect because the coaches just sort of played it off like it was no big deal," Douglas said Tuesday while sporting a Michigan sweatshirt and hat. "I heard rumors. I heard it was going to be like the death penalty, but that was just talk, and I didn't really believe that because the coaches weren't telling me that.
"They told me everything was going to be all right, and then I look at the ticker on ESPN, and they're talking about a four-year bowl ban, the loss of scholarships, and a $60 million penalty, and I said, 'I didn't sign up for this.'
"I just felt misinformed, like they weren't being truthful with me, and that was a lack of communication that really concerned me about a future there. It's still a great program, and I respect Penn State, I like Coach [Bill] O'Brien and I want them to be successful, but I didn't feel like it was the place where I could realize my goals."
The 5-10, 180-pound Douglas committed to Penn State in February 2012, but when the NCAA handed down its penalty July 23, it didn't take him very long to open up his recruitment. It didn't take him long after that to pledge to Michigan, announcing for the Wolverines on July 24.
"I'm the type of kid that doesn't like the limelight," he said. "I went to practice and then decommitted right after practice, and when I was in the shower, I got 50 Facebook messages, 50 missed calls, 100 text messages, and more than half of them were from coaches. I didn't want that to become my life so I wanted to get it over with in the next few days, and I got it over with the next day."
Douglas had visited Michigan during his sophomore year and had developed a relationship with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and defensive backs coach Curt Mallory. Had he been a little more patient initially, Douglas may have been a U-M commitment to begin with.
"Ross was always interested in Michigan," Avon High School coach Mike Elder said. "Penn State was his first offer, and he felt a sense of loyalty to them, but Michigan was always on the radar and was about to offer him, and eventually did, when Ross committed.
"I'm a loyal guy, and I told Coach O'Brien that we were 100 percent all in, but no one could have imagined what would happen actually happened. We're talking about a young man's future, and this wasn't his mess and Ross didn't have to inherit it. He had options and Michigan was always a great fit."
Douglas received some flak at first, but by the time his senior year started, the criticism had dissipated, allowing him to focus on his final season and building relationships with fellow Michigan recruits.
As a senior, Douglas rushed for 1,349 yards and a single-season Avon record 24 touchdowns on 166 carries (8.1 yards per rush) leading the Eagles to an 11-2 overall record and the quarterfinals of the Ohio Division II state playoffs. Defensively, he recorded 20 tackles, three for loss, one interception, one fumble recovery and five pass breakups as teams largely avoided him.
"He's a physical kid blessed with great athleticism and elite speed," Elder said. "With his speed, he can be aggressive and still recover if you beat him off the line of scrimmage.
"He's the kind of kid that really accepts coaching; he'll absorb everything they throw at him, and with a tremendous work ethic, I see him as someone that will develop into a lockdown corner."
An early enrollee, Douglas meets with his teammates on Saturday mornings for voluntary on-field workouts, going one-on-one with current U-M receivers, including sophomore Amara Darboh.
"We have great battles," he said. "I tell every receiver, 'You're not going to run past me. That just doesn't happen.' I am confident in my abilities and my speed, and even though I'm only 5-10, 180, don't mistake me for a finesse guy. I will fight with you every single down."