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August 26, 2013After a team meeting where the Wolverines voted to choose their peers to lead them into the 2013 season, four players joined the rich pantheon of Michigan football captains: fifth-year senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, fifth-year senior outside linebacker Cam Gordon, senior cornerback Courtney Avery and redshirt junior outside linebacker Jake Ryan.
"I think the four guys are very deserving," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "At the same time I'll tell you that whole class has done a tremendous job as far as leadership and teaching and helping to help coach young football players."
Lewan was nearly a lock for captaincy after deciding to return to Ann Arbor for his final year of eligibility, shirking the 2013 NFL Draft to help the Wolverines as they try to win their first Big Ten Championship since 2004.
Lewan has been a constant vocal leader this offseason, which was especially important in the offensive line group, because Michigan is breaking in three new starters (redshirt sophomore center Jack Miller, redshirt sophomore left tackle Graham Glasgow and redshirt freshman right guard Kyle Kalis).
Even though he was expected to receive the captain distinction, Lewan was still humbled when his teammates selected him.
"It's the greatest honor I have ever received, to be voted on by your peers to be in a position to leader this team," Lewan said. "I have never been a captain of anything, not little league baseball, not high school football, not anything. It's a first time, and I am going to do everything I can to make sure I don't let this team down.
"Being captain, 133 years of Michigan football, to be put in this situation, it's unbelievable. I don't have the words to explain it. I am so excited for this team, and I'm so happy to be named captain."
Although Lewan is the long offensive captain, he knows he won't be the only voice leading the Wolverines.
"We still have 16 seniors who are all doing what they're supposed to do," Lewan said. "It's not like all of a sudden everyone stops leading and I say, 'Alright, I'll take it.' Everyone is doing what they have done all year. I just have the 'C' next to my name now. Everyone has done a great job."
Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner - though not a senior - will be one of the players with the biggest voices on the offense.
Many expected him to be voted captain, but Gardner said last week that he was going to be a team leader, whether he was voted a captain or not.
Hoke has seen Gardner evolve into the type of player who can command his teammate's attention.
"You become natural to some degree when you're playing [quarterback]," Hoke said. "You're the one in that huddle. You're the one who's in front of everybody. I think there's always a demeanor that you want to have for that guy, whether he just got sacked or he just threw a 19-yard first down. Whatever it is, the constant and consistency of the demeanor that you have to show, and I think that's been improved upon."
On the defensive side, the Wolverines have three elected captains, including two - Ryan and Gordon - who play the same position.
"It was kind of cool how two SAM linebackers were voted captains," Ryan said. "I am proud of that and proud of Cam, too. There is a lot of defensive leadership. Jibreel Black, all those guys, all the seniors are great leaders, and they're doing a great job."
Gordon, who will most likely split time with junior Brennen Beyer while Ryan continues his recovery from an ACL injury, admitted that he was a little surprised when he found out he was voted a captain - but he is looking forward to leading the defense.
"I feel like my teammates see how hard I work day in and day out, and they see how I address situations," he said. "That's a lot of things that our teammates were looking for in us, as captains. They see how we handle ourselves, and I appreciate the opportunities.
"It's a big honor for us to have three defensive captains. It shows a little of the tradition here, as far as Michigan being a defensive team. We didn't expect that to happen, but we all have the same goals and expectations, so it's great."
Avery had the distinct pleasure of celebrating his captaincy with his parents, who were in town visiting him this weekend and picked him up from the meeting where he found out the news.
"It was just great. Those are my parents," he said. "They've been with me growing up. They've instilled values and beliefs in me. It was sort of satisfying for them to see they've done a good job, and now that I'm away from home, I'm still carrying those beliefs and people recognize it enough to entrust me and vote me to be a captain.
"That's just the one thing you dream of as a little kid. You dream of going to a college and it's an honor that my teammates have that much trust in me and that much respect for me. I really appreciate them."