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September 12, 2013In a game chock-full of exciting, crazy plays, deflections turned into diving catches and inexplicable interceptions, you need a catalyst for the insanity.
With a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter of Michigan's wild 41-30 win over Notre Dame, redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner hit fifth-year senior Jeremy Gallon over the middle of the field.
Gallon darted downfield and collided with a Notre Dame defender, spinning out of the hit and maintaining his feet. Just then redshirt freshman wide receiver Jehu Chesson threw a monster block on Notre Dame safety Elijah Shumate, blasting him off his feet.
On his way to the turf, Shumate bowled over Notre Dame linebacker Dan Fox and cornerback Bennett Jackson. Chesson's three-man takedown sprung Gallon for a 61-yard touchdown.
"I ran a post, and I saw the safety come back," Chesson recalled. "Then I saw Gallon had caught the ball, and the safety came off the coverage and was going back, I just had to get back to the ball, get back to Gallon and make a great block so he could score.
"It didn't even notice I took out that many guys until we got there the next morning for film. [Offensive coordinator Al] Borges pointed it out, and I was like, 'Holy cow. That's pretty cool.'"
During the film session, Chesson's block got big cheers from his teammates.
Since Michigan coach Brady Hoke and wide receiver coach Jeff Hecklinski arrived in Ann Arbor before the 2011 season, they have stressed the importance of downfield blocking by the receivers.
And the guys appreciated Chesson's effort on the play.
"Everyone loved the hit," Gallon said. "Just to see him go down and make a big block like that, not giving up on the play, it shows a lot about him and the hard work he put in.
"That's what is expected of the wide receivers: to block and do something without the ball in your hand. You want the quarterback to have that trust in you and the coaches to put you on the field - so you have to block, catch, run routes and everything like that."
Chesson didn't play football until he joined the team at St. Louis (Mo.) Ladue Horton Watkins, where coach Mike Tarpey built a powerful running game on the legs of running back Deavin Edwards.
Chesson's attention to - and pride in - his blocking ability began there.
"Coach Tarpey always taught me, 'You got a be a guy that does something when the ball isn't in your hands,'" Chesson said. "I was very unselfish. I didn't get the ball all that much, because Deavin got a lot of carries, so I was blocking for him. That's how I got noticed there - how hard I blocked for him in practice. And I transferred it to the game.
"Here, I learned more technique from the older guys. It is just a replica of what we do in practice. Coach Heck always preaches getting to the ball. Good stuff happens when you get to the ball, so I had an opportunity to make a good block for Gallon so he could score. That's what I did.
"We don't necessarily crack in practice, but we work on getting to the ball. Once you get in the game, it's adrenaline. You're playing a different opponent, so you're not worried about cracking anybody. In practice, you don't want to hurt your teammates, but we definitely take shots in practice - you get to your man, get leverage and drive him. It's just a repetition of that, and in the game, your adrenaline is running. Especially against Notre Dame. You just have to hit somebody."
Chesson has taken the lessons he has learned in the offseason to heart.
"I like his effort, his attention to detail," Hoke said. "He loves to play. He's very much a teammate and does a nice job."
And one of the greatest lessons he learned was during a session the receivers had with former Wolverine All-American Braylon Edwards, who came back to work out with the receivers and give them tips.
"It was awesome," Chesson said of working with Edwards. "He is a great teacher. I saw him on the sideline after the Notre Dame game, and he told me congrats on the block. It all goes back to tradition at Michigan. Those guys come back and give you tips, and you can always tap into the archive whenever you want. That's what I love about this school. There is no limit to what I can learn, and I have to get better every day.
"On of the big things he taught me that you have to find your own identity on the field. Ultimately, you play for Michigan and for those people in the room with you, who get up at 5 a.m. with you. You play for those guys. You have to play for something bigger than yourself, That's the biggest thing he emphasized, because once you do that, you can jump higher, run faster, because something else is on the line beside yourself."
For as many strides as Chesson has taken, he has yet to make his first career catch.
"He will get his chance," Gallon said. "It's a matter of being patient. His time will come, The thing about Jehu is he hasn't said a word about it. He hasn't complained or had a down day. He just goes about his day, comes to practice to work. You never see him with a frown on his face about the catches or balls that come his way, because you have to have patience."