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April 13, 2013

Alumni game brings former players back to Ann Arbor

Thousands of fans filed into Michigan Stadium Saturday afternoon to see the Wolverines' final spring practice of the year, and the ones who showed up an hour or so early were treated to the annual alumni flag football game.

Players as young as Ohene Opong-Owusu, who graduated in 2009, played alongside players as old as Dick Glinka, who was a quarterback for the Wolverines from 1959-62.

The blue team won the game, 36-29, but every player left the Big House with a smile.

"It's a riot," said BJ Dickey (quarterback, 1977-81), who won the game's enormous MVP trophy for leading the blue team on the game-winning drive. "It's so much fun. The camaraderie that is here, just getting together to tell old stories, is fun. This game is about fun and laughs and having a good time, but we are still competitive. We're getting down to the end of the game, and you're looking at the clock and saying, 'We have to win this thing.' It's great top see some of the guys I haven't seen for a couple years."

Several players said they loved that Michigan holds the event, because it gives them a chance to get together with former teammates who they haven't seen in years.

Jim Breaugh, a quarterback from 1977-80, threw two touchdowns for the maize team.

"For an old guy to come back and get a chance to be out here on the Big House field is indescribable," he said. "Then we also have a chance to meet up with all your old friends. That's why this is special. It was a great deal to be here when we played, and it's a really great deal to come back and see how it all worked out."

"It's great," added Tony Gant, a defensive back from 1982-86 and the father of current safety Allen Gant. "It's always nice to get together with the guys and spend some time with them, share the stories and share about our lives. See who is in shape and who is not.

"It brings back a lot of memories. It's hard to believe it has been almost 30 years since I was out here. It brings out certain memories, plays and games that will be with me forever. It was nice to relive some of those with my old teammates."

The former players were invited to a reunion Friday night, where they had a chance to catch up with each other and spend time with Michigan coach Brady Hoke and his staff.

"Michigan matters. That is the theme we went through last night," Dickey said. "We built something. Bo built something, the guys before us built something and the guys after us kept it going. That is what was neat about Coach Hoke and the entire staff talking to us last night - the fact that we do mean something and the legacy is here. That is what is so important about Michigan. That's why kids want to come here: to be a part of that legacy and keep winning championships. It's a fantastic place."

"Everyone has figured out in the last few years how important it is that there is a family here that never goes away," added Breaugh. "That is what separates us from a lot of different places, and it is important to all of us that we have that. We love to know that we can come back any time and we still belong. They make you feel welcome."

For Gant, the weekend was a chance to spend some time with his son, Allen.

"It is every father's dream come true to have your son follow in your footsteps," he said. "Allen is a terrific kid, an outstanding person and a great football player. I can't wait to sit in these stands for the next four years and watch him play. It's going to be a very enjoyable experience for me.

"He is loving it. He's close to home, about a 45-minute drive. His studies are coming along well, and he is starting to pick to pick up the system. He loves his coaches, and he loves his teammates. He is adjusting well."

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