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December 10, 2013

Best Of The Bust: Seniors speak about their careers

The annual Michigan football bust last night, and there were laughs, tears and plenty of hugs to go around. These are the highlights of the evening:

Best Speech: Offensive lineman Taylor Lewan

Click here to listen to Lewan's speech.

Best Suit: Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who wore a shiny blue coat with gold inlace, which astounded Michigan coach Brady Hoke. Here's a picture.

Most Inspirational Moment: Defensive tackle Quinton Washington received a standing ovation when he thanked speech pathologist David Daly "for giving him a voice."

Click here to listen to Washington's speech.

Funniest Moment: Wide receiver Jeremy Jackson let the crowd in on an inside joke with the team and his dad, running backs coach Fred Jackson. "I want to thank my pops, Frederico Jackson," he said, to which his dad put his head in his hands and the crowd roared.

Emcee: Frank Beckmann, who took over as radio play-by-play man for Bob Ufer in 1981 and will retire after the season.

Honored Team: The 1997 national championship team was on hand, and quarterback Brian Griese gave a rousing speech.

Onto the highlights of every players' speech:

Defensive tackle Jibreel Black

  • Hoke on Black: "I had the great pleasure of coaching Jibreel, because at times I act like a defensive line coach, and I'm very proud."

  • Black: "It has been a long journey to get to this point. I remember my freshman year, seeing all the seniors come up here and talk and thinking that it would be forever before I'm up here. But here I am.

    "I'd like to thank my parents for guiding me to this point in my life. At first, I was committed to two different schools before I committed to the University of Michigan, so it was a whole circus. But they pulled me aside by the ear, and they told me I was coming here. I want to thank them for that.

    Wide receiver Drew Dileo

  • Hoke on Dileo: "Drew played wide receiver, punt returner and was the holder on kicks. I can honestly tell you, Drew was a guy that, if we had a fake field goal, I always felt comfortable. I felt good that Drew would make the right decision. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he may be one of the best football players and people I have ever been around."

  • Dileo: "I would like to thank Coach Jackson for recruiting me from his home state of Louisiana. He has been like a father to me, and his son Jeremy Jackson has been like a brother. I want to thank my position coach, [Jeff] Hecklinski, for being another father figure to me. And I'd like to especially thank his wife, Miss Tiffany, for all the support and the candy and cookies and cupcakes you have made for us.

    "Coach Hoke, one of the many things I enjoy about him is that he is the type of coach any player would want to play for. He is a man that can be called a role model. The way he brings energy to everything he does. The way he wears shorts and t-shirts in snowy, 20-degree weather. And the way he secretly wants me to buy him whoppers with cheese and no onions from Burger King every Monday after our receiver meetings. He has been a tremendous coach to play for, and I am truly blessed.

    "Adjusting to life in Ann Arbor was not easy. It's a lot different than where I grew up, but I did it. Adjusting to the diverse student groups I sat next to every day in class was not easy, but I did it. Having to wash, dry and fold my laundry while cooking my own dinner was not easy, but I did it. Getting myself in a position to graduate was not easy, but next May, I will. Coming to Michigan at first was only about football. But four years later, it's obvious that God did not put me here just to play the game I love. It gave me the tools, resources and people to follow along the way, and all these things have turned me into a true Michigan man and given me the ability to carry on these traditions for the rest of my life."

    Tight end Dylan Esterline

  • Hoke on Esterline: "He is one of those guys you don't read about in the paper. You don't see out there on the field from week to week. He came to Michigan as a walk-on and did a tremendous job day in and day out of preparing our football team, whether it was in special teams or at tight end on our scout team."

  • Esterline: "It really an honor to have spent four years as a member of the winningest football team in college football history. As Coach Hoke kindly put it, my career here hasn't exactly went the way I wanted it to go. But overall, I wouldn't change anything. This program has instilled me with a lot of positive traits and characteristics, and I have been blessed to be a part of it."

    Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon

  • Hoke on Gallon: "Jeremy obviously had his best year as a senior. The way I always judged Jeremy was how he blocked. Because catching balls is fun and easy, but getting in front of a guy and taking him down the field is what Jeremy took a lot of pride in, either knocking a guy to the sideline or knocking him down at the end of a play. All those yards, it's awesome, but a true teammate does the little things, and that's what Jeremy did."

  • Gallon: "My teammates, Team 134, it has been a blast with you all, and I wouldn't change it for anything. I love you all like brothers. Shout out to both Devins, Funchess and Gardner. Devin Gardner told me to give him a shout out.

    "I'd like to give special thanks to Desmond Howard for letting me wear his jersey. It's been a blessing to be able to honor someone as great as him."

    Placekicker Brendan Gibbons

  • Hoke on Gibbons: "He made a ton of big kicks: the Sugar Bowl, Michigan State, Northwestern with one second left. If you noticed, a lot of kickers like to take their time and get nice and lined up. We didn't let him do that, but it didn't matter. He did a tremendous job."

  • Gibbons: " "I'd like to thank Coach Hoke for giving me the opportunity to kick here after my struggles, and for Team 134 for having my back, and the field goal unit for getting the ball back there and letting me do my craft. Lastly, I want to thank Michigan for giving me a great education and allowing me to go out there and do what I want."

    Longsnapper Jareth Glanda

  • Hoke on Glanda: "What Brendan does doesn't happen if you don't have a guy like Jareth Glanda. The snap, the mechanics, sometimes we all take it for granted. I know one November night in Evanston, Ill., I will never forget because of what this team did. That starts with the longsnapper."

  • Glanda: "I couldn't imagine five years going faster. Five years ago, I was sitting at the overflow table, because there wasn't enough room up here. It's gone fast, but my experience has been truly incredible."

    Safety Thomas Gordon

  • Hoke on Gordon: "He played a lot of football for us. One of the most important aspects he gave to us was being the right wing on punt team. The punt is the most important play in football, because of the different things that can happen. Thomas, being the right wing for a right-footed punter, gave us tremendous advantage."

  • Gordon: "I want to thank my whole Cass Tech family: Terry Richardson, Delonte Hollowell, there are a whole lot of you up here, and I hope that continues in the future. It has been a great opportunity to come up here and be a spotlight for the city of Detroit, because people say a lot of bad things, but I'm proud of my city."

    Offensive lineman Erik Gunderson

  • Hoke on Gunderson: "He has spent a lot of time with our scout team, and as an offensive lineman, he took great pride in it. Last year, at the end of the season, there was some conversation that he may not come back. I told him this team needs him, and we did, not because he's out there playing under the lights, but because of what he does every day and how he motivated those young offensive linemen. He did a tremendous job."

  • Gunderson: "I'd like to thank Coach Hoke. He is the main reason I am here with you today. I went into his office, contemplating whether I should come back for a fifth year. I don't regret coming back at all. I enjoyed every minute I had, playing with these guys. I will truly miss that after this last game."

    "I'd like to thank Coach Borges, [Offensive line coach Darrell] Funk, [graduate assistant] Adam Stenavich and Christian Pace helping me sharpen my skills as an offensive lineman, even though they weren't the sharpest of skills."

    Wide receiver Jeremy Jackson

  • Hoke on Jackson: "He was a guy that was counted on in a lot of different situations. He is tough. You're playing with you dad on the staff, and that can be tough, but he handled it like no one else."

  • Jackson: "I'd like to thank my teammates, Team 134. This has been one of the closest teams I have ever been a part of. They're all great people and great guys. I'd especially like to thank Coach Heck. I grew so close with him over three years. He was always there for me, especially my sophomore year. I will never forget it.

    "Michigan has meant the world to me. It has been a part of my family my whole entire life. I am honored to be able to represent this university for four years. See you all out there in Arizona."

    Offensive tackle Kristian Mateus

  • Hoke on Mateus: "He was one of the guys who came down every day and gave everything he had, helping run our scout team."

  • Mateus: "Coach Funk, Coach Stenavich for getting me through different strides in football, and getting the opportunity to make a mark here for four years. I'd like to thank Coach Mattison for running the scout team and putting a personal interest in me and building a rapport with all of us on the scout team. It was very special."

    Offensive lineman Christian Pace

  • Hoke on Pace: "Due to injury in the winter of 2011, he was trying to make a determination if he could come back and play. He ended up getting a medical hardship. But Christian didn't just sit in silence. He became a student assistant, working closely with our offensive line. He has done a tremendous job coaching the young guys up."

  • Pace: "I'd like to thank Coach Funk for keeping me busy the last four years, the same with Coach Stenavich and all the other graduate assistants."

    Wide receiver Joe Reynolds

  • Hoke on Reynolds: "He's a story in and of himself, with his work ethic and how he came out every out every day to work with enthusiasm for the great game of football. I don't know if there's a better teammate you can have, in the example that Joe has set. As a head football coach, I'd take all the Joe Reynolds we can get."

  • Reynolds: "[Special teams coach Dan] Ferrigno for letting me get my foot in the door by playing special teams. I had the honor of catching a pass against Ohio this last game, and if he never gave me a chance to play special teams, I wouldn't have ever made that catch.

    "Being a walk-on, you make or break yourself by what you do in the weight room and in conditioning. You're not coming in as the most talented guy, and you're not leaving as the most talented guy, so you better make up the difference somewhere. I'd like to thank [strength and conditioning coach] Aaron Wellman. When this staff came that first winter, I was going to transfer. I didn't like it anymore, and I was ready to be done playing football here. I talked to Coach Wellman about it, and he challenged me. Thank you for that."

    Offensive tackle Michael Schofield

  • Hoke on Schofield: "There is no doubt he played his best football as a senior. Mike was a true leader on our football team, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate how Mike went to work every day and how he mentored and coached the young guys who were having their opportunities. I'm proud of the career he has had and the career he'll have in the future."

  • Schofield: "I'd like to thank my mom, Kathy, and my dad, we call him Chief. They have been to every single home and away game. We're from Chicago, and I know they'll be making that drive to Arizona, and they probably won't stop the whole way. They've been me through all the ups and downs. I love you guys.

    "I also want to thank my nana and papa, my grandparents. Every holiday, I can't wait to get a card from my nana in the mail. She sends me two dollars, which is always good for a slice of pizza or something."

    Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint

  • Hoke on Toussaint: "I was going to wear that coat. Fitz overcame an awful lot in the last year. The injury he had, and the rehab he had to go through. He did a tremendous job of getting himself back in shape and pushing himself through pain to go out there and compete for Michigan."

  • Toussaint: "I want to give a special shout out to my beautiful family. I would like to thank the academic staff for all their support; the training staff for their hard work and dedication; the equipment staff, especially Big Jon Falk; the strength and conditioning staff for everything they have done for me in the last year; and lastly, Coach Hoke, for giving me an opportunity at this university."

    Defensive tackle Quinton Washington

  • Hoke on Washington: "He is one tremendous young man. As a coach, people inspire you, and Quinton has done that for me, because of how he has gone about his business every day and the things he has overcome."

  • Washington: "I would like to thank the Gunderson family. When I came here, I was all alone, no family or anything. She really took me in. Me, Michael Schofield and Gundy would go over for Sunday dinners, and she took care of me, just to make me feel more comfortable.

    "I'd like to thank Coach Hoke and Coach Mattison for creating the man that I am today. It has not been an easy road, but it was a growing experience, and I am blessed to have them in my life.

    "Last but not least, I'd like David Daly. He's my speech pathologist. Coming here, it was hard for me to even pick up a phone. I couldn't order anything from a restaurant, or anything. Working with him since my freshman year, he gave me a voice. I want to thank you for giving me a voice. Thank you, and Go Blue."

    Defensive back Courtney Avery

  • Hoke on Avery: "There is one interception he will never forget. I will never forget it. He is a guy that has only been there, a guy you can always count on."

  • Avery: "Before the season, I sat down with a businessman to talk about the future. He was telling me about his company values and beliefs, and I was sitting there, thinking, 'Does he have a fly in the wall in Schembechler Hall?' His values came back to the values we have as a team: being accountable, respectful, trustworthy, hard-working. That is a testament to this program and the University of Michigan, how we're being set up for life. That is a great thing.

    "I also want to thank my coaches for allowing me to be an instrumental part of this program. Coach Hoke, Coach Mattison, Coach Mallory taught me so much about the game of football. And my teammates, my brothers, we have a really special bond. We pulled each other through the tough times and celebrated the great times. Being voted as a captain by you guys is something that means so much to me. Words can't describe it."

    Outside linebacker Cam Gordon

  • Hoke on Gordon: "He had a great year as a senior playing SAM linebacker. He's a testament to hard work, perseverance. He was voted by his teammates as captain because of his leadership, and I know he is going to lead this team to that eighth victory in Tempe."

  • Gordon: "My time here hasn't really been all peaches and cream. I have had seven different position coaches, four different positions, people telling me I wasn't good enough to play here. For all the bad, I still managed to graduate and be with a group of guys that I love to death. I am always hard on myself, but I am really, really proud of myself. It has been an honor to grow up to be the guy I am today."

    Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan

  • Hoke on Lewan: "He has obviously had a tremendous career here, and this past year, I thought he played his best football, helping some young guys learn how to play Division I football and leading a group of guys along the line. Taylor has the opportunity to do something a lot of us don't: go home and win at home. He's very Chapparal High School, which is the high school we will be practicing at for the bowl game."

  • Lewan: "I would like to thank great offensive linemen like Jake Long, Jon Jansen, Steve Hutchinson. They're guys I look up to and wish to be like. And a shout out to Fred Jackson, for telling me I will never be like those guys.

    "Going into my freshman year of high school, we were going into summer conditioning. I was fat and out of shape. I was that awkward skinny-fat, with skinny arms and a belly, like Mike from Monsters, Inc. It sucked. And I was getting destroyed, I went to my dad and said, 'I want to quit. I'm done. I don't want to do it anymore.' He said, 'Alright, but you have to go tell the head coach.' He went and sat in the car, and two hours later, I came back, even more tired and sore than I was. He said, 'Taylor, I'm not raising you to be a quitter. I want you to see what it's like on the other side.' And I could not have imagined this being the other side. Thank you so much for my team, the true fans - not the haters - I appreciate everything you have done. It's unbelievable."


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