Dan Malin, 50 and living in Flushing, Mich., has been attending football games since 1975 and watched fervently as local hero Rick Leach led the program from 1975-78. The last two years, Malin has enhanced his relationship with U-M by attending the Michigan Men's Football Experience (MMFE).
And he's headed back for a third year in a row June 4-5, hoping there is enough interest among the Wolverines' fan base to fill all 116 locker stalls at The Big House.
Malin attended a fantasy experience with the Detroit Tigers years ago, and enjoyed it so much that when Michigan coach Brady Hoke agreed to continue MMFE in 2011, Malin had to make his dream a reality.
"Having such a huge passion for Michigan football, I had to find a way so I talked it over with my wife to make it work," he said.
"The experience my first year made such an impact that I had to go back the second year. It's just a great event. It's amazing how interactive the coaches are with you, and reciprocate your passion. It's definitely a worthwhile experience."
What really tipped Malin over the edge as he and his wife weighed the financial cost was that the event raised funds for prostate cancer research, and that hit home with him.
"My brother-in-law, Randy Gibson, was going through treatments for cancer in 2012," Malin said. "As the disease was terminal, Randy maintained an optimistic attitude as he went around to speaking to several groups with basically the following message:
'YESTERDAY is a memory. It's gone, can't do anything about it.
'TOMORROW is a hope and there are no guarantees.
'TODAY is all we have to make a positive impact on someone. We need to do everything today because there are no promises for tomorrow.
'What you do to impact someone doesn't have to be monumental. It can be a smile, a word or a touch. It can be something very small and indirect. With faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains, accomplish major things. You just have to start somewhere.
'What you do today may impact someone more than you will ever know. Your little act of kindness may grow from a mustard seed to helping others move mountains in their own lives. But it all starts today.'
"As I waffled back and forth, this message hit home for me. I could have a win/win situation. I could live in the moment of TODAY, and fulfill one of my lifelong dreams, to be that Michigan Football player, even just for a short time, and I could make an impact for someone else by contributing to cancer research. I knew I would regret it if I didn't do it."
During the weekend festivities, Michigan Men are treated to tours of Schembechler Hall and all the football facilities, they enjoy multiple meals with the coaching staff and a master of ceremony (last year was Dan Dierdorf), while the highlight is practicing under the instruction of the U-M coaches and then playing a 7-on-7 game in The Big House.
"The best experience is walking through the tunnel and heading onto the field and touching the banner," said Malin, who received a personalized No. 15 jersey with his name on it.
"My first year I had a great time with Al Borges. I participated at the QB spot and there were only two of us. Al spent a lot of time with us. But the highlight is Coach Hoke. He's just so personable and he makes you feel like you're part of the program, part of Team 135.
"He knows all of us are there because we have a passion for the team he coaches, and he is so down to earth, and he makes you feel like an important part of Michigan football."
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