Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Brandon Herron Answers Your Questions

You may remember this.
 (Image via the Toledo Blade.)
Brandon Herron started only one game in his college career, yet few Michigan faithful will ever forget his name.  Herron put on an electric performance in Brady Hoke's Michigan head coaching debut by becoming the only player in program history to record two touchdowns on defensive returns in a single game.  He also set the record for the longest interception return for a touchdown in Michigan history in the contest with his 94-yard bolt up the sideline in addition to recording eight tackles.  Now that's a hell of a game.

However, with a career total of 42 tackles, 37 game appearances, two fumble recoveries, and an interception over a five year career, it's obvious that Herron's contributions to the football program extend far beyond those magical three quarters of football.  Brandon was recently kind enough to take a few minutes out of his weekend to talk very candidly about his Michigan memories and answer several reader questions.

The WMU game:  "It was an exciting point in my career; I never thought something like that would happen to me.  But as they say, hard work pays off, and I worked my tail off that summer and played a role to become a starter. . . .  A lot of people didn't realize I had the speed to take it 94 yards, so that was a play that really showcased my speed."

The injury:  "I can't blame anyone but myself, but obviously during the game I was holding the ball wrong, and my coach actually had me hold the ball while we were running the next day.  And I was a little sore, but in my mind, I was trying to get better, and I ran a little hard, harder than expected, and I ended up tearing my hip flexor. . . . It happened the day after the Western Michigan game, and it took me awhile [to heal]. . . .

Weight:  "I've struggled with weight my entire life, and I really wasn't an eater.  I didn't have to worry about it in high school; it's just when I got to college that it was like, 'Okay, you need to put on a certain weight.'  And with the training staff, if you didn't make weight, you couldn't work out.  That was the only punishment.  Well, it wasn't really a punishment - if you wanted to get better, you'd make the weight."

Humor:  "When you're on the sidelines, everyone's pretty much in the zone.  I don't think I have any funny moments on the sideline, but I can tell Purdue probably has some funny fans.  They know a lot about you.  It surprises you because they know your girlfriend's name and everything else.  I don't know how they know that stuff; they'll say some nasty things, but it's really funny. . . . I looked forward to Purdue because I looked forward to hearing what they had to say. . . . Kelvin Grady probably had the best humor [on the team]."

Special teams:  "Well, I didn't come to Michigan to be a special teams player.  I came to Michigan to become that player, that starter.  But due to a lot of injuries, that became my role, and I had to accept that role.  I had to use the special teams to step up and become a starter because that's how it's usually done.  You prove to the coaches that you want to play when you get it done on special teams."

Differences between the coaching staffs:  "Coach Hoke and Coach Carr, they were both - and even Coach Rod is a wonderful coach.  But Coach Rod went about doing things different, which is okay, but going from a Big East school to a Big Ten school where it's all about tradition, it's just one of those things.  Michigan is one of those schools that lives off of tradition, and if you try to break it and players know that, then sometimes players can go against the grain. . . . The thing people fail to realize is when we get going with the game, there are certain ways how to approach kids, and if you're coming at them from the wrong way, then they're going to respond differently.  It's one of those things that happened to where Coach Rod approached us the wrong way, and it kind of divided up the team, and players began playing for themselves rather than playing for the team. . . . Coach Hoke and Coach Carr were likable coaches that people want to be around them.  They are very warmhearted and just want to help others out.  I'm not saying that Coach Rod didn't want to help anybody, but there are certain people that you can be around where they don't have to say anything, but you can read them, and you know that they want to help you."

Three and Out:  "No, I haven't had a chance to read it, but I know he [John U. Bacon] isn't welcome in the building anymore.  I'm sure he said something about Coach Carr, and he didn't like it or took it the wrong way, so he's not allowed in Schembechler hall. . . . People are interested and want to know what we do, which is fine, but just being under Coach Carr and Coach Hoke - and after a while Coach Hoke put locks on the doors and codes for us because he doesn't want everyone in the building knowing our business. . . . The more people that know your business, the more trouble you'll have."

Free Press Report:  "Oh, are you talking about the 20-hour rule?  Well, honestly, everybody breaks the 20-hour rule.  It's okay to break the 20-hour rule.  But in my opinion, there're times when things become a little too much, and players and our bodies are starting to break down and everything else.  Former players that went under Michigan and were able to speak - they were looking out for us.  And they're the ones that went to the NCAA and told them that our bodies were going through some things.   And not to knock anybody down, but I'm not going to lie.  Even though it was tremendously hard and football is hard in general, but just during that time in my career, I went through a ride, and it made me a better person and a better man, and it made me appreciate things a lot more in life.  So when those allegations happened, I can say that maybe it was a sigh of relief that we were going to change some things up a little bit, or we were forced to change things up.  But actually it was better for us; it was better for the health of players."


  1. Awesome work, guys -- again, it is really interesting to hear comments from people who were actually there. I found the parts about Bacon (no surprise, I guess) and the 20-hour rule intriguing. To date, I don't think I've heard anyone on the record say that they felt guys were risking injury, etc., which is my interpretation here.

    Earlier, I think he did a good job speaking to Hoke's "people" skills (an area that, needless to say, may have been lacking for RichRod).

  2. Don't disagree that Hoke's approach "works". Liked that he was deferential to RR too. Rumors were that he was part of the crew that didn't want to work harder. Remember, the last several years of Carr were getting a bit "soft" on many fronts behind the scenes. While RR was a shock (and I am assuming Barwis too) it is evident that he has an issue with the prior staff or some residual anger. Good luck to him though in his future !

    1. I was a very big supporter of RR while he was here. But to be honest, if Carr's guys were looking 'soft', then, with the exception of some guys in the mold of Martin/Molk, what were RR's guys then? They weren't 'hard'?

      And the Barwis effect was the most overrated term in RR's years. Do not have the math in front of me, but how did our 4th quarters look? RR's 'spot the ball' combined with the exceptional S&C program and Michigan was supposed to destroy the other team as the game progressed deep, right? For all that extra conditioning, i never saw the results on the field through 3 years.

      I'm just glad Hoke is here now. I was wrong. That is all.

    2. Disclaimer - Wellman is doing great and is a big key to this team's success so the comments I'm making about Barwis are not anything against Coach Wellman.

      Michigan had problems in the 4th quarter as you stated not because Mike didn't have them in the best shape possible. It was the frigg'n defensive scheme. Also, everyone seems to dismiss the fact that kids kinda get bigger and heavier each season. The studs last year and still this year were much lighter when RR brought them in. C'mon. It wasn't the strength and conditioning.

      RR wasn't allowed to succeed after the first season. The powers were not going to give him the support. He didn't struggle because he was oblivious to how much of a hard-ass he was... Bacon pointed that out and pointed out the shennanigans with Carr's "support". Carr is a good man, but he did not want RR there after a while and did nothing to pave the way for him at a minimum.

      Hoping RR has a great and successful tenure at AZ. We ended up with a great staff and IMO the best collection of competency, leadership, and personality for the school.

  3. Going 3-9 his first year did not help. But I tend to think if RR had better personal/leadership skills, his rigorous training program would have generated a lot less drama. I don't doubt that he pushed the kids to their limits. Take coaches like Ferentz or the former Nebraska coach Osbourne. They are/were known for brutal training programs. But for the most part, they were able to develop loyalty amongst their players through their leadership skills.

  4. Great, and informative. I didn't realize Bacon isn't welcome at Schembechler Hall. I read Three and Out, and some parts seem to contradict what I just read in the HTTV Magazine, however I don't know that he outright attacked Lloyd Carr. His minions maybe, however the purpose of the book is to share what he's gathered to be the events that happened during the 3 years of RR's tenure. Maybe I'll have to go back and read some sections, but it certainly wasn't the hack job authored by others on the subject.

  5. I do know that Bacon is not welcome among the higher-ups of the Athletic Department. Bacon is otherwise widely respected and well liked throughout Ann Arbor. That's what happens when you basically call out Mary Sue Coleman and Bill Martin for having hung Coach Rodriguez out to dry, and for their having misled the Regents on the subject of a buyout of the Rodriguez/WVU contract. Dave Brandon works for Mary Sue Coleman and the Regents.

    And yeah; Lloyd Carr -- retiree -- is still a presence in Schembechler Hall, apparently. (And in the fundraising salons of the U-M Medical Center; great work, no doubt.)

    I very much respect Brandon Herron and all of his unimaginably hard work as a Michigan football player. But I don't understand his seemingly contradictory comments. He seems to endorse the Fort Schembechler notion of not letting anyone from the outside in on team business. But then he thinks that former Michigan players who spoke anonymously to Free Press reporters were doing something beneficial for the players. A bunch of players whose statements and allegations were either wrong, grossly exaggerated, or misreported. I would have thought that Herron might have been closer to the feelings of his teammate Brandin Hawthorne, who was substantially abused as a freshman by Michael Rosenberg.

    I'd like to talk to guys like Brandon Herron, but particularly after they have taken the time to read Three and Out, and all of the reports and summaries in NCAA Case No. M-432, and the Free Press story. So that we could be very clear and very specific about what exactly we were talking about.

    Section 1

    1. Herron may just be coming at it from a personal angle. My guess is that he is not concerned specifically about the technicalities of practice-time limitations ("all teams do it"), but more so that RR beat the crap out of them and was a jerk while doing it. For players who were particularly frustrated with RR, there may have been some satisfaction in watching him get busted for his training methods, even if the formal allegations were weak.

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    3. Brandon's comments about the over practicing is interesting. The key confusion with the players and the fans was on the definition of the rules, thus what was "cheating". Is it true that every program asks it's players to practice beyond the limits? Yes. But the programs following the rules don't leave it as a voluntary decision, and an important aspect of that is whether there are any coaches present during "voluntary" workouts. Rich Rodriguez clearly violated the rule about coaches being present and had one assistant coach end up lying about being present. I agree with Painter Smurf that likely Brandon Herron did not appreciate Rich Rodriguez and the clearly over the line involuntary workouts. Don't think for a minute that Hoke's players practice or workout any less, or that it feels anymore "voluntary". But I think the difference for Hoke is that he asks his team to "buy in" to the extra effort, and then he charges his seniors with the enforcement of the effort. Hoke has had a good amount of player attrition, so I would charge it truly is voluntary. But players aren't going to get on the field if they don't put in the effort the rest of the team puts in. Scout team can still get you a scholarship, so I don't have a problem at all with this approach. Will every player see it the same way, no.

  6. You know, I never presume that the guys on our football team are dumb jocks. I know better. I know that a lot of them work harder at their schoolwork than a lot of undergrads who will take 9 or 10 or 11 terms to graduate.

    The guys are (mostly) innately intelligent, and well-informed, and pretty focused on hwo they use their time. You have to be, to be in school, with the requisite number of credits, and doing what it takes to play football at that level.

    So what I don't get: How could you not get around to reading the book -- a NYT bestseller -- about three of the most important years of your life, talking about an enterprise (intercollegiate football at Michigan) that is one of the most important things that you will ever be involved in?

    Section 1

  7. Herron's comments about the Barwis program/former players complaining about the RR/Barwis training is surprising, since I remember players publicly stating they were in better shape under Barwis, and not just once. If former players were part of the stretch-gate, first that speaks more (to me) of the rift between Carr guys and RR guys.

    People rip on Barwis too much. Michigan losing wasn't Barwis' fault, it was the defense coaching as any rational person could see.

    Lastly if Bacon is persona non grata it's because he exposed some behavior that some Michigan upper-ups are embarrassed by, and quite frankly, if you'd be embarrassed for doing something if it got out that you did it, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.