Thursday, May 31, 2012
Wolverines learn leadership with SEALs
By Adam Rittenberg
Three months remain until the games begin, but Michigan already has completed the nation's best offseason team activity.
Michigan recently took its seniors to California for a three-day leadership retreat, which culminated with a training session alongside the U.S. Navy SEALs at a base in Coronado, Calif. Wolverines players also participated in leadership classes, conducted a youth football camp and toured the Rose Bowl, where they'd like to return on Jan. 1.
Colleague Mark Schlabach tagged along for the trip and wrote an extensive piece about what he saw.
One interesting scene came when Michigan associate athletic director Greg Harden asked the seniors whether they're better leaders than they were a year ago.
About halfway through the players' answers, Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson offered a surprising response.
"I feel like I haven't grown," Robinson said. "For me to be the quarterback at the University of Michigan, I feel like I have to grow up a lot and be a lot more accountable."
Robinson's honest self-evaluation was just the kind of answer Michigan coach Brady Hoke wanted to hear.
Leadership has been on Robinson's mind for some time. He talked with Brian Bennett last month about the need to be more vocal and forceful with his words to teammates. Although Robinson is unlike any Michigan quarterback we've seen with his unique skill set, he wants to be more like his Wolverines predecessors in how he conducts himself as a leader.
Hoke and Michigan's strength coach Aaron Wellman had a connection with the Navy SEALs from their time with San Diego State's program. Hoke's final group of San Diego State seniors went through a similar program in 2010. Michigan's trip was approved by the Big Ten's compliance staff because it involved leadership and life skills (the NCAA permits such activities).
Schlabach details several events during the trip, including a meeting where players shared deeply personal aspects of their background as well as their achievements in college.
The training session was particularly interesting, and not surprisingly, the SEALs didn't take it easy on the Michigan players.
Robinson's team, which also included [J.T.] Floyd and [Roy] Roundtree, won one of the early tire relay races. But they made the mistake of celebrating in front of Stella.
"What did they do wrong?" Stella asked. "They celebrated. How many times have you seen a team celebrate before the game is over? They're out there jumping up and down and hollering and then it's about them. Football players are the worst about that. Be humble, people. If you act like that, you're going to put a target on your back and people are going to crush you! What is humility? It's the absence of arrogance. If you start winning games and acting like fools, I'm going to get on a plane and come out there and kick your butts. Be humble and act like a team."
Then Stella turned to Robinson's team.
"They celebrated and now they're going to pay," Stella said.
Instead of getting a reward -- a short rest period -- like other winning teams, Robinson's team was ordered to complete lunges and sprints. None of the Wolverines did any more celebrating.