Thursday, September 4, 2014
Devin Funchess out to prove he's No. 1
By Austin Ward
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Nothing had changed physically for Devin Funchess, but his jersey no longer fit.
The number was all wrong now, especially since the No. 87 was reserved at Michigan for a tight end and Funchess was now officially, fully a wide receiver after previously shuffling between positions.
And while the process of switching numbers isn’t an overnight proposition at a program with as much history as Michigan, Funchess knew something had to be done to make sure he looked right and was paying the proper respects to the school’s rich tradition before opening the season last weekend against Appalachian State.
“I felt like No. 87 was more of a tight end number,” Funchess said. “I was just thinking of a number, and I was always watching highlights, and I saw David Terrell and Anthony Carter, Tyrone [Butterfield] and of course Braylon [Edwards]. I saw those guys, and I think I fit that frame.
“I think the No. 1 fit me.”
Earning the right to put it on for the first time, though, wasn’t as simple as Funchess just asking for a new digit and expecting a different uniform to show up in his locker.
Devin Funchess donned the No. 1 jersey for the first time in the opener and then rose to the occasion.
He was aware of that, of course, and methodically worked through a checklist before making a request to slip on a jersey that has been synonymous with game-breaking wide receivers at Michigan for nearly four decades.
The first step was actually becoming a full-timer at the position, which new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier made clear that Funchess would be this fall while challenging him to learn not only all of his responsibilities on the field, but those of each of the other wideouts in the formation as well.
Then Funchess asked for feedback from respected team leaders throughout offseason workouts and training camps, checking in with them to make sure he was putting in enough effort to earn the right to switch.
He also had to be sure that No. 1 was the best choice for him, with hours of watching highlights of former Michigan stars wearing that famous digit helping convince Funchess he was ready to pick up the torch and add his name to the list.
Finally there were the not-so-small matters of making the request to Michigan coach Brady Hoke, calling the family of Michigan’s designated legend for the No. 87 jersey, Ron Kramer, to get approval to make a change and ultimately passing something of a history test to prove that Funchess understood what he was asking for in becoming just the seventh wide receiver in Michigan history and first since 2004 to wear the iconic jersey.
“Devin being more of a wide receiver, obviously, he thought that's what he wanted to do,” Hoke said. “Believe me, I asked him who has worn No. 1.
“He started with Anthony Carter and went down the list, and I think that he has earned it.”
Less than a week before the Wolverines emerged from the locker room to open the season, Hoke gave the final blessing on Sunday of game week and Funchess had his new look.
And just before taking the field six days later and providing some strong evidence that he’ll only add to the legacy of the uniform by scoring the first three touchdowns of the season for the Wolverines and making life miserable for Appalachian State defenders helpless against his size and speed, Funchess snuck in a quick glance at the number now on his chest.
“It gave me goosebumps,” Funchess said. “A number is just a number. But, you know, this number just brings a bigger target for me because off all those greats that have played here and worn that number.
“Everybody has been kind of wondering [about moving on from tight end], I just felt like when Coach Nuss told me I was going to move outside permanently, I had to get a different mindset to that position.”
And a different number. But in terms of production, nothing appears to be any different with the latest in a line of Michigan receivers now all set to torment defensive backs while wearing the No. 1.