Commentary

Catching up with ... Mike Elston

Little-used OLB has become successful assistant coach, now with Notre Dame

Updated: September 10, 2011, 8:59 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

Editor's note: Catching Up With is a periodic series in which WolverineNation will interview past Michigan players about their playing days and what they're up to now. This installment features former linebacker Mike Elston.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Mike Elston didn't have the most prolific playing career as an outside linebacker -- making 29 career tackles between 1995 and 1996 -- but he has gone on to become a very successful coach.

After spending a few years as an assistant to the Michigan football camp director and then a graduate assistant with the Wolverines, he coached the defensive ends at Eastern Michigan in 2001 and the entire Eagles defensive line in 2002-03 before starting to work with his current boss, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, at Central Michigan in 2005.

[+] EnlargeMike Elston
University of Notre Dame Athletics Mike Elston played linebacker at Michigan in the 1990s and has made a career as an assistant coach, now at Notre Dame.
He has been with Kelly since, going from Central Michigan to Cincinnati and now to Notre Dame, where he coaches the defensive line, and will return to Ann Arbor as an opposing coach for the first night game in Michigan Stadium history on Saturday.

Q: What would you say is your best coaching memory since you left Ann Arbor? Mike Elston: "Oh man, there's been so many good ones. I would say, right now, I don't know if anything has matched the 12-0 season at Cincinnati. It was a really good run. We weren't always the favorites going out on the field but being able to make adjustments and coach our guys and motivate them to playing at a winning level and to finish the season as Big East champs and 12-0 is a major accomplishment.

Q: You're going to be back at Michigan (on Saturday). Have you given thoughts of what it is going to be like, running out of the tunnel, first game at night, all of that? ME: "I've already been back there as a coach and it is a great experience but I haven't thought that much about it."

Q: What is your favorite memory from being back there? ME: "I would say '97, playing Ohio State my first year as a graduate assistant. We ended up winning the game and playing in a national championship game. It was a hard-fought game and we won and we're celebrating and going to the Rose Bowl and went on to win the national championship. That was really a memorable moment."

Q: Anything specific stand out from that game? ME: "I would say Charles Woodson's performance. I always remember that punt return that he had along the sideline and Lee Corso was standing there on the sideline. I don't think Lee predicted that Michigan would win the game or even be close to a national championship, so that was memorable."

Q: Did you see him live? ME: "On the replays you can see him on the sideline, the Ohio State sideline. But at the time, no [I didn't see him].

Q: What about as a player? What was your best experience that stands out? ME: "Running out of the tunnel was always a great experience before every game. It's such a big stadium. I would say that."

Q: Having Brady (Hoke) back, does that signify a change in the program again in your opinion, now that you're a coach? ME: "Yeah, I would think so. I don't know how it's going for him, but I would imagine that they have a positive outlook, and I know he's going to do a good job trying to restore it back to what Michigan used to be."

Q: Do people still remind you of your Michigan days a lot or that you've been other places change that? ME: "I get asked that question but really, I think I'm different than a lot of people. When you leave a school and you go work in the workforce, you think about the school that you were just at and it stays with you for a while. But I was at Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Cincinnati and you develop relationships with so many kids and so many other coaches that I have a special place in my heart for Michigan. But the three years I spent at Cincinnati we won 10, 11 and 12 games. I'm proud of those players as much as I was when I was at Michigan, and I'm excited about the opportunities here and what we accomplished last year at Notre Dame."

Q: Is it different for you, you think, because you are a coach and guys you played with either went into the workforce or to the NFL and Michigan was their last school? ME: "I think so. I think the last school you had the affiliation with would stay with them the longest. Right now I'm at Notre Dame and nothing really takes precedence over that."

Q: Coming back to Michigan for that first night game, what do you think about that and being part of that? ME: "That has no significance for me. I've played in so many night games in so many great venues the last nine years, 10 years. Michigan being a night game, it's not going to be any different for me."

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.

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