Wolverines honor senior class

LIVONIA, Mich. -- While the light-hearted nature of the players stole the show in front of 1,600 plus at the University of Michigan Club of Greater Detroit's 91st Annual Football Bust, several times there were reminders of just what this senior class has endured.

It's a group that has been through three coaching staffs and a couple of the worst seasons in Michigan football history only to emerge in its final season with a 10-2 record and a BCS bowl berth.

"Unless you've been a fifth-year senior, you don't know," said senior center and Rimington Award winner David Molk, who won the Rader Award for top offensive lineman. "You didn't hear the hate. There was a time when we got booed by you guys. ... But the reality is that this is Michigan. We come back."

That part of the seniors' careers couldn't be ignored. History was in the room. Former coaches Lloyd Carr and Gary Moeller sat at one of the front tables, and many players thanked former coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff for their contributions to Michigan football. The senior class was the final class Carr recruited during his tenure at Michigan.

"This group emerged champions," fifth-year senior defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said as he began to quote former coach Bo Schembechler's famous mantra that "those who stay will be champions."

Van Bergen, who shared the Ufer Spirit Award with tight end Kevin Koger, pointed out that the verb "stay" for this year's senior class didn't just mean staying at the University of Michigan, but that it has meant enduring and struggling together as a team.

"I believe the man who said those words would be proud of what we accomplished this season," senior offensive lineman Mark Huyge said. "I can live with that."

When the room rose in a standing ovation to the accomplishments of Team 132, as this group is known, coach Brady Hoke stood at the podium with his hands in the air.

"Sit down, sit down," he said. "Thank you, but we have not won the Big Ten Championship."

It was a reminder of Hoke's no-nonsense approach and the fact he took over this program with that one singular goal.

Still, this event was more about the accomplishments of the senior class than what games the Wolverines didn't win. Each senior had the opportunity to stand at the microphone, receive his "M" ring and give a speech to the crowd of nearly 1,600 people.

It was a serious event, though the season's accomplishments allowed jokes to be made and laughs to be had. Senior running back Mike Shaw did an impersonation of running backs coach Fred Jackson, and senior fullback John McColgan started his speech with a glare at one front table with the remark, "What are you looking at?"

Even Hoke got in on the fun. When introducing Jackson, he said the assistant coach had the honor to coach 1940 Heisman winner Tom Harmon.

But honest jokes were made as well, jokes that after the last few seasons wouldn't have even gotten a chuckle.

Senior long snapper Tom Pomarico said, "I'm hoping most of you don't recognize my name because that means I did a pretty good job this year."

But this senior class will be remembered for a long time, as the class that got Michigan back on track.

Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at jenningsespn@gmail.com or or on Twitter @chanteljennings.