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Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Hemingway writes Hollywood ending

By Michael Rothstein
WolverineNation

NEW ORLEANS -- Almost an hour after Junior Hemingway played in his final Michigan football game Tuesday night, he came into the Wolverines locker room in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and with the help of his quarterback, Denard Robinson, he started to dance.

Still in uniform after being taken around for post-game media duties, and with his Most Outstanding Player trophy from Michigan's 23-20 overtime win over Virginia Tech in the Allstate Sugar Bowl nestled in the left corner of his locker, Hemingway began breaking it down.

Junior Hemingway
Junior Hemingway's first TD catch in the Sugar Bowl covered 45 yards and gave Michigan its first lead.
It was all part of a crazy last night at Michigan for Hemingway, who had two catches for 63 yards -- both touchdowns -- in his final game. It was a moment he thought might never come, a situation that at different points in his Michigan career seemed almost unattainable.

Yet here he was, sitting on a folding chair in front of that locker, Sugar Bowl champions hat on his head, and it started to sink in.

"I'm thinking about it, and it is just kind of weird," Hemingway said. "Like, I know I'm done, but I don't feel like I am. It'll probably be more of a reality when I get back to Ann Arbor."

He went out with a big performance that in some ways typifies his career. His statistics weren't gaudy, but the plays he made were meaningful and memorable. On his first touchdown he came back to fight a Virginia Tech defender for a ball, made two tacklers miss, and ran into the end zone to give Michigan a 7-6 lead.

His second one was almost a carbon copy of the touchdown that got waved off against Iowa in that game's final drive. Robinson threw a ball high, Hemingway leapt up, caught it, and dragged a toe inbounds in the back of the end zone as he was falling down to give the Wolverines a 17-9 lead.

"I've always had confidence in both of those guys," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "And when you have a big target and a guy who has great timing, which is part of why Junior makes a lot of those catches, he has a big body and bodies some people out of the way.

"So we've always had a lot of confidence in that combination and sometimes you are going to make plays. And you've got to have guys who can make those plays, and when they are the ones doing it, you feel pretty good about it."

Hoke won't have Hemingway anymore, though, as he becomes one of the Wolverines' biggest losses entering next season.

There are many things Hemingway will miss as he ends his time as a Michigan receiver -- his friends, his teammates, having gone through a tumultuous time in the school's history and still coming out of it with a career that ended up feeling somewhat complete.

Hemingway, who said he had yet to hear from any postseason All-Star games about potential participation, said last month that his career didn't go quite as planned. Between the coaching changes, injuries and in some seasons a lack of production, the 6-foot-1 receiver didn't end up reaching his goal of becoming one of the best receivers in Michigan history.

But the way his career concluded Tuesday evening -- in an NFL stadium, in a BCS bowl, and being named the game's best player -- he almost couldn't have pictured it any better. It gave him the completion of his career that he always wanted.

"I think it did. I really think it did," Hemingway said, the words slowly coming out of his mouth. "I think I ended it on a good note, and I couldn't ask for another way."

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