Year after year, Michigan's strong tradition and reputation for success allows it to go into every corner of the country to get in on some of the nation's top athletes. Over the past few decades it has become increasingly clear that that reputation also crosses over into Canada. Since the days of Tshimanga Biakabatuka, many Canadian born youngsters have dreamed of suiting up in the Maize and Blue. Montreal Cegep Du Vieux defensive tackle Renaldo Sagesse was one of those youngsters.
"I'm from Canada so we see a lot of Michigan games," Sagesse said. "As a kid growing up you hear a lot of about Michigan. Plus, the high school that I played for had guys that went to Michigan. When I first got there I said I want to be like those guys. Emmanuel Casseus went to Michigan a couple of years back, and last year he was my defensive line coach. He really gave me a lot of advice and said a lot about Michigan and about the chance he had to go there. Alain Kashama and Deitan Dubuc are from my school and they went there as well. Biakabatuka went to our rival school. Everybody that plays football in Montréal knows about him because he did really well with Michigan."
Despite Sagesse's boyhood affinity for the Wolverines, he almost ended up suiting up for another Big Ten program. The athletic lineman originally pledged to Illinois since it was the Illini that showed him the earliest interest. Michigan's late push almost fell on deaf ears, but thanks to the persuasiveness of the coaches in Ann Arbor and an outstanding visit, any reservations he had were soon eliminated.
"I was committed to Illinois during the holidays, and at the end of December Michigan started calling," Sagesse recalled. "The last head coach we had at my high school had a couple of players that went to Michigan, so he knew I had the talent to go to there. At first I wasn't really interested because I was like, ''you haven't shown me any interest.' They said, 'we'll just come see you and have a little chit chat. If you like us, we'll get a visit.' Then they went to my high school and I had a good talk with the defensive line coach, Coach Stripling. He was explaining to me the situation. They have a good opportunity at defensive tackle this year."
"So I made the visit and talked to Coach Carr," Sagesse continued. "My host was Greg Banks and his roommate was Adam Patterson. I had to ask a lot of questions because during that time I was committed to Illinois, so I had to make sure I understood everything about Michigan. They were saying it is a good tradition and that everything I saw on TV was right. They said, 'It's a good school academically and it's a good school football wise, so you've got the best of both worlds. You're going to have a chance to make big plays and be a part of a good football tradition. Then, if you don't make it in football, you're going to make it in business.' After the visit Coach Carr came to my house and I talked to the defensive coordinator, Coach English. After that I just felt like I had a good chance with Michigan, so that's why I changed my decision."
Like many Canadian players before him, Sagesse will begin college a little older than his freshman teammates. However, he indicated he will still have all four years of eligibility at his disposal. That makes the possibility of losing time due to a pre-existing injury a little less frustrating.
"During the recruiting process I was telling them that I have a little injury to my shoulder," Sagesse explained. "They said when I get there they'll take a look at it. If they need to do something with it, they'll do at the beginning of the season or during the summer time."
At this point Sagesse isn't planning to be on the shelf very long, if at all. Michigan has a lot of young talent at the defensive tackle position, but the new Wolverine believes he has the tools to challenge for time in the rotation from day one.
"I'm about 6-4, 305 and I like to be the kind of defensive tackle that can do a lot on the field," he said. "I don't really look at my stats so I don't really remember them. I know I had a great season and we went to the semifinals. When it's a running situation I can clog the middle and let the backers make the play, or I can bust the play up the middle myself. What I really like is pass rushing. I cause havoc in the middle. That's my forte'. I like to pass rush.
"As far as playing time right away, nothing is given in this world and you've got to earn everything you want. I've just got to work hard just like everybody. They said, 'there's a chance you'll be playing just as much as all of the other players if you earn it.'. It's a good opportunity. I've just got to make sure I take it."
Sagesse hopes to begin working toward his goal of earning immediate playing time as soon as possible. He will waste little time making his way to the states once his high school career officially comes to a close.
"I'm going to finish school at the end of May or early June," he said. "As soon as I finish I'm going to get down to Ann Arbor so I can get ready for next season."