A Michigan Man on Commitment

Former Michigan great Mike Kenn chimes in on the allegations of impropriety in his beloved football program. The 1978 1st round draft pick and 16-year Atlanta Falcons vet offers his support to Rich Rodriguez and calls on all Michigan fans to do the same.

Be sure to tune in to SportsTalk 1050 WTKA Thursday morning at 8:00 am to hear Kenn discuss the letter below.

I have had the pleasure and good fortune of having played football for a very long time, longer than all but a select few. Those long years of hard won experience have given me the knowledge and the right to comment about football and its requirements at every level from grade school, to high school, to college, and all the way up to professional. 

First it must be understood that football is an extremely difficult game. While most readily observe the physical component of this difficulty, it is the mental toughness required by the sport that often goes overlooked. Though they have had abundant athletic ability, countless players have failed to be successful in football because they lack the perspective needed to conquer the physical demands of the sport. Many do not have the mental toughness, sincere commitment, or love for the sport needed to excel and conquer at the highest level. In order to gain a spot on a team, win a position, or win championships, the amount of extra time spent outside of team sanctioned routines is the responsibility of the player. Each individual must make the commitment to himself and his teammates to become the best that he can be both physically and mentally. The player must make the conscious decision to put in the extra time, and it is this extreme dedication that separates the mediocre from the truly great. No coach, teammate, parent, or hero can make that happen; however, it is the responsibility of the University, the athletic department, and the coaching staff to make the opportunity for personal improvement available to every player. Michigan does this, as does every other well organized program within college football. It is always offered, but never required.

For anonymous former or current players to make allegations that a coaching staff would knowingly violate NCAA rules is ludicrous. If one looks at the situation from a contextual standpoint as opposed to simply reacting with emotional outrage, it can be seen that the scenario is nonsensical. What would the incentive for the coaching staff be when weighed against the inevitable consequences? Many have said that such an act would be committed in order to gain "an edge" over the competition or to punish players for their previous season, but the chance of a group of coaches consciously deciding to disobey such a powerful organization, the NCAA, for such a slight edge is minute. These claims from players expose a lack of character in these young men and reveal their weakness - the kind of weakness that does not understand the level of commitment needed to rise to the highest level of the game, and the kind of weakness that will never understand the amount of commitment necessary for success in everyday life. What we learn in football is the drive it takes to overcome a team, a single opponent, and most importantly our own shortcomings. As players we are given the tools it takes to succeed in life, but only under our own initiative will we utilize them. Coaches cannot force players to fight for success, and these young men who have sent out unsupported accusations do not appear to have the drive to search for success by themselves.

Here is where the line must be drawn. I did not want the uncommitted as teammates, and I do not want the uncommitted representing the Michigan football team. I want committed and dedicated warriors who understand the demands, both physical and mental, of this most difficult game. I am not supporting the violation of NCAA regulations; I am insisting that there has been no such violation. This episode is simply the most pronounced example of a series of undercuts made towards Rodriguez. For a coach to gain success he must have the support of his administration, loyalty of his players, and respect of his peers. I believe Rodriguez has all but the first of this trifecta, but it is the lack of this important item that is obstructing our program's rise. 

Rich Rodriguez is attempting to advance Michigan football into the modern era. An era of football that is played with great team speed on both sides of the ball. I have met the man. I have met his coaches. They are committed. They have won and know what it takes to win. They are advancing the Michigan program and taking it to the level we have failed to reach in previous seasons. There is always pain associated with that advancement and there will be casualties along the way, but this is the nature of the game and this is the nature of life. 

Anyone who attempts to undercut Rodriguez and the Michigan football program with baseless accusations that lack evidence are self-serving. They are placing their own agenda above the good of the program, and that will doom a team to failure in every challenge. It is time the administration surrounding the Michigan football team finally honors the slogan they have come up with and go "all in for Michigan," but until that occurs we as a Michigan nation must come together and write letters and send emails to all who may have an effect, whether that be the press, President Coleman, Rich Rodriguez, or Bill Martin himself. Don't let the jealous self-serving few tarnish and erode the legacy and future of Michigan football.

Go Blue,

Mike Kenn
Michigan Football 74-77
Atlanta Falcons 78-94

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