Shea Patterson Cognizant of Michigan's Grand Traditions, Importance of the QB Position

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Shea Patterson Cognizant of Michigan's Grand Traditions, Importance of the QB Position

Football

Shea Patterson Cognizant of Michigan's Grand Traditions, Importance of the QB Position

ANN ARBOR, Mich — Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Shea Patterson knows and understands how big Michigan football is. He’s heard all about it from his dad, a Michigan fan. He heard the stories and annals of the maize and blue throughout the years.

But it’s a different thing entirely when you actually get to strap on that winged helmet and lead the team.

Considering that Patterson spent his first two years in Oxford, Mississippi, it’s a different monster in Ann Arbor. The stadium is bigger — obviously, the biggest in all of college football. The tradition is bigger. He’s now the starting quarterback for the winningest program in the entire sport.

None of that is lost on him. He’s aware that there’s more than his own personal legacy at stake — he has to uphold the expectations of the many who came before him.

Considering who his head coach is, as Jim Harbaugh was the starting quarterback for the Wolverines back in the 1980s, being great, leading Michigan to victory, and adding (not detracting) from the grand legacy is on the forefront of Patterson’s mind.

Now that he’s been named the starting quarterback, he’s well aware of the giant shoes he has to fill, going back to the days of Fielding H. Yost, Fritz Crisler, Bennie Oosterbaan and Bo Schembechler.

And, thinking back to his childhood, when he heard those stories of a mighty Michigan to the north, he knows this isn’t something that just anyone gets to do, to be a leader of the Wolverines.

“It’s very important,” Patterson said. “It’s once in a lifetime. Not many people can look back and say they got the opportunity to play at the University of Michigan. With Coach Harbaugh being a team captain and All-American here, now he’s the coach – not many people get to do that. I’m sure he’s getting us prepared like no other. He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around. He’s making the most of his opportunity, and so will I.”

Patterson comes to Ann Arbor replacing former Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight, who went 12-3 in his tenure.

Despite a solid record, Speight doesn’t get much credit with Michigan fans, likely due to a loss against Ohio State in 2016 — despite playing in that game with a major, still undisclosed injury.

Oddly enough, Patterson and Speight have gotten close in recent years. This past summer, the two hit the field together in Los Angeles, sharing the same quarterback guru, Steve Clarkson, who held a QB retreat back in May.

After Patterson had made his decision to transfer to Michigan from Ole Miss, Speight sought another opportunity out West, pledging his final season of eligibility to UCLA.

As the two grew closer, Speight relayed to him how crucial and important the Michigan experience is. Though he opted to finish his career elsewhere, Speight acknowledged to Patterson that there’s nothing like wearing that winged helmet and touching the banner.

“Me and Wilton have a pretty cool relationship,” Patterson said. “We don’t talk about football that much when we’re together, but he did say to me one time that being the quarterback at Michigan is the biggest thing you’re ever going to be a part of. I took that and ran with it. I understand that, and I understand how big of an opportunity this is, and I’m just excited to do it.”

But Speight isn’t the only recent quarterback to reach out to Patterson.

Like Patterson, now-Detroit Lions backup quarterback Jake Rudock started his career with another program, transferring into Ann Arbor from Iowa. In just one year as a Wolverine, Rudock led Michigan to a 10-3 record in Jim Harbaugh’s first year as head coach — a year where very little was expected of the fledgling program.

Rudock has made it a point, especially since he’s still in the area, to be a mainstay in the halls of Schembechler, and the first opportunity he got, he reached out to Patterson to let him know that he’s there for him if he needs anything.

Though his experience in Ann Arbor was short, he obviously knows the lay of the land, having finished out his career strong with a win over Florida.

“Jake Rudock, I met him one time when he was up here,” Patterson said. “He had an opportunity to reach out to me. He let me know I can come to him anytime I want for advice or anytime I needed anything, just to come to him. Because he’s been there, he’s done that.”

Now that he’s in Ann Arbor, Patterson has chosen to wear the No. 2, a number more famous on the defensive side of the ball for Michigan.

Of course, that number once belonged to former Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, who helped lead the Wolverines to a national championship in 1997.

Despite it being the other side of the ball and plenty of Michigan players have worn the No. 2 throughout the years, Patterson says he had to give deference to the G.O.A.T. on the defensive side of the ball, calling him and asking permission.

“Actually, I did!” “My dad coached him in high school in basketball. He was actually a really good basketball player. My dad gave me his number. I thought, just out of respect to possible the best player that ever lived coming through Michigan, to see if it was okay to wear his number.”

So, what did he say?

“He just, he said – ‘Can’t wear it!’” Patterson joked. “No, he just said, ‘Wear that number with pride, and if you’re gonna wear it, know what you’re wearing it for. You’ve got to be a leader. You’ve got to show the guys how hard you work and wear it with pride.’”

Patterson says that he grew up idolizing Chad Henne, but his favorite Wolverine of all time is now Tom Brady — who he also called the G.O.A.T.

He hasn’t heard yet from Brady, but assuredly, when he takes off that maize and blue jersey for the last time, he hopes he’s remembered as fondly as the most prolific passer in NFL history, and favorite son of the Michigan football program.

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