Wangler, Michigan Striving Through Doubt, Perception of Inferiority

jared wangler michigan football

Wangler, Michigan Striving Through Doubt, Perception of Inferiority

Football

Wangler, Michigan Striving Through Doubt, Perception of Inferiority

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — This Michigan football team has had its moments of being counted out. After losing to Notre Dame to start the season, it seemed like 2018 was over before it began.

Five games later, Michigan sits at 5-1, with all of its goals ahead of it, should the Wolverines handle their business. Yet, they get no love. They’re not mentioned as a College Football Playoff contender or among the top teams in the nation, despite being ranked No. 12 in the AP Top 25 with one loss to the current No. 5 team by one possession.

In fact, there’s been more of a nonchalance when it comes to Michigan. If it wins in a blowout, of course it’s beating teams it’s supposed to. If it wins in a close game, it’s just more proof of what’s wrong with the Wolverines.

Michigan fifth-year fullback Jared Wangler — who scored his first career touchdown on Saturday — knows that feeling of being counted out. He was a part of Brady Hoke’s last team in 2014, a team that went 5-7. He experienced the highs of 2016 and the lows of 2017. He’s made position switches.

His resume is full of experience showing that he knows what both sides of the popularity coin are.

And with Michigan set to take on Wisconsin on Saturday night, he’s eager to put the negative attention in the rear view.

“We love it, we love the big games,” Wangler said. “Can’t really ask for much more (than) under the lights against Wisconsin – a team that you know is gonna bring it. We get juiced up for this type of stuff. There’s gonna be some big hits. It’s gonna be a hard, tough game. They’re well-coached. They’ve got good players. It’s just one of those things – you come here to win these big games, and you’ve got to win these big games to win these championships. That’s why you come to Michigan.”

But, Wangler does hear those fans and pundits out there, decrying the games previous, stating: ‘Who cares? Michigan hasn’t beaten anybody.’

And so it goes. Beat a starving Big Ten team in Nebraska mercilessly? So what. Come back, down 17 on the road against Northwestern, securing Michigan’s second-biggest in-game resurgence away from The Big House? Whatever. Dominate a Maryland team that beat No. 9 Texas to open the season? Meh.

None of these wins are good in the eyes of many. But, Michigan has a chance to change that perception quickly should it beat Wisconsin on Saturday.

But Wangler doesn’t see it that way. He and his teammates know that the teams they’ve faced have been better than people give them credit for. It’s hard to win in college football, and since the season opening loss, Michigan has mostly made its competitors look foolish on the other side of the ball.

Saturday is just another opportunity to prove that.

“There’s always going to be people knocking what we do on the field and the success we have,” Wangler said. “I think some of those teams are pretty solid. I think they’re well-coached teams. I think what we’re doing on the field shows that we’re moving in the right direction and we’re really starting to jell at the right time, and I think that’s what’s most important, coming in here and getting a marquee win against, obviously, a ranked opponent. I think that would be big for us. This Saturday will be a nice test to really show where we’re at as a team.”

That type of doubt could derail a lesser team, a lesser player. But Wangler, along with his teammates, are intent to persevere.

A former three-star recruit from Warren (MI) De La Salle, Wangler had offers from LSU, MSU and Penn State — the latter of which he briefly committed to. But, the son of a former Michigan signal caller who played under Bo Schembechler got to continue his legacy by donning a winged helmet. When he got the offer, Wangler couldn’t pass up the opportunity to (somewhat) follow in his father’s footsteps.

He’s now doing just that, but having converted from linebacker to fullback, the similarities are mostly the lineage, the uniform and the No. 5. The elder Wangler — John — was a star in Ann Arbor, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns in his career — good for second in the Michigan record books.

Jared Wangler had something of a different story.

In his second-year with the program, then-new defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin (the Maryland head coach currently on administrative leave), told Wangler that he would never be good enough to play for Michigan. That’s a moment that’s stuck with Wangler and propelled him to prove Durkin wrong.

And, on Saturday, with Durkin forced to sit at home and watch his Maryland team on TV, Wangler made good on that promise.

On Sunday, Wangler took to Facebook to post pictures of his touchdown, along with the reminder of what Durkin had said to him. In the end, he’s not bitter about what his former DC said to him. Rather, he’s thankful, because it helped him excel that much more.

“I guess it’s something I appreciated that he did for me early on in my career is – he was tough on me, he’s a tough coach – that’s kind of his style,” Wangler said. “That quote has just kind of always stuck with me in my head, one of those things I mentioned earlier – you have to prove people wrong. I appreciated it gave me that extra incentive.”

Jared Wangler and his teammates celebrate his first career touchdown.

So, Wangler and his teammates have made a living of proving people wrong.

In 2015, when Jim Harbaugh took over the program, people said Michigan would be lucky to go 6-6 after Hoke’s 5-7 swan song. In 2016, few believed Michigan could contend, and it was a questionable spot away from reaching the College Football Playoff.

Likewise, Wangler had his moment years ago where he was told he wasn’t good enough and he suffered through the uncertainty, along with his teammates — like Chase Winovich and Lawrence Marshall, Brady Hoke recruits who seemed like they would never play early on. Now they’re all reaping the benefits.

Wangler, determined to forge his own path instead of living in his father’s shadow, says that persevering through that has helped him and his fellow 2014 recruiting classmates to get to the place where they are now — winning games.

“It feeds me a lot,” Wangler said. “You go through the ups-and-downs, you don’t quite play as much as you anticipate early on in your career. It’s just something that sticks to you. You really want to be out there and contribute to the team and you’re busting your butt every day, just like everyone else. That’s something that plays into it. Obviously. I’m sure that’s for a lot of players – just the need to prove people wrong because you’ve always got people trying to doubt you and doubt your abilities.”

Now that his push to see the field is yielding positive results, what about the team? Can it beat Wisconsin? Can the Wolverines get back into the spotlight?

College GameDay might be in Ann Arbor this weekend, but many pundits question why, despite it being a top 15 matchup. Likewise, people say Jim Harbaugh has never won big games, but in 2016, Michigan was ranked No. 4, and beat then-No. 8 Wisconsin — which only finished the season ranked one spot lower.

Regardless of your perception of him, your perception of Michigan, Wangler feels that he and his Wolverines are heading in the right direction. The offense, defense and special teams all have had their ups and downs, just like Wangler, but now, the arrow is heading up for all four.

“There is something special with this team – you can feel it,” Wangler said. “I kinda feel like we’re hitting on all cylinders right now and really gelling really well, both on and off the field. With the coaching – the schemes have been great, the coaches have been great, the players are – everyone’s interacting really well. Confidence is there, which is really what you need, especially in these big games coming up. I sense something great about this team. I’ve played with a lot of guys. The guys on this team – I love them. They’re all really good dudes. I’m sure as you guys have interacted with them in interviews. But there’s just a lot of really good people on this team. No big ego guys really – just guys that want to win.”

And if there are any ‘no ego guys’ on this Michigan team that deserve the spotlight, Jared Wangler is among those most deserving.

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