|Photo Courtesy of Detroit Free Press|
It was September 12th, 2009. Michigan would be hosting it’s yearly rivalry game against Notre Dame. Rivalries such as the Michigan and Notre Dame game are defined by moments. This moment in particular was a marquee victory for Rich Rodriguez in his young and flailing coaching career at Michigan. For the moment maker, it’s something he will ever forget. Michigan and former NFL wide receiver Greg Mathews took some time out of his training schedule to answer a few questions.
Q: Talk about the transition going from Coach Carr to Coach Rod. Was this a difficult transition for you? Do you feel as if Michigan lost their “identity” under Coach Rod?
A: It was tough, you feel very comfortable with the coaches that recruited you out of high school so now you have to start all over again. It was a learning experience, you had to learn patience and mental toughness. Luckily, his offense wasn’t too difficult to learn, it was just different terminology. It was a lot easier coming from a pro-style offense to the spread. Because you had universal terminology and longer plays, you had a lot more freedom. The spread was a lot more simple so you can call plays faster. I think Coach Rod, and I don’t mean this in a bad way, he tried to bring his own tradition to Michigan. It was a little different and I think they strayed away from the traditional things they used to do. With the hiring of Coach Rod, bringing in a new Athletic Director (Dave Brandon) and switching to Adidas it was a big change throughout the University. I don’t believe the football program was the only program to feel the change, it seemed that way only because we got most of the attention.
Q: Take us back to 2009 and talk us through the catch you made to beat Notre Dame with 11 seconds left. Do you feel this was the greatest moment of your career at Michigan?
A: The play was a simple slant out pattern, I feel it was a good call on the coaches part because we had studied film (on Notre Dame’s defense) and they were overplaying the slants on film. Coach told me before the play to sell the slant and once I lined up before the play I saw he was lined up inside. I had the inside leverage, so I really tried to drive in there like I was running the slant. So I ran the route and I saw Tate looking at me and the ball was in the air, next thing I know I caught it and my body went numb. I thought “Wow, this is going to make history,” it is definitely something I’ll never forget. There were so many crazy things that happened before that play I was just thankful to be out there in that situation. Laterryal (Savoy) dropped a touchdown the play before, so you could be talking to him right now, I’m just thankful to be in that situation. Minor stepped up and made a big block on that play too, Tate could’ve been sacked on that play. He could’ve thrown to DC (Darryl Stonum), or Tae (Odoms). I’m just thankful to be in that situation, and of course to capitalize. Every year since, we’ve beaten them in close games. We started our own trend, our own tradition (laughs).
Q: Looking back, what do you feel the greatest lessons learned were during your time in Ann Arbor?
A: I learned so many it’s hard to point out just one. I’ve learned a lot of life lessons and I’ve met so many different people from different culture, I’m just thankful I had the opportunity to go to the University of Michigan. The greatest lesson I learned was definitely under Coach Carr, he was one of the classiest guys I have ever met. It was an honor to play for him. It was the little things I learned from him, like going into a meeting. He would say “Okay, guys. It’s better to three hours early than one minute late”. It’s the little things like being early to meetings. He would joke around as well. He would tell us if we were to get in trouble with a lady off campus, he wants us to turn around and run the other way (laughs), run away from the situation. He was such a classy coach and I have a lot of respect for him. He was probably the biggest influence on me.
Q: Let’s bring everyone up to speed. What is Greg Mathews up to these days?
A: I’ve just been traning and working, staying hopeful for a chance to getting signed. I’ve had a couple tryouts, I’ve just been working out and getting ready. I just went to a tryout in Atlanta for a couple of CFL teams this past weekend and this weekend I’m going to Philly to tryout for another CFL. Right now I’m just looking to play football, even if it’s in Canada or another route. I’m looking to play.
Q: Under Brady Hoke, where do you see the direction that Michigan football is headed?
A: I see them getting back to the same Michigan like we saw this year. Tough defense, offense might be shaky at times. Just the traditional Michigan. When I think of that I think tough defense and the pro-style offense. It might not put up 60 points a game like you see these days, but it’ll get the job done. You’ll also see more NFL ready talent, good sized high caliber guys.
Q: What was it about the University of Michigan that made you decide that you want to be a Wolverine.
A: I think what made me decide that I wanted to go to the University of Michigan was probably when my parents were in the Navy and I was out in California. My mom’s side of the family is from Columbus, so she is a big Buckeye fan. I just remember waking up every morning, and Michigan was all you would see. Naturally, kids like to go against their parents since she is a big Ohio State fan. So, I just started supporting Michigan. Tim Biakabutuka was my favorite Michigan player, and I remember sitting in my room watching run all over Ohio State, thinking like “Man, he looks pretty cold out there.” I was always a Michigan fan and I never thought I would play there in high school. It was a life changing experience.