From broken ankles, to broken hands. Troy Woolfolk is the definition of a warrior. Enduring injuries for most of his Michigan career, he was able to finish of a hobbled 2011 season with a Sugar Bowl victory. The biggest thing for Woolfolk is that him and fellow seniors from Team 132 were able to taste the sweetness of victory once again. Something they’ve wanted since their victory over Florida in the Capital One Bowl their freshman year.
Woolfolk took some time to answer a few of my questions.
Q: A major discussion piece for the past couple of seasons was how uncharacteristically bad the Michigan defense was under Greg Robinson. In your opinion, what made your defense so successful under Greg Mattison?
A: I would say the main thing was knowing what the whole defense was and paying attention to detail. With Mattison, he really stressed that everyone on the team not only knowing their own position, but knowing other positions as well. One way he did that was by having full defensive meetings. Very rarely was there individual meetings. The majority of the meetings were the full defense together including the defensive lineman, the defensive backs as well as the linebackers. I think it allowed the defense to understand the defense and be able to work in unison rather than individuals on the field. At the end of the year, I felt like I knew what the linebackers were doing, what the cornerbacks were doing while I was playing safety. Which allowed me to know where my help, which is one thing he always stressed. It allows you to craft your game, to aid you on the field a little bit. Knowing the defense is what made our defense much better. In the past, many times we had balls thrown over our heads or blown coverages. I just think miscommunication with the linebackers and defensive backs was an issue because we would never meet together. The only time we would meet with the rest of the defense was during a special teams meeting or a full team meeting.
Q: Do you feel under Rich Rodriguez that the defense was ignored, in a sense?
A: I wouldn’t say ignored, but I would say he did focus more on the offense. I just think that’s his skill-set. I feel like he wasn’t very familiar with the defense, which was the reason he went and hired Coach Robinson to take care of that. Which basically meant him telling to take care of that, while I take care of this, in a way. He would monitor us every now and then. I think another problem was that we were never really comfortable with the defense. In 2008 we switched up the defenses three times in one year when Coach Schafer was there. I think it didn’t allow the defense to work in unison and actually work. There wasn’t enough consistency
Q: Talk about the seniors of Team 132. What kind of impact do you feel you and your fellow seniors left on the program?
A: This was a special class because this was one of Lloyd Carr’s last recruiting classes. When we came in here, we came into a winning tradition. That’s how it was our freshman year. We beat Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin in the Capital One Bowl. We should’ve won the Big Ten but lost it to Wisconsin. We came in to a winning tradition and we felt a love for that Michigan winning tradition. Then we had to go through a 3-9 record our sophomore year. We just wanted to get back to our winning ways. That was our goal as a senior class to go out how we came in. We committed our time to do anything on and off the field to make that happen.
Q: What was it about Brady Hoke that brought the team together and cap off an incredible 2011 season?
A: I think Brady Hoke is a very intelligent man. He used unorthodox techniques to induce team unity. We went to an area, I can’t remember where it was, ten minutes off campus and it was an open area that had a lot of team activities to get you closer with your teammates. Some activities you had to work with your teammates in order to succeed. It just taught us how to be dependent on our team and individuals won’t survive.
Q: What do you feel was your most memorable moment as a player at the University of Michigan?
A: My most memorable moment had to be the Notre Dame game this year. Every year we played Notre Dame is a great game. In 2009 we had the catch from Greg Mathews for the touchdown, this year you had Roy Roundtree. I would say it was my most memorable for a number of reasons. Number one, it was the first night game in Michigan Stadium history. We broke out the new jerseys, and so did they. Everything lead up to where it had to be a good game, it just had to be. It has to be one of the top games in football history. I just wish I didn’t have a broken hand so I could look sleek in my new jersey (laughs).
Q: You mentioned the new jerseys. As a player, how do you feel about introducing new jerseys at a school that has a ton of tradition in regards to their jerseys.
A: I may get in trouble for saying this, but I’m all about new things. I respect tradition and I think it’s very important. As long as we never change our biggest tradition, a winning tradition at Michigan, I think it’s okay to introduce new jerseys. One thing I will never want to see change, is the helmets. You can change the jerseys but don’t touch the winged helmet. I think that’s the one thing I will never want to see change on the Michigan uniform.
Q: Twitter user @B_Hugh21 asked: How severe was your ankle injury during the season?
A: It was actually way more severe than I tried to lead on to people. It wasn’t until after the season, when I played in my All-Star game, where I was 100 percent. I wasn’t 100 percent the whole season and I noticed it when I was just planting off it. It wasn’t as sturdy as it used to be and it was more of a mental challenge getting over it. I was scared that it may break again. It really did change me as a player. I really wish that I had another year to play on it to show what my true potential is.
Q: Twitter user @FilthyJeepGirl asked: What would it mean to you personally to play on a team that your father played for? Also, did you learn through Dallas that could give you a competitive edge in Detroit?
A: It would mean a lot, as people would say I am following in my fathers footsteps. My father is my hero. For me to be able to do what he did would be the ultimate accomplishment. I really want to make him feel proud, and I think it would be a great way to do it. If I were to make the team, I am going to try and get his jersey number (24) as well. As far as an edge in Detroit, nothing specific. I would say the experience will help me. When I got to Dallas I was nervous and a little hesitant to make certain plays. Now I already have a rookie camp under my belt and I’m less nervous and ready to go out there and play.
Q: Talk about the upcoming year for the Wolverines. They’re returning a lot of guys on defense but also lost some experienced players on the line. How will the defense fare in 2012?
A: I think the secondary will be one of the top secondary’s in the nation. You’ve got a young upcoming star in Blake Countess and J.T. Floyd is proving himself from last year. Obviously, you’ve got Jordan Kovacs who is a phenomenal player and one of the smartest people I’ve been around. Thomas Gordon is going to have a great year. I think the strong suit of this defense is going to be the secondary. Of course the linebackers headed by Kenny Demens is going to be good as well. The question mark I am curious to see answered is the defensive lineman. Will they be able to replace Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. I think that might be the one true test and the only crack I could see in this defense. If Big Will (Campbell) can rattle them up, I think it’s going to be a great year on defense. We are going to give Alabama some hell when we play them at Dallas Stadium this year.