David Underwood, a former running back for the University of Michigan, is from a small town in Texas. When an opportunity to join the Michigan Wolverines occurred, he just couldn’t refuse. He eventually went on to win back-to-back Big Ten titles and also secured a victory against Ohio State.
Now a personal trainer (his business is called Mach 5 Sports) he works with Nike Sparq to train kids to become better as players as well as student athletes. With lessons learned from the University of Michigan, he hopes to make a positive effect on each athlete he trains.
Underwood took some time to answer a few of my questions.
TBHR: Obviously in the south, football is a big deal. Considering the type of schools you were surrounded by in Texas, what was it about the University of Michigan that made you want to go north?
UNDERWOOD: The University can speak for itself, it’s the all-time winningest program in college football history. I had an opportunity to do something that no one has ever done where I’m from. I’m from a small town in Texas. When it presented itself, I took forth and went on.
TBHR: During your time at Michigan, you were backing up two great running backs in Perry and Hart. Most people would see the writing on the wall and look to transfer elsewhere. What made you want to stay with the Michigan program?
UNDERWOOD: It was a learning situation for me, I had a lot to learn. But at the same time it was an opportunity for me to get better and become more competitive. I had the opportunity to start my senior year but unfortunately I got hurt against Notre Dame and Mike Hart emerged. With the goals I had set for myself coming out of high school, it was tough. So is life, you just have to deal with it. That’s what Michigan teaches. Now it’s taught me how to overcome a lot of things and the adversity of life. It was a tough pill to swallow but I was very supportive of my teammates. I did whatever it took for Michigan to win and I’m proud Michigan made me who I am today.
TBHR: What is your favorite moment as a player at the University of Michigan?
UNDERWOOD: My favorite moment was the 100th game against Ohio State. When we won, everyone was throwing roses on the field and everyone rushed the field. That moment was the first true experience of what I thought Michigan to be like coming from Texas. Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard, and the cold November football games. My first two years we came somewhat short of our goal of winning the Big Ten title, that’s always the goal at Michigan. It was my first Big Ten title, so that was a great experience.
TBHR: Speaking of Big Ten titles, you were a back-to-back Big Ten title winner. What was it about those two teams that you will never forget.
UNDERWOOD: Just the work we all put in to get to that point. A select few guys, I don’t want to name any names because a few were first round picks, but we used to work out after our work out with Mike Gillison on certain days of the week. We would also hop the stadium fence and run the stadium steps just to get the extra work so we would have that extra advantage for our team. Those were moments for us, doing the work outs at night when no one else was doing it and helped us bond as brothers, that I cherish and I’ll never forget.
TBHR: Talk a little about what Mach 5 Sports is.
UNDERWOOD: I’m a personal trainer, that’s what I do now. I am certified by Nike Sparq, I work at camps and combines through them. I train the elite athletes you see everyday. I train high school kids enhance their skills, sports performance wise, to get themselves ready to have themselves a great season. I’m going into my fourth year and I have great things to come. I’m mentoring kids, it’s not only personal training, it’s about mentoring them as well. Such as teaching them the right way to go about being a student athlete. Which there is only one way, the ward way. You have to get up and go to class and be dedicated. Everyone doesn’t make it to the NFL. A lot of my kids, I have some D-2 kids and the majority of these kids are from the big-boy schools. Such as Texas and Oregon. Some of them have the idea that they want to go to the NFL but they don’t really an idea on what to do after football is all over. So that’s what I’m teaching them now. Go to school and get a degree and be a better person in life after football. So they can get a better sense on what to do when they’re done playing ball.
TBHR: With the kids that you train, what type of lessons or principles that you learned from Michigan are you trying to instill into them?
UNDERWOOD: Oh yeah (laughs). Like I said, there’s only one way, the hard way. I have the reputation of being a pretty tough trainer. The kids know in order to get to that level you’ve got to go hard. Your opportunity could come and go in a blink of an eye, but so is life. For example, you’re having a meeting with a big time company and you’re late, they could pass on you and look to someone else. That’s the way life is, you just have to be prepared for opportunities and take advantage of them.
TBHR: Talk a little about the Rich Rod years transitioning into the current era of Brady Hoke. By not having a consistent rusher since Hart and losing their identity as a powerhouse program, how frustrating was it to watch as a former player?
UNDERWOOD: To be truthful, I kinda stayed away. Because some of the things I heard, not negativity, I just didn’t exactly like what I was hearing. I didn’t go back to campus since graduating in 2007 at all until last year. I kept in touch with a few members of the coaching staff, Fred Jackson specifically since he was my coach. My teammates as far as watching them, I’d see them get beat, it was just tough to watch. It’s not anything negative on Coach Rodriguez, but it’s just not Michigan football. That’s not our style. We play smash-mouth football. We’ll hit you with the play action, with the two tight ends and big receivers. That’s who we are and we’re getting back to that. It was difficult but everyone needs change. Coach Hoke is going through the transition right now. He was there the first two years I was there. We always thought that if he got the opportunity to coach that he’d make a great head coach. Now we know it’s only a matter of time until he wins national championships.