Many people across Ohio and Michigan take the football rivalry between the Buckeyes and Wolverines personally.
Then there’s Mike McCray.
A starting linebacker for Michigan, the Trotwood-Madison High School product is the son of a Buckeye, but he told reporters Mike McCray Sr. won’t have mixed loyalties Saturday.
“He’s a Wolverine right now, probably until I leave,” the younger McCray said.
Mike McCray Sr. was a starting linebacker at Ohio State in 1987 and ’88. He served as a captain his senior season.
His son grew into a four-star prospect who committed to Michigan in March 2012 and remained a future Michigan Man despite getting an offer from Urban Meyer and Ohio State two months later.
And how did that decision go over in the McCray household?
“My dad took it well,” he said. “He just wanted me to go to school so he didn’t have to pay (for it). He’s a Wolverine right now, probably until I leave.”
Injuries marred the younger McCray’s first three years in Ann Arbor, but he assumed a starting role at linebacker this fall and is third on the team with 63 tackles, including 11 ½ for loss.
He was named Big Ten defensive player of the week after logging 3 ½ tackles for losses against Hawaii in September and says he is looking forward to his first chance to make an impact against his father’s alma mater.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “I’m here at Michigan for a reason. One of the biggest reasons I came here was to beat Ohio State. That’s one thing I’m looking forward to. Going out there and competing with teammates, and it should be a fun game.”
He estimated he has been to Ohio Stadium more than 50 times, but this will be his first time playing there.
He recalled rooting for Ohio State during the epic No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between the Buckeyes and Wolverines in 2006 but said his allegiance started to fade after he got to high school.
“It was a great game,” he said of Ohio State’s 42-39 win. “I remember (then-Wolverines) Chad Henne, Mike Hart, all of those guys playing and looking at Michigan as like, ‘OK, this is a team that might do something.’ I’m just looking forward to Saturday now. It should be a great atmosphere.”
Local trio: McCray is not the only area native suiting up for the Maize and Blue.
Tyree Kinnel is a sophomore safety from Wayne who has become a key special teams performer for Michigan. He has 16 tackles, including one for loss, and has forced a fumble.
Nolan Urizio is a second-year offensive lineman from Lakota West. He has played in three games this season.
Joining those three are 12 more Ohioans: De’Veon Smith, Will Hart, Dymonte Thomas, Matt Thompson, Taco Charlton, Camaron Cheeseman, Ben Gedeon, Chris Wormley. Noah Furbush, Kyle Kalis, Greg Robinson and Jake Butt.
Harbaugh reflects: Then of course there is head coach Jim Harbaugh, who was born in Toledo and moved around as his father, Jack, took various coaching jobs.
Those stops included two years as coach at Eaton High School (1964-65) and one at Xenia, where he guided the Buccaneers to the 1966 Western Ohio League championship.
The younger Harbaugh, who is prone to making odd statements, shouted out all the hometowns of his youth when addressing reporters Monday.
“I’ve always just taken great pride in being from Toledo, being from Perrysburg,” Harbaugh said. “It’s where you were born. ‘Hey, where were you born?’ I was born in Toledo, Ohio. Lived in Perrysburg. Lived in Eaton. Lived in Xenia. Lived in Bowling Green. Lived in Morehead, Ky. Lived in Iowa City. Lived in Ann Arbor. Lived in Palo Alto. That was just the growing-up years, through the time I was in high school. Take pride in where you’re from and what your story is and what it was like.
“My dad was a high school football coach at Perrysburg High School, and he’s coached at all those spots that I just mentioned. I have commonality with people that are from there. That’s something that has always given us joy. ‘Oh, you’re from there? We lived there!’ Lot of things to talk about.”