One enterprising sports writer asked each of the 42 players at Big Ten Media Days to draw the logo of their schools without looking.
Michigan fifth-year senior linebacker Mike McCray, a Trotwood-Madison graduate, had one of the easier logos. The block “M” is everywhere in Ann Arbor. Fans, coaches and players know it by heart even if they have never studied it in detail. However, drawing the logo with a group of reporters around him at the McCormick Center on Tuesday made McCray hesitate.
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“Can I cheat?” he asked.
“You’re not supposed to?” he was told.
“OK, I won’t.”
McCray handed over the drawing and said, “It’s terrible.”
It wasn’t terrible. McCray did a decent job. He ought to know the logo better than most. He arrived on campus in 2013, the second-to-last season of the Brady Hoke era, overcame a shoulder injury that cost him the 2015 season, seized a starting job for the first time in 2016 and enters his final season as the only returning starter on defense.
The Wolverines, coming off two straight 10-3 seasons, will lean on new players on both sides of the ball. The offense returns four starters. The youth doesn’t worry the veteran McCray.
“I know what we have,” McCray said. “A lot of people who will be starting this year played a lot last year. I have no worries for our defense or our team to come out with a win in the first game. We’ll be perfectly fine.”
McCray started all 13 games last fall. He earned a Big Ten honorable mention, recording 76 tackles, 12½ tackles for loss, 4½ sacks, two interceptions, and nine pass breakups. He had nine tackles, a sack and two pass breakups in the 30-27 double-overtime loss to Ohio State in Columbus.
Michigan then lost 33-32 to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. It suffered its other loss in the 10th game of the season, 14-13 at Iowa. It lost three games by a total of five points.
“We keep it on the back of our mind,” McCray said. “We can’t dwell on that, but we know we should have won those games. Going into this season that could be motivation for us, knowing when the fourth quarter comes we’ve got to finish.”
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McCray should be the type of player who can help Michigan reverse that trend, though he has not been named a captain yet. That vote hasn’t been taken.
McCray would seem to be an obvious choice. The fact that coach Jim Harbaugh invited him to represent the Wolverines at media days, along with offensive lineman Mason Cole and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, bodes well for him.
McCray’s dad, Mike McCray Sr., was a captain at Ohio State in 1988. McCray says his dad is all Wolverine now. He hasn’t seen any Buckeye gear at the house lately.
While McCray didn’t follow his dad to Ohio State, he would like to follow in his footsteps as a leader.
“It would mean a lot,” McCray said. “It’s kind of crazy to think about. My dad became a captain when he was a fifth-year senior. If I did the same thing, it would be an honor to represent the University of Michigan, one of the greatest schools ever. If I don’t, I won’t be mad about it. If I did, I would be happy.”