Let's be honest for a second: the last few years haven't exactly been a party if you're a Michigan fan. At times it's felt a lot like using this:
However, during the last fifteen years there have just been some Michigan players that make you say "wow". From the freakish athletes to the constant bangers to the seemingly 'overachievers', there will be some expected and some unexpected names on this list. After coming up with an initial bunch, comparing stats, and using personal experience, here's the list. Sit back, relax, and relive some of the greatest Michigan players of the past fifteen seasons.
10) Mike Hart
Although Hart wasn't an imposing physical presence like some of the others on this list, nor did he have great speed, Hart still took over games, doing anything and everything very, very well. From pass-blocking, to catching the ball out of the backfield, to finding a hole when there really wasn't to never, ever fumbling the ball, Hart was a constant performer in the Michigan backfield, starting every game he was healthy while on campus. That, however, is the problem; Hart's one negative, besides the lack of breakaway speed, was the curse of nagging injuries which plagued his career in its' latter half. Regardless, the aptly-named Hart showed a toughness much greater than his 5'8" frame would indicate, popping out of piles, running over, juking around, and dragging tacklers to gain that extra inch. If you had to pick an aspect of Hart's game to be his best, after much debate it would have to be his ridiculous balance and amazing ability to see cutback lanes forming before they were actually there.
Most Memorable Play: It's 2007. Michigan is attempting to come back in East Lansing against the Spartans, and Chad Henne limps off the field. Ryan Mallett comes in, takes a sack, and fumbles the football. It's over for Michigan, right? Wrong. Hart, in the backfield on a blocking assignment, picks up the fumbled ball and runs for a first down, juking out a Spartan and running one over in the process. Awesome.
Final Statline: 1,015 carries, 5,040 yards, 41 TDs, 67 receptions, 566 yards, 2 TDs. Left Michigan as the all-time leading rusher, a very prestigious honor.
9) Larry Foote
Foote was an outstanding linebacker during the defensively-deficient late '90s/early '00s that produced a lot of shootout victories and even more heart attacks among Michigan fans. Never a flashy player, Foote scrapped and clawed his way to 1st-Team All-American honors his senior year. Foote was a constant banger, always in the correct position and was the heart and soul of the defense at that time. If a tackle was needed, Foote was usually the one to make it. The tag-team of Foote and Victor Hobson in the early '00s was probably the best one-two linebacker combo of the decade.
Most Memorable Play: Since defensive highlights from the early 2000s are sparse at best, Foote's most outstanding game was the 2001 outing in Iowa City. Foote came up huge, wracking up 15 tackles, 7 tackle for loss, 3 sacks, and 1 pass break-up in a tight 32-26 win over the Hawkeyes.
Final Statline: 212 tackles, 39 TFL, 11 sacks, 16 pass break-ups, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 interceptions. Foote also wrapped up two 1st-Team All-Big Ten honors and a 1st-Team All-American honor in 2001.
8) David Terrell
Terrell became the first Michigan player to wear the legendary number 1 jersey since Derrick Alexander in the early '90s, and he wore it well. The number one wide receiver recruit in the nation, Terrell tag-teamed with fellow recruit and number two receiver Marquis Walker to bring Michigan into the modern age in the passing game. A physical specimen at 6'3", 210 pounds, Terrell had deep speed and elusive moves; when a big play was needed from the receiving core Terrell was the first option. Perhaps his best game came in the 2000 Orange Bowl, tearing apart Alabama in Michigan's back-and-forth nail-biting 35-34 overtime victory. Terrell was the perfect blend of size, speed, and hands; he was good for two or three acrobatic, athletic catches a game along with the normal routine catches. David was the best Michigan receiver of the last decade until some guy named "Braylon Edwards" took the field.
Most Memorable Play: During the 2000 battle against Wisconsin in Ann Arbor, Michigan was down 10-6 and driving. Drew Henson took the snap, didn't find anyone open and rolled right. Under duress, Henson hop-threw off his back foot and across his body into the endzone. "Dangerous! Real Dangerous!" yelled Brent Musberger, echoing the thoughts of 110,000 people. Three Badgers waited for the lollipop of a throw to fall to earth when out of nowhere Terrell plucked the ball away from the mass of white jerseys for a touchdown, saving Henson from being killed the moment he stepped out of the stadium. Michigan would win the game, 13-10. [Catch at 5:18 of below video]
Final Statline: 8 carries, 108 yards, 1 TD; 152 receptions, 2,317 yards, 23 TDs.
7) Anthony "A-Train" Thomas
Anthony Thomas came to Michigan as a highly-rated running back out of Louisiana, and immediately contributed as a true freshman during Michigan's run to glory in 1997. Used occasionally to spell Chris Howard, most of Thomas's playing time came at kick returner. Blessed with a big frame, amazing lower-body strength, surprising speed and great hands, Thomas could run you over, run around you, or simply pull a catch-and-run on one of Michigan's plentiful screens of the time. Thomas was the most physically-gifted back Michigan has had in the past 15 years and was the anchor of the offense as soon as he won the starting job in 1998.
Most Memorable Play: Not his for-no-reason, there's-no-one-around-me-and-I-just-ran-for-the-winning-first-down fumble which cost Michigan the game in the epic 2000 shootout at Northwestern. Probably his long screen-reception TD against Ohio State in Columbus during the 2000 campaign, cleaverly picking his way around blockers and stiff-arming the final man before trotting into the endzone [8:05 of below video]. That or his second TD run in 2000 against MSU, in which he bounced outside, used his speed to get to the second level, vision to cut back around a tackler, and power to run into the endzone with a Spartan defender on his back [6:52].
Final Statline: 924 carries, 4,472 yards, 55 TDs; 88 receptions, 810 yards, 1 TD; 31 KR, 720 yards. The A-Train left Michigan holding the all-time rushing records, which were broken later by Mike Hart.
6) Chris Perry
Chris Perry came to Michigan from a prep school, having attended the Fort Union Military Academy in Virginia before donning the Maize 'n Blue. Perry shared time in 2000 and 2001 with the A-Train before becoming the feature back the following season. Like Thomas before him, Perry could run people over, had good field vision, and had great hands. Unlike the A-Train, however, Perry didn't have top-end speed; he wasn't a plodder, but if you put him in a footrace against a defender more often than not he would get brought down. He was literally the definition of 'average' speed. Saddled with sub-par QB play and a general lack of offensive weapons around him (he was there for the end of the Terrell/Walker duo and the start of the Edwards era), Perry was often the target of opposing defensive coordinators but still managed to put up good numbers. He's above Thomas and Hart on the list because he was the focal point on offense and still produced.
Most Memorable Play: Perry had a number of great runs in 2003 but his slashing TD run in the 100th occurrence of "The Game" (his first TD) which put the Wolverines up 28-7 was not only the game winner but a counter to the OSU touchdown only minutes earlier [3:36 of video below]. His second TD run was also a thing of beauty and put the game away with 7 minutes left to play. A shout-out to Perry's legendary 51 carry, 219 yard, 1 TD game at Michigan State in 2003.
Final Statline: 811 carries, 3,696 yards, 39 TDs; 66 receptions, 572 yards, 2 TDs. 1st-Team All-Big Ten ('03), Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year ('03), Jim Brown Award Winner ('03), 2003 Doak Walker Award Winner (Best runningback in college football), 2003 Heisman Trophy Finalist (finished 4th overall).
There you have numbers 10 through 6. Hopefully enjoyable thus far, tomorrow should only get better with the release of 5 through 1.