With Antonio Bass, when did you start to realize that you had something special there?
“Antonio has been something special around this community since he was in rec. league. He was tearing it up then, and everyone was fighting to get him on their team. Even when I came to this community, people knew about this young kid at the rec. league that was cutting up. And as the competitiveness increased with each grade he was in, he continued to dominate. He was always set aside as the guy you want on your team. And he has done nothing by showed up, and showed out every time he’s picked up a ball. He’s just a tremendous athlete, and the biggest asset that he has is his humble nature.“
How did you come to find out Michigan was interested?
“Someone made a call to Bo. Not long after that I walked into the U of M football office and Bo’s secretary said, ‘who is this young man we got a call about?’ And I said, oh yeah, ‘you want to go and talk to him!’ Subsequently, I have been following up. I have always preached Michigan to our athletes here. Look at this office. They come in here and ask me about that helmet, and I tell them about the scars on the helmet. I tell them, ‘You have got to be a man to play at Michigan.’ Then they go to touch it and feel the scars on it. I’ve got my MVP plaque here and I use this all the time. I had a kid in here the other day that is having some troubles. He got suspended, but he’s a good kid and a good athlete. I talked to him about it, and I said, ‘do you know what this is?’ He said to me, ‘you were voted MVP?’ I said to him, ‘how do you think you can make something like this become a reality?”
“It’s a way in. I use my Michigan experience to deal with these kids because they look up to it. They don’t know anything about Russell Davis because I played so long ago. Most of them weren’t even born. But when I can show them the hardware. I pull out my degree too. I tell them all of this is possible, but there is a way to approach it. If you are cutting up, Michigan isn’t going to want you, and they don’t have to have you. I feed them that constantly.”
Where do you think Michigan is on Antonio’s list?
“It’s very high. I know for a fact that he is using Michigan as a standard. He is measuring everything else back to Michigan. And I can tell you right now, that he isn’t going to find another school that measures up.”
(Laughter) Are you sure that isn’t your maize and blue blood talking?
“Where else are you going to find 110,000 seats in a stadium? Where else are you going to go and find the historical successes? There are some flashes in the pan, and there are some schools that are working on it. But this is a school that is in the mix year after year. Do we have Heisman Trophy winners? YEP!”
When I first talked to Antonio he was saying that he had to play quarterback. Just in the couple of months between talking to him then and now, he says that he is just looking for the best opportunity. What have you been telling him about that situation?
“I’ve been telling him to leave his options open and understand what is in his own heart. I am being very realistic with him. I don’t want to be guilty of steering him and influencing him to go somewhere that isn’t going to work out for him. I love the kid. If Michigan is not the right fit, then don’t go to Michigan. But I know Michigan will take care of him (laughter)! You heard him…he can play 2 or 3 positions. He can play defensive back, he can play wide receiver, and we know he can play quarterback. He has an open mind, so he can go anywhere he wants to. It doesn’t matter where you put him on the line of scrimmage or back off of it, he’s going to be successful because he’s got those gifts.”
So in your opinion, that he might be able to play quarterback at one particular school and not the other won’t be a determining factor?
“Not at this point. He’s left all of his options open. He’s very bright, or he is listening to someone very bright! (Laughter)”
For much more from Russell Davis, check out next month’s issue of GoBlueWolverine the Magazine.