COLUMN: Joppru is a fine selection for captain

Michigan's players elected Bennie Joppru to be their 2002 offensive captain, ignoring his off-the-field problems from this past spring.

Bennie Joppru said it was "a complete shock" that he was named a captain for this season.


I was a little surprised, given that he wasn't even technically a member of the team just two weeks before the announcement.


There are not a lot of great senior leaders on this offense, which may have something to do with the low expectations surrounding it.


B.J. Askew was the only other real strong senior candidate. But he is no angel himself, considering that he faced charges of sexual assault earlier this year.


QB John Navarre is in his fourth year, but he may not even be the starter.

I was expecting the team to honor OL Tony Pape and his larger-than-life sideburns with a captainship. Pape would have been a strong leader for this team, but selecting Joppru was not a mistake.


I got the chance to meet Joppru last summer at coach Lloyd Carr's Women's Football Camp last summer, and I can tell you that he is a genuinely good guy. He just made a mistake that any number of people could have made, and he paid the price.


Joppru had a little too much fun at Rick's and he picked a fight with the wrong little guy.


Mike Kulczycki weighs just 149 pounds, but the Michigan wrestler backed up his talk in a big way. He landed more than his share of blows and knocked both athletes into the "suspended indefinitely" zone.


Were Joppru's actions stupid? Yes.


Were they forgivable? … I certainly think so.


Michigan football has seen more than its fair share of trouble with the law, and Joppru is on the tame side.


Markus Curry allegedly got physically violent with his girlfriend and tore the phone off the wall. Jeremy LeSueur (recently reinstated) tried to solicit a whore in Ypsi. Kelly Baraka got caught with weed twice in one summer before Carr booted him off the squad. Former CB James Whitley was convicted on a weapons charge. Shante Orr and Askew were accused of assault, although the charges against Orr were dropped. Oh yeah… and Todd Howard nearly killed an old woman with his reckless driving in the summer of 2001.


That is quite the rap sheet -- nine incidents in the two years that I have been at UM.

But one thing separates Joppru from those other guys. His mistake is one I could see myself making. Some little dude talks you (a football player weighing 243 pounds) into a fight… if he wasn't an athlete no one would have cared.


The same can't be said for those alleged and in some cases convicted criminals.


Joppru has learned from his mistake and his team is supporting him, including Carr who had this to say to the Detroit News:


"When the American people elect a president, I don't think we've elected any perfect people," Carr said. "A team looks for a guy that first and foremost they respect. Bennie Joppru made a big mistake, and he paid for it. His teammates did not let that detract from the belief they have that he will lead."


Joppru didn't campaign for the job. He just worked his butt off to become one of the best players at his position in the Big Ten.


"I didn't want to have any regrets, so I worked harder this summer," Joppru said. "I just wanted to put everything behind me. It embarrassed me, it embarrassed my team, my family and my university, and I wanted to make everybody proud."


By convincing his teammates to give him this honor, Joppru made me proud to be a fan of his. I expect great things from him this season as a tight end and a captain.



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