When Dan Rumishek was a senior in high school, he played in the Class 6A state championship football game in Illinois.
Then, he was tall and skinny.
Rumishek was listed at 6-5 and 240 pounds on the Addison Trail roster. As a starter for the Blazers at tight end and linebacker, he played almost every down against New Lenox Lincoln-Way. He didn't see much action, though.
Lincoln-Way started a trend that has continued to this very day. The Knights ran almost every offensive play away from Rumishek en route to scoring a 52-22 victory behind the passing of Cory Paus, who since has gone on to win the starting quarterback job at UCLA. Rumishek was credited with three tackles, one for a loss of 2 yards.
Five years later, as a fifth-year senior at Michigan, Rumishek has found teams tend to run away from him now more than ever, yet he's grown into an All-Big Ten and All-America candidate because he finds a way to track down the ball. He shares the Wolverine lead in sacks with Norman Heuer heading into Saturday's game against Notre Dame (2:30 p.m./NBC) in South Bend, Ind.
Rumishek has bulked up to 273 pounds but has not lost much of the agility and foot-speed he showed in high school. He has racked up four tackles, including three solos, in Michigan's first two games, victories over Washington (31-29) and Western Michigan (35-12). He has notched two sacks for losses totaling 17 yards. He's also intercepted one pass and deflected two others.
He'll be counted to lead the `M' charge up front against the Irish and their slick quarterback, Carlyle Holiday. Much has been made of the play of Notre Dame's defense and special teams in the early going. The matchup of college football's two winningest programs presents the Wolverines a chance to stand up and be noticed.
They'll want to prove they can play some `D' too.
"Any time that anyone touches the ball you have to have two, three, four people around it to be successful on every play," Rumishek said at Michigan's Monday football luncheon. "Especially with Holiday back there at quarterback. He is going to be dangerous and he is going to make plays. We just have to contain him as best as we can."
He's looking forward to lacing up his Maize and Blue suede shoes and playing a tune on the Irish.
"I think it is one of the biggest games I will ever play in," Rumishek said. "I grew up in Chicago, a Catholic boy and Notre Dame was my favorite team. It's ironic now that I am playing for Michigan against Notre Dame."
He knows the stadium will be rocking. He knows `Touchdown Jesus' will be looking down on the playing field. He knows all about the luck of the Irish.
He says, "Bring it on."
"If you can win on the road and, if you can win at Notre Dame, then I think you can win anywhere," Rumishek said. "That is probably one of the toughest places to play in the country. One game will never define a team. You have to go through a whole season. It will give us a lot of confidence though if we can win there."
The Big Ten has a chance to take a big leap on Saturday with three marquee matchups on tap. Not only does Michigan play Notre Dame, but also Ohio State takes on Washington State and Penn State meets Nebraska.
Coach Lloyd Carr commented on the experience of spending Sept. 11 with his team last year: "Our lives have changed forever, and there is an innocence when you are young and something like that happens. It's gone. For all of us, there is a memory of the way things were before that will never be the same. As an educator, I think you do the best you can when you are dealing with young people. But I don't have any answers. I have none, but I wish I did. It is just not the same."
Special teams flashback: In 1999, Michigan walk-on Jeff Del Verne kicked four field goals in a 26-22 victory over Notre Dame. (The question: Can Philip Brabbs duplicate the feat?)
Thanks for reading. Now I'll go back to my little korner of the world.
Rumishek Leads the 'M' Charge Saturday
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