Big Ten Player of Week

Julius Curry puts some spice in Michigan's defense and special teams with his sterling play in Saturday's victory over Utah. Curry tied one Michigan record and made a game-saving interception in the waning moments at the Big House.

Earlier this season, when he was struggling to find his place as a part-time starter and special teams man, Julius Curry, Michigan's fifth-year senior strong safety, felt like he was not playing up to his potential.

"I think the main thing is I was playing well, but I wanted to be more involved," he said at Michigan's Monday football luncheon.

Curry turned a corner in the Wolverines' 10-7 victory over Utah Saturday in the Big House. He tied a school record first set by Brian Carpenter against Notre Dame in 1981 with his eight punt returns. Curry also intercepted two passes, including one to clinch Michigan's victory with just over 1 minute remaining.

He was rewarded for his efforts by being named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.

Curry, 6 feet 1 and 195 pounds, totaled 105 yards on his eight punt returns, an average of 13.1, the fifth-best single-game mark in Michigan history and the third-highest total in the annals of Michigan Stadium. He was a step away from going the distance on a couple of different occasions.

His two interceptions thwarted the Utes and their quarterback, Lance Rice, as the Michigan defense picked up the slack for out-of-kilter Wolverine offense.

"I wanted to be making bigger plays rather than just making a tackle," he said. "I wanted to help the offense out on defense as well as punt returns. I was doing well on punt returns, but on defense I need to stand out more. That is what my team deserves from me."

Curry suffered a shoulder injury against Western Michigan last season. The injury set him back as much physically as mentally. He recently went to Michigan coach Lloyd Carr to talk about reversing his downward spiral.

"He said that I have to play like the player that I am and the player that I was in 1999 and 2000," Curry said. "I took that and put it in my back pocket. I said I am going to go out there and do it. I have been playing good, but I have not been playing great.

"This is my fifth year, and now I have to play great."

Curry, a product of Detroit Bishop Gallagher, feels an even greater sense of urgency now that the Big Ten race is around the corner. Michigan opens against Illinois on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.

"We are very excited about the Big Ten," he said. "There are a lot of teams that are doing very well this year, like Ohio State and Michigan State. Unfortunately, Michigan State lost last weekend (to Notre Dame). But they are doing really well.

"The first four games are over, and now we are just looking forward to the Big Ten, which makes your season. We would like to go to the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or whatever bowl game that we can go to."

To reach those lofty heights, the Wolverines will continue to need that extra spice in their arsenal, the spice Curry provides with his strong play in the secondary and on special teams.

"The previous games I felt I did my job and did not mess up too much," he said. "This game, I was in position to make plays and I did. But, without those 10 other guys on the field, there is no play to make."

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