When Ed Patti made his way up to Michigan last Thursday with his son (Nick Patti) and Dee Hart, he was ill prepared for what he saw. For him, the distance between Ann Arbor and Central Florida had served as a filter for all of the true accounts for what the storied campus and program are really like. That, however, wasn't something Mr. Patti realized until he actually saw Michigan for himself.
"I've been to a lot of colleges, but I'd never been to the University of Michigan," he said. "I was blown away. I had no idea that it was the college town that it was. It really does give you a college-town feel when you're there. I'm used to that in the Southeast, but I did not expect it up in Michigan. I sort of attached (Michigan) to Detroit, and (thought it was) closer to a college that was in the city and run down. But it is anything but that. It was just the feel of everything that we saw. The housing where the kids stay is right next to the stadium. You do not see a bunch of run down apartments like you do with some colleges. It was pretty cool. I liked it."
After getting a feel for the look and feel of the campus, Patti and company were given a glimpse of the football program's rich history. That experience also left an indelible mark.
"Tradition," Patti said matter-of-factly. "The tradition of that school and where it's been… I think it was 1879 was the first time they had a football team. From that day on, it has been nothing but in the limelight of college football. You get a feel for being right in the center of it. Here's what I'll tell you… people talk about Notre Dame and their tradition. Notre Dame has like its rules and its regulations and standards. Then you have the SEC with doing what they do. In my mind, I think Michigan is a mix of both. You really have it all there… great education, great tradition, great fan base and you have a future with the alumni (base)."
The strong presentation left the elder Patti with extremely comfortable with the idea of his son possibly suiting up for the Maize & Blue one day. Though only a junior, the Wolverines are actively recruiting the dual-threat signal-caller. Even though an offer wasn't extended, a strong rapport was established in a relatively short period of time.
"We talked a lot of football (Friday)," Patti recalled. "Nick spoke with Coach (Rod) Smith and he knows his offense. He communicated in a way that was very easy to understand. I felt like he and Nick (Patti) had a real strong connection. One of the things that Nick said to him at the end was, ‘coach I appreciate everything you did. Give me one thing that you've seen on film that I need to work on.' (Coach Smith) was really complimentary of Nick. He said, ‘I haven't seen somebody as a rising junior have the skill set that you have. Just keep doing what you're doing because your fundamentals are dead on.' The only thing he wants to do over the first couple of games is just monitor his decision-making. That's the only thing that he really wants… for (Nick) to think more about and making good decisions and reading the defenses, hitting the right receiver… understanding what is happening and where the open man is going to be. That is really what Michigan's offense is all about… numbers, angles, and matchups."
When not with Smith the Pattis were spending time with Rodriguez. Michigan's headman also made a profound impression.
"We spent a lot of time with Coach Rodriguez over the past two days (I.e. last Thursday & Friday)," he said. "We talked about football, we talked about my business, and we talked about his family. We talked about other coaches like (offensive line coach) Rick Trickett out at FSU and other people he coached with. We talked about Dr. Phillips High School and a bunch of (other) stuff. It was really a very comfortable situation. It was good. These are good solid guys (at Michigan). These are guys that I would tell anybody who is thinking of going to Michigan that they have a fan in me. I would endorse these guys. They're all good men. They know football and you wrap in the facilities and tradition… I'm serious, I was blown away. It was a very positive two days that we spent up there."
That endorsement could be huge feather in Michigan's cap when it comes to the recruiting landscape in central Florida. Former area stars Ricardo Miller and Marvin Robinson faced intense scrutiny when they opted to spurn opportunities closer to home in favor of heading to Michigan. Their experiences have at times served deterrents to others thinking about giving Michigan a strong look. That won't be an issue for future central Florida prospects that have their eyes on the Maize & Blue if Patti has anything to say about it. His word as a longtime coach at Dr. Phillips and a successful Orlando area businessman wields a great deal of influence.
"Dee and Nick are two of the four leaders on this football team and this is the best football team that DP has ever had," Mr. Patti explained. "I know a lot of those kids (on the team) and a lot of those parents. I personally did not talk up Michigan (before the visit). I used to say to people, I do not know anything about Michigan so I can't say anything about it. I can only talk about the schools that I know about that I've been at. Now I've been here and anybody who does not consider Michigan, they need to come up here and see this place. If they haven't, they are not doing themselves any justice."