Michigan Men Not Hard to Find; School's Football History Is Rich; Just Ask Its Omnipresent Alumni

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Byline: GARRY SMITS

MaliVai Washington played tennis in Europe, Australia, India and Israel.

He's never failed to hear, at least once during a match, someone shout from the stands, "Go, Blue."

Andy Lebet was standing in his backyard on the shores of the St. Johns River and noticed, in the fading light of a summer evening, that his chimney took on a blue tinge.

"I wondered how a big block 'M" would look up there," he said.

It's there now, proclaiming Lebet's alma mater.

Tim Williams and Dave Mandel are "Michigan Men."

Williams, an assistant general counsel for Winn-Dixie, and Mandel, a pediatric surgeon, both played football for the Wolverines in the 1980s under Bo Schembechler and were frequently challenged by Schembechler to live their lives, on and off the field, as Michigan Men.

"There's a distinct meaning to that phrase," said Williams, who played linebacker from 1987-1989. "It's about a program and a consistent message: the team, the team, the team. No one is bigger than the team."

Mandel said it's doing the right thing with no one looking.

"My position coach told me that it's easy to be a champion with 100,000 people watching," said Mandel, a tight end and fullback for the Wolverines from 1984-1988. "It's not so easy to do the right thing when no one's looking, or to be a champion when it's practice and no one's watching you take those extra reps or do the extra work."

Michigan traditions and this year's version of the Wolverines will be on display Jan. 1 at EverBank Field as the Wolverines play in the Progressive Gator Bowl against Mississippi State (8-4).

The Wolverines last played in Jacksonville on Jan. 1, 1991, defeating another Magnolia State team, Ole Miss, 35-3.

The only other appearance was in 1979, when the Wolverines were upset by North Carolina 17-15.

In the first year of the Gator Bowl's new affiliation with the Big Ten and the SEC, officials chose Michigan, in part, for its large national following.

"It's one of the historic programs in college football," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "They've won more games than any other program - that's as historic as it gets."

Michigan has won more football games (884) than Notre Dame, Alabama, Southern California, Ohio State or Texas. Until 2008, the Wolverines had been to 33 consecutive bowl games, also an NCAA record.

School loyalties aside, there's no denying the athletic and academic legacy of Michigan since it was founded in 1817, before the state was admitted to the union.

Wolverines have occupied the Oval Office of the White House (Gerald Ford) and walked in space and on the moon (Apollo 15 was an All-Blue crew).

Jonas Salk was a Michigan research fellow, and William J. Mayo got his medical degree at UM before co-founding the Mayo Clinic with his brother.

Michigan graduates had a hand in developing the atomic bomb, the AIDS drug AZT, cracking the genetic code, pioneering modern pharmacology and discovering black holes in the university.

And a Michigan graduate, Richard Schneider, invented the first football helmet with an inflatable lining.

The first African-American female neurosurgeon was a Michigan graduated named Alexa Canady.

Another graduate, Alice Hamilton, first discovered the dangers of lead poisoning and other industrial hazards. She was also the first female faculty member of Harvard Medical School. Margaret Scobey is the U.S. ambassador to Egypt.

Just to prove Michigan alumni aren't all about classrooms and laboratories (or football), Madonna, Iggy Pop, Lucy Lui and Strother Martin either attended the school or graduated from it.

And Michigan alumni are all over - more than 425,000 of them, according to the school's alumni website.

"I got it when I'd play somewhere in the U.S., that there would be other Michigan people," said Washington, who played two years of college tennis for the Wolverines. …