Saturday at the Big House, longtime assistant and former headman Gary Moeller will be honored.   Last week I got a chance to sit down with Coach Mo and Ira over at WTKA.

Gary Moeller - MichiganWe did an interview but we also did something I’ve been waiting to do for a long time—we methodically stepped through the headset audio from The Catch (recall that the athletic department released it last year in the UTL game program).   I’ll post the clip of Moeller breaking that down a little later this week—I think you’ll like it.   Also, you can find a portion of the interview in Saturday’s Iowa game program.

Here’s a little bit from the interview:

MVictors: Michigan fans love to collect memorabilia. Is there anything, beyond your championship rings and all that, from your days at Michigan that you have hung onto?

Moeller:  Yeah, I’ve got a picture of Bo and I both pointing and hollering at the same time.   It would have been in the last three of four years of when he was the coach.   It looks like two older gentlemen [laughs].   When you go back to my playing days, which were in Columbus as you know and he was our coach there, and he really took me from my high school job in Bellefontaine and Miami of Ohio, and two years later I was up here with him. He gave me a lot of opportunities and a lot of great advice, and put me in a position where I could excel.  He’s just a special person to me.  I look at him as a friend…I just think there’s so much he’s done and what he thought of Michigan.

One of the greatest times I had after I came back was when we watched Michigan football together in the press box.  One day up there I found out how much he truly loved this university.  He said, “Hey Mo, come here. I wanna show you something.”  The band was already out on the field and the players were coming out of the tunnel, and they’re playing The Victors and all that stuff. Bo said, “Now there—isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life?  Look at the fans, look at band and look at this team coming out here. That’s what Michigan is all about.” It was as though he was just painting a portrait that was in his mind of something that he was so proud of.

And Bo knew how much he had to do with that.   I know there were some games when we first came in 1969, like against Washington, when we only had about 50,000 people in the stands.  He knows he helped..with a lot of other people, but he was a major part of filling those seats up. He was very proud of that.

MVictors:  Looking at football from a distance, is there a key to building a championship team?

Moeller:  The longer I’m out of football, the number one thing I look at is getting leadership on your team. There are so many teams, particularly in pro football, that don’t have great team leadership. You need a guy out there, or a couple guys that are leading that team, like a Drew Brees or like Ray Lewis with the Ravens. Some teams don’t have that and until you get that, you don’t get over that hump.   And we’ve always had good leadership at Michigan. Then you get success—it just works that way.

MVictors: As a coach, is your job to build leaders or to find the right guys and put them in a position to lead?

Moeller: Well this is what we do, and this started with Bo way back when. The seniors are the leaders. You can be the worst football player on the team. If you come to all of the workouts and you do everything you are supposed to do to be a part of that team—you are always on time, you are positive or whatever—when you become a senior you are one of our leaders.

You are not going to believe this. I’m in Detroit having just taken over the Lions. The first team meeting I have, and the kids always joke with me about this, I said, “OK, here’s what we’re gonna do.  I want all the seniors down here in front!”   [laughs] Well they all start laughing and saying, “Seniors? This guy still thinks he’s in college!”

But I had pretty good rapport and respect from these guys so I wasn’t worried about that.  So they laughed but I went on, “And the juniors sit next, and then the sophomores.  And I want all you damn freshman—you rookies–in the back of the room and you don’t talk.  You just stay there.”  Then I asked the seniors to stand up and face the team.  I told them, “These are you your leaders. We will be as good as these guys play and we were go as far as they can take us. They’re going to show us.  Watch what they do, because they’re the leaders.”

So every meeting that’s where they’d sit. I didn’t want them sitting off to the side with their buddy or whatever.   It kinda worked and they all appreciated it—and they liked the idea of being seniors and all that and they had fun with it.  It was no different then what we’d done in the early 70s at Michigan.

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More later this week.