June 8, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Angelique S. Chengelis

Michigan academy offers women chance to learn game, raise funds to fight cancer

Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier coached a new team on Saturday. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Ann Arbor — New Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier worked the room expertly, enthusiastically explaining what he expects from the Wolverines this fall.

“We want to attack,” Nussmeier told the crowd. “We are not going to be passive in the way we play.”

He shared his offensive goals, pointed to the slides projected behind him and defined each -- score 35 points a game, average four yards a carry, convert on 48 percent of third-down attempts, and have nine explosive plays a game. And then he asked the group what the Wolverines want to avoid?

“Turnovers!” they yelled in unison.

It could have been the offensive team meeting room.

It wasn’t.

It was a room full of women, preparing for their first game in Michigan Stadium to conclude the annual Michigan Women’s Football Academy. The academy is designed to teach women about the game by having them go through position drills with coaches and current players instructing.

The bigger objective, of course, is to raise money for the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center Patient and Family Services. There were 411 participants in Saturday’s academy, and more than $100,000 was raised; an exact amount will be determined in a few weeks.

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison had spoken first to the group, breaking down defensive film and explaining blitz packages.

This was near the conclusion of an eventful day that included pushing the offensive line sleds, attempting to kick and punt, catching touchdown passes and learning the quarterback three-step drop and throwing. While I have attended the academy several times in previous years, this was the first time I participated, joining my good friend Meredith Weaver. It got personal between Meredith and cancer nine years ago, and it is my good fortune she attacked and was not passive in the way she dealt with it.

We were part of Team Liberty, the top fundraisers of the academy, led by Cheryl Soper and Terri Dorsey who raised than $3,000 apiece. Erica Nedelman also fundraised more than $3,000. Like many of the teams, Liberty has repeat academy participants, because the day is so enjoyable as they support a cause while learning about the game and interacting with their favorite players and coaches.

Kymberly Andren of Oxford has participated in the academy before. She is two weeks from delivering her second child, another son, and while she didn’t actively do the drills, she went drill to drill, taking pictures while wearing the most creative shirt of all. Michigan coach Brady Hoke likes to refer to each team by the number of years it represents Michigan football, and Andren went along with that theme. The front covering her baby bump read "Team 153," with a picture of the baby’s sonogram, and the back read "Team 151," with a photo of her toddler.

The day culminated with games in Michigan Stadium. The women ran through the tunnel and jumped up to touch the “M Go Blue” banner.

Our team coached by Michigan receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski, was locked in a scoreless game with one last chance to win it. I pulled out my dry erase board, drew up a Hail Mary play and handed it to Hecklinski. He ran out, informed the offensive players, who executed it with perfection for the win. High fives all around.

OK, there was no dry erase board, and maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that.

After all, since when do coaches listen to reporters anyway?

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