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Michigan continues trophy tradition in locker room

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Delano Hill, S, 6-0, 215: Hill was All-Big Ten second team and finished with 52 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions. PROJECTION: 7-FA

Several Michigan players were looking to take the Paul Bunyan Trophy back from Michigan State on the field after a 32-23 victory last Saturday at Spartan Stadium, but Paul was nowhere to be found.

Instead, the trophy was waiting in the Michigan locker room, as has been tradition.

According to the book “Forty Years in the Big House” by Jon Falk, who had been the long-time Michigan equipment manager, Michigan has always celebrated Paul Bunyan as a team in the locker room, just as they did last Saturday.

Falk wrote that it had been the tradition of both teams to make it a locker-room trophy, but before the 2008 game, the Michigan State equipment manager told Falk that if MSU won, he wanted the trophy presented on the field.

Since then, the Spartans, who had won seven of the last eight rivalry games before Michigan’s victory, have celebrated with Paul on the field.

Falk, who has assisted with the program since Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach, retrieved the trophy on Saturday from the MSU locker room.

There have been a number of photographs appearing on social media of the Michigan players posing with the trophy and Sunday on the “Inside Michigan Football”, several players shared their emotions about winning it and what they did when they saw Paul.

“I had to kiss him right on the lips real hard, real good, real deep as well,” the always amusing nose tackle Ryan Glasgow said. “We’re really glad to have him back.”

“This is what we worked so hard for in the offseason,” offensive guard Kyle Kalis said on the show. “This was our goal coming in to get Paul back home and we succeeded. I saw him and gave him a nice long, hard stare, I gave him a hug and passed him along.”

Falk on Sunday said the trophy – some could argue it’s not the most, well, attractive – has gotten better with age.

“The longer we’re away from him, the prettier he looks,” Falk said Sunday.. “And yesterday, Paul Bunyan was the prettiest person in the locker room.

“We have missed him. To have Paul back at Michigan is a big deal.”

Harbaugh had a trophy case built in the Michigan locker room to hold the Little Brown Jug, which goes to the winner of the Michigan-Minnesota game, and Paul Bunyan, which is where Paul currently is located. That way the players see the trophies every day they’re in the locker room.

“We came in here expecting to get it back,” Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight said after the game. “It wasn’t like a surprise.”

Jabrill Peppers said there was a sense of relief to finally win the trophy.

“Ah, man, it’s been a long time coming,” Peppers said. “Last year I heard they already put him in the locker room and then that crazy play happened. But now he’s coming back to AA. We’re each going to get our own little Paul Bunyan trophies. I can’t wait.

“It was an exhilarating feeling to finally get this chip off our shoulder. This one we had marked since last year. We just wanted to come in here and bring Paul back.”