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Rashan Gary embraces being role model: ‘It’s my time’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Rome — As Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary went through practice Friday, he would do the individual drills flawlessly, then would take the time to encourage and help his teammates, pointing out where they could improve.

He learned this technique last season as a freshman working alongside Taco Charlton, who was a first-round NFL draft pick on Thursday, and Chris Wormley, who also is expected to be a high draft pick.

“He’s a rare guy,” defensive coordinator Don Brown said after practice. “But he’s a rare guy because he had Chris Wormley in his grill every day. He had Taco Charlton every day, he had Ryan Glasgow and (Matt) Godin, so there’s four pretty special role models right there. Some guys wait for their rightful turn and some guys earn their rightful turn. He’s kind of earned it.”

Gary was the nation’s No. 1 recruit coming out of Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, and he quickly made an impression on the veterans last fall like Wormley and Charlton for not being a prima donna and being willing to learn.

From all accounts, Gary has been a fast learner and quick to mature.

“No doubt about it, the freshman me is a completely different me going into my sophomore year,” Gary said. “I’ve grown a lot from Coach Matti (Greg Mattison). Thanks Taco and Wormley. It’s my time.”

Gary feels like he has a good understanding of Brown’s defense and he is using his experience and knowledge to help bring along younger players like early enrollee freshmen Corey Malone-Hatcher and Donovan Jeter.

“Freshman year, a lot of up and downs trying to understand the defense, and now I’ve got it,” Gary said. “It’s a beautiful thing, so now I’m able to coach up the kids on technique and what you’ve got to do on this play. So that’s cool.

“Day by day I try to increase my level of encouraging my teammates when they mess up on something, because I’m just get them ready to play. I want to thank Taco and Wormley for taking that time out for me freshman year, walking me through the process, working with me after practice. It’s coaching me up like I coach Corey Malone-Hatcher and Jeter on technique.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh often praises Gary’s work ethic, and he has lived up to that praise while here. Gary said he and the younger defensive linemen and Carlo Kemp, who is backing him up, have been going back to their hotel in Rome and during down time they have been watching and studying film together.

“You watch him, every drill he goes through, it’s important,” Harbaugh said Friday. “He’s out here early, he stays late. He’s trying to lift others around him. He’s got the highest football character you can have. He’s serious about being great, knows it’s not enough to just be good. It would be a sin to just be good when you were sent to be great like he is. It’s all there. What a great example he is to everybody else on the team. A joy to coach a guy like Rashan Gary.”

Michigan’s starting defensive line should be Gary, Bryan Mone, Mo Hurst and Chase Winovich. While there might be some issue with depth and experience behind them, Gary is confident.

“Oh, man, we’ve got the opportunity to be one of the best defensive lines in the country,” Gary said. “The depth, that’s going to be questionable because we’ve got a lot of freshman coming in. We’re going to work on them like a work in process.”

Winovich agrees.

“Depth-wise is going to need some work, but it’s going to be magic to watch,” Winovich said. “I think we have the potential to be the best defensive line in the country. It’s more, look at it at the end of the year and reflect. So we’re not going to focus on the goal or the results. We’re going to focus on the process and take it one step at a time.”

And part of the reason for that confidence is Gary.

Nothing surprises me out here especially with Rashan,” Winovich said. “Everybody has different personalities, everybody takes a different leadership role. Some people lead more by example, some people lead more vocally, some people lead by both. I’m lucky to have him on the defensive line with me, and he’s been a great leader so far and we’re going to improve as a team.”

Twitter: @chengelis