Michigan freshman DE Luiji Vilain ‘hungry, ready to learn’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Luiji Vilain

Ann Arbor – Michigan freshman defensive end Luiji Vilain took to heart what defensive line coach Greg Mattison told him weeks ago and arrived here physically ready to prepare for his first college football season.

Most of the freshmen are here, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday he expects all will be in Saturday for orientation.

The 6-foot-4 Vilain weighed 232 pounds a few months ago and is now at 247 and 11 percent body fat. He said he feels a lot faster, although he has not yet been timed.

“It was really hard to keep the bad weight off and keep it clean weight,” Vilain said Friday during a break at Michigan’s one-day specialists camp. “I managed to do it.

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“I could have chilled out, but I knew what was a stake. After conversations with coach Matti, I needed to come in ready. I needed to perform and do well and back up Chase (Winovich) and Rashan (Gary).”

Gary, who will be a sophomore this fall and already is considered one of the leaders on defense, said he likes what he has seen from Vilain.

“He’s a great guy,” Gary said Friday. “He came in in shape. He came in ready. He came in knowing the plays. That’s something you like to see in a young guy. He came in hungry, ready to learn.”

A year ago, Gary was the young guy, and also the top player out of high school. He arrived eager to learn from upperclassmen like Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley and Maurice Hurst. And now he has taken Vilain, who said he wants to play this fall, under his wing.

“When you’ve got great leaders like Rashan and Chase and Mo who are there to help you, you have to come in humble, but you have to come in ready to learn,” Vilain said. “I know I have to come in ready just in case I do play. He’s only a sophomore, but (Rashan’s) a real mature guy. Him, Chase and Mo, those are definitely the leaders in the D-line room. I look up to them.”

Vilain is from Canada, as is fellow freshman Ben St-Juste. Vilain, however, spent three years at Episcopal High in Virginia. While St-Juste is French-speaking, Vilain said he opted to attend an English-speaking school while in Canada. Still, he and St-Juste occasionally speak to each other in French.

Vilain has a French last name and speaks French, but has a unique first name. His father and grandfather are named Louie, and Luiji is a modern spin on the original. One of the players sitting in a group with Vilain on Friday joked that he’s one of Mario’s friends in the computer game Mario Bros. (but that character is Luigi).

“My mom just wanted to switch it up,” Vilain said, laughing.