Emotional finale a shot for UM seniors to ‘leave your legacy’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Maurice Hurst

Ann Arbor – The final game at Michigan Stadium can be emotionally difficult for Michigan seniors.

Fifth-year senior fullback Khalid Hill went through the roller-coaster of feelings last year when he was honored with the rest of the seniors before the Indiana game. A slide show featuring the photographs taken by Pulitzer-prize winning photographer David Turnely, who has documented the team since Jim Harbaugh has been coach, was shown on the video boards accompanied by an Alicia Keys song.

Michigan players over the years have spoken of the challenge of coming to grips with playing their final game. Some have said they stayed in their uniform for as long as possible, long after the game.

There will be 10 fifth-year seniors honored before the Michigan-Ohio State game on Saturday at Michigan Stadium, including Hill, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, and linebacker and co-captain Mike McCray.

And 23 fourth-year seniors also will be honored, including co-captain Mason Cole, the Wolverines’ left tackle preparing to make his 50th start, right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty, quarterback Wilton Speight and defensive lineman Chase Winovich.

Hill, who grew up in Detroit, broke down on the field last season and set off a chain reaction that included graduated teammates Dymonte Thomas and Jourdan Lewis, who said after the final home game last year that he had no intentions of becoming emotional.

“I cried during last year’s (pregame) because I didn’t know if I’d be coming back,” Hill said this week. “David Turnley played this song last year and we were watching on the big screen, it was photos of the whole year, so that was kind of emotional.

Khalid Hill

“This will be the last shot, last time to do something on that field and leave your legacy and leave how you want to be remembered as a Michigan player. I’m with my guys and playing in that stadium in the maize and blue.”

It eats at the seniors that they haven’t been able to beat Ohio State. Michigan last won in the rivalry in 2011 and since then, the Buckeyes have won five straight, including last year’s edge-of-the-seat double-overtime, 30-27 game at Ohio State. Michigan also came close in 2013, losing 42-41 at home.

For Hurst, beating the Buckeyes would be a highlight of his career.

“It’s very sentimental. It goes by fast,” Hurst said of his time at Michigan. “It’s kind of crazy to think that it’s coming to an end. I’d love to go out on top with a win versus Ohio State. That’s been something I’ve been waiting for a long time, and I want to make sure I get that done.”

More: Michigan vs. Ohio State: View from other side

The Wolverines said their Tuesday practice was one of the best they had all season. The underclassmen know what beating Ohio State would mean for a program that has gone 1-12 against its rivals, but they also know they want to send the seniors out with a victory.

“I think there’s some motivation there because a lot of guys went into the NFL from that team last year, they had a great season, a great year, great individual play, but they didn’t beat Ohio State,” safety Tyree Kinnel said. “They’re going to remember that for the rest of their lives, so we want to get this for all the past guys who haven’t beaten them either.”

Hurst said a win would be for everyone, not just the departing seniors.

“I just want his one so bad for the coaches, the players and the seniors,” Hurst said. “Just to get this win would mean so much to us and our program.”

More: ‘Converted’ Wolverine Furbush tackles space engineering

Ohio State at Michigan

Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: Fox/950

Records: Ohio State 9-2, 7-1 Big Ten; Michigan 8-3, 5-3

Line: Ohio State by 11.5