'He has a presence': Shea Patterson's confidence is contagious at Michigan

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Shea Patterson answers reporters' questions on Thursday.

Ann Arbor – Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson carries himself like a guy who has been there before, in awe of his opportunities but not overwhelmed by expectations.

Patterson transferred from under-probation Ole Miss in December and after a twisting, often uncertain and lengthy process to obtain 2018 eligibility from the NCAA, was OK'd to play in late April. He was named the starting Michigan quarterback on Monday by coach Jim Harbaugh.

He will lead the Wolverines when they open the season at Notre Dame on Sept. 1.

His new teammates have spoken frequently about the confidence Patterson brings to an offense that has been in great need of a jolt. The Wolverines had only nine passing touchdowns last year and were generally anemic on offense, unable to match a defense that ranked No. 3 in the nation.

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From all accounts, the assurance with which Patterson carries himself has seeped into his offensive teammates and the entire Michigan team.

“You can tell just from walking around, he has a presence,” fullback Ben Mason said Thursday. “He’s not afraid of anything, which is something very important you need in a quarterback. He just has this swagger that, honestly, it spreads throughout the team and he gives off positive energy, which is very good for a quarterback.

“It’s not a cockiness, no. He’s just a very confident kid. Yeah, he’s confident.”

Patterson arrived with a good amount of experience. He made 10 starts at Ole Miss, including three as a freshman in 2016. A knee injury cut short his season last year. He had completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 2,259 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2017.

He was able to practice with Michigan in the spring and won the job after competing with Brandon Peters, who started late last season, Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton.

Patterson, a Toledo native, never thought he would not win the starting job.

“If you have that mindset you probably won’t be,” Patterson said Thursday. “I always have that mindset that I’m coming in here to work and, being the starter, expect nothing less with myself. We’re all learning from each other every single day and getting each other better. If you don’t expect to be the starter then you probably shouldn’t be playing this game.”

Patterson and his father, Sean, shared with The Detroit News in June how father would tell son bedtime stories that always involved young Shea leaving his stadium seat to lead the Wolverines to victory. He guessed he was probably wearing a Charles Woodson No. 2 jersey at that time, and now that’s what he will wear this season.

As he detailed then, he called Woodson to ask his blessing.

“I thought out of respect for possibly the best player that ever lived to see if it was OK to wear his number,” Patterson said Thursday. “He said, ‘Can’t wear it.’ Nah. He said just wear that number with pride and if you’re gonna wear it, know what you’re wearing it for. You’ve got to be a leader and show guys how hard you work and wear it with pride.”

Shea Patterson

Patterson embraces his leadership abilities. Always has. His family has seen that since he was a kid, and his Michigan teammates see that now.

During the summer he worked with quarterback guru Steve Clarkson in southern California and chatted with former Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight, now at UCLA. Speight imparted some wisdom and advice.

“He did say to me one time, being the quarterback at Michigan is the biggest thing you’re ever going to be part of,” Patterson said. “I took that and ran with it and I understand that. I understand how big of an opportunity this is and I’m excited to do it.”

His teammates also during camp have mentioned the offense has been tweaked, presumably to take advantage of Patterson’s athleticism in the run-pass option.

Patterson, however, wouldn’t bite when asked about the offense. Will it be similar to what Ole Miss ran?

“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “I’m adjusting to it well.”

But what about those tweaks?

“We’re going to do what we do,” Patterson said.  “The offensive staff has a really good game plan. I’m going to go out there and execute it.”

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Patterson has impressed Michigan’s quick defense with his quick feet. They have, throughout camp, raved about his ability to extend plays and the difficulty to contain him.

“He’s fast,” defensive tackle Mike Dwumfour said. “He’s faster than he looks. If you see him walking, I don’t think you’d think he’s fast. He definitely caught me off-guard. I’ve had to chase him a few times in practice. He’s fast.”

For his part, Patterson laughs at anyone who might underestimate his quickness.

“I feel like I’m a little fast. We’ll see, though,” he said.

He also has a lot invested in this next chapter of his college football journey.

“It’s once in a lifetime,” Patterson said. “Not many people can look back and say they had -the opportunity to be the quarterback at the University of Michigan. Coach Harbaugh being a team captain and All-American here and now he’s the coach, how many people get to do that? He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around. He’s making the most of his opportunity and so will I.

“I know there’s not going to be another shot. I’m only going to get this time once in my life. Each and every one of us is fired up. Kind of a quiet confidence we have going on. Just working, working every single day.”