Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson repeatedly has said during the season his experience with the Wolverines has been the best of his football life.
With that in mind, Patterson has decided to return to the Wolverines for his final year of eligibility, he told The Detroit News on Friday.
“I think my original plan was to come here and help the team out as much as I could,” Patterson, who transferred from Ole Miss a year ago, told The News. “The thoughts were maybe come out after one year, so I think there might have been some speculation there. At this point, I feel like everybody thinks I’m coming back. Excited to get that out there so they know.”
Patterson, named the team’s top offensive player, led the Wolverines to a 10-2 record and a spot in the New Year’s Six Peach Bowl against Florida on Dec. 29. Michigan won 10 straight after losing the season opener at Notre Dame by a touchdown but lost in the regular-season finale to Ohio State and missed out on the Big Ten title game and national playoff.
That loss has stuck with Patterson and served as added motivation to return for the 2019 season.
“I’ve been thinking about it for the past month, ever since after that game,” Patterson said of mulling his future. “I just thought to myself there’s no way in hell I’m leaving this place on that note. Regardless of a draft grade, whatever the case may be, I would never end my career with an opportunity to come back with a loss to that team. That’s the one thing that has ignited me. I think one of the biggest things that impacted me coming back – one of them – was that last game in Columbus.
“I just felt we worked so hard and had such a good season leading up to that game. I was more upset that I couldn’t do enough to get us a win. I love the guys so much and let down the Michigan fan base, and I just felt like we all did that that day. That just brought a lot of emotions. Anger. I think anger was the biggest one. I hated to lose and even more, I hated to lose to them, especially with what we had in front of us.”
Patterson said he discussed his future with his parents and prayed as he worked toward his decision.
“About a week ago I decided I was definitely coming back,” he said.
Patterson was 188-of-289 (65 percent) for 2,364 yards and had 21 touchdowns against five interceptions this fall. Patterson clearly was the boost for the Michigan offense this season, although the line made substantial improvement under first-year Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner, and running back Karan Higdon rushed for more than 1,000 yards.
“(Patterson’s) the biggest difference, and he’s the only difference from what we’ve seen in previous seasons,” Joel Klatt, Fox lead college football analyst, told The News last month.
Patterson’s decision comes on the heels of three key Michigan players deciding not to play in the Peach Bowl. Junior defensive end Rashan Gary and junior linebacker Devin Bush, who this week said he has not been medically cleared to practice or play in the Peach Bowl because of a hip injury suffered in the Ohio State game, have decided to pursue the NFL and not return for their final year of eligibility at Michigan.
Higdon, who does not have eligibility left, also announced this week he will not play in the Peach Bowl.
Patterson transferred from Ole Miss last December and was declared immediately eligible in late April after an arduous process with the NCAA. He sparked a team that was coming off an 8-5 record and put the Wolverines in the national playoff conversation.
He intended to redshirt his freshman year at Ole Miss but had to play three games after the starter was injured. He started seven games as a sophomore before a season-ending leg injury. This past season was the first time he was able to play an entire year.
“I feel I have a lot left to give to college football and to Michigan,” Patterson said. “This was my first full year and just really having a lot of fun doing it at Michigan. I’d like to give it one more year at a university where I’m comfortable and happy.
“I love this place, and I love my teammates even more. I’m close with everybody. That’s a big part of the reason I’m so comfortable is the bond we’ve all created.”
Although he grew up in Toledo and attended Michigan football games as a kid, Patterson said he never knew what this experience would be like playing for the Wolverines and wearing the winged helmet.
“I had no idea how awesome it was going to be and how welcoming everybody was going to be,” Patterson said. “I didn’t really think I was going to get eligible because I’ve dealt with the NCAA before and it usually doesn’t end well, so I had no clue how this year was going to go. It turned out a lot better than expected other than the two losses.”
Patterson looks back and marvels at how much his life has changed in a year.
“Looking back on it, it was probably the best decision of my life,” Patterson said. “Thinking a year ago at this time, I was sitting up on a stage at the awards banquet (at Ole Miss), I couldn’t even walk, I was in a full-leg cast, and not knowing what I was going to do, thinking about whether I was going to transfer or not.
“And just thinking back to that and the whole process of it, (Michigan) coach (Jim) Harbaugh flying in and giving me that opportunity and me getting here and not knowing anybody. The only guy I knew was (quarterback) Brandon Peters and at that time we were competing for the job, and obviously you’re not going to come in and be buddy-buddy with him, and now he’s one of my best friends on the team.
“Just doing that and totally taking a leap of faith with Michigan and waking up every day not knowing if I was going to play or not. Finally got (eligible), went through the spring and fall and long story short, had an incredible season.
“I will never forget this past year with my brothers. It’s amazing how much your life can change and how God can put you in the right position. I’m just trusting everything and trusting the process and I’m looking forward to another year in this offense. It’s the first time in my college career I’ve had the same offense in two years, so I get to grow a little bit.”
With Patterson returning, Michigan’s offense will be nearly intact next season, with the key exception of Higdon. Michigan’s offense ranked 43rd nationally and 17th nationally in pass efficiency.
“Obviously losing Karan, losing that veteran leader for our offense is something we’d like to have – we’d like to have him back if we could,” he said. “We have a lot of young talent that is going to help us on offense and help fill that void. Obviously, on defense, we’ll be fine. Don Brown will get that done. I think we’ll be even better next year.”
Patterson said he’s happy to work with Harbaugh, a former Michigan and NFL quarterback, for another year.
“We get each other,” he said. “He’s definitely someone I want to keep playing for.”
For Patterson, while he considered his options, he said this was an easy decision and has enjoyed working toward the bowl game and preparing for what next season will bring.
“I feel like I’d do anything for the guys,” Patterson said. “I feel like I’d lay everything on the line for this football team and this university because I love it here so much and I take pride in it. It is going to be fun. One more go around.”