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‘They’re rabid dogs’: Former Michigan players sound off about Ohio State

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Some say it’s all about respect. What others say is not suitable for print.

Michigan will play unbeaten Ohio State on Saturday at noon at Michigan Stadium in the annual meeting of the arch-rivals. It is the final game of the regular season and it’s about tradition, the colors, the fight songs, the bands and the gritty play between the teams. The Buckeyes have won seven straight against the Wolverines and 14 of the last 15.

But what do former players really think of Ohio State? The Detroit News asked a few men who played football for Michigan for their gut reactions when they hear the words, “Ohio State.”

Michigan and Ohio State square off on Saturday at noon in Ann Arbor.

Jarrett Irons (1993-1996)

“(Blank) them. I don’t know how else to put that. For my job, I work in Toledo a lot. I have to do overnights, and I will not stay in Toledo. I’m not staying in Ohio. I’m dead serious. I’m entertaining late for my job, I don’t care what it is, I’m not staying in that state. I cannot stand them. I can’t stand that state, and I’m from Texas. It’s deep-rooted. It’s that feeling. You listen to the fans, it drives me nuts. What happened last year ruined Thanksgiving for me. I played in the (John) Cooper years; that’s all that needs to be said.”

John Wangler

John Wangler (1977-1980)

“I see red. It’s like you put a red flag in front of a bull. That’s what I see. That’s what I think. I immediately want to get in a stance and hit somebody. (It was pointed out he played quarterback. “I didn’t shy away from contact,” Wangler replied). When I hear Ohio State, it was never reinforced to me more than last year when I sat in that end zone and they kept scoring and they were taunting. It renewed my — I hate to use the word hatred — but it renewed my disdain for them.

“We won four of the five times I played. We were dominating them. It was respect for what they stood for. We were mirror image programs, absolutely. You knew if you beat them you beat the best, and they knew if they beat us they beat the best. So there was that mutual respect. Where there’s the disdain, maybe that’s been more intense for me as a dad living through it with my sons (Jack and Jared) who never beat ‘em and now it’s like, come on, man, that used to be us. Whether it’s jealousy – we used to have that, now they’ve got it and they’re rubbing it in our face and I don’t like it.

“For Urban Meyer to walk around undefeated against Michigan, that kills me. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve got to sit here and live with. Obviously, I respect their program and what they do, but there’s nobody I like to beat more than Ohio State.  Last year — their fans — it was terrible. And there was nothing we could do about it. it was like they were mocking us. It was painful. You felt helpless. It was like, wow, this is where we’re at.”

Jack Miller (2011-2014)

“You need to point out I live in Ohio. Agony might be the first word that comes to mind. Agony. The fan base is just obnoxious. The fans are horrible. Dealing with that here in the state of Ohio is horrible. At least I won one game against them. We’re in such a bad stretch, and dealing with it here in Ohio is agony, it really is. It’s awful, it really is. I think you have a good feel for the sentiment I have. How I really feel is anger all the time. And I feel like God loves the Buckeyes. Is that not true? What other program can lose a legendary head coach and move to a rookie coach and somehow get better? Seriously, who can do that? How does that work? God loves the Buckeyes. They refuse to get bad. They won’t do it.”

Dan Dierdorf

Dan Dierdorf (1968-1970)

“When I played, it wasn’t a hatred. It was respect. There’s not one of us that didn’t look across that sideline at Woody Hayes and had nothing but respect for Coach Hayes and the Ohio State program. You just wonder if they’d come to us and said the University of Michigan has decided to disband their football program, and you’re all free to go anywhere you want to go, it would have been interesting to see how many of our team would have gone to Ohio State. That’s a hypothetical, but … I would have. It was like looking at yourself in the mirror. Our common traits were much more prevalent than our differences.

“You have to acknowledge that Ohio State is now on one of the great runs that any college program has had. It’s not like Michigan has laid an egg and been beaten by inferior football teams from Ohio State. I would think every game we’ve played against Ohio State the last 10-plus years, if you had an impartial group of analysts out there, would any of them have said, ‘This was a superior Michigan team that played down to Ohio State’s level.’? Nobody would say that. Ohio State has been on a recruiting juggernaut for over a decade now, and you’ve got to give (Jim) Tressel and Urban Meyer a lot of credit. They have been recruiting machines.”

Ron Bellamy (1999-2002)

“Must-win game. Always. You’re defined by your record against Ohio State. I always look at Ohio State as more of — while I don’t like them and I want to see them lose — I still respect them. It’s always the last game of the year. And for me being from Louisiana, I knew about this rivalry since I was a little boy watching college football. I think this (downturn) started — I love Drew, Drew is one of my best friends — but it’s the Drew Henson Curse. When Drew left school early, it was Jim Tressel’s first year and they’ve been dominating us ever since and beating us in recruiting. I’m 100 percent certain if Drew Henson would have played in that game, Jim Tressel doesn’t win his first game against Michigan.”

Drew Henson (1998-2000)


Devin Gardner

Devin Gardner (2010-2014)

“Is it something you can write? I don’t know if you can put bleeps in writing. I don’t have anything good, but like nothing really bad. It’s like eh, at least it’s not Michigan State. They lost three quarterbacks and won a national championship. That’s BS, that’s what it is. It’s been devastating for me. How does that happen? I do like their colors. My favorite color is red. That’s where it stops. I don’t like scarlet, I like red. Scarlet is the ladies’ version of red.”  

Jon Jansen (1995-1998)

“South until you smell it and east until you step in it — that’s the directions to Columbus. When you ask my kids, whenever we travel through Ohio, I tell them, ‘We’ll stop in Pennsylvania — you can go to the bathroom, get a drink, get a snack. We will not stop again until we get to Michigan. There’s no pee breaks, there’s no gas breaks, there’s no nothing. We’ve got enough gas, you hold it.’ They don’t want to stop, either. They’ll say, ‘Dad, we can’t stop here.’”

Mike Martin (2008-2011)

“For me, it’s pure hate. The stuff I dealt with on the field but then also personally. My mom got her windows busted out my first year down there. Obviously, this has nothing to do with the program, but everything tells the story of the mutual bad taste in your mouth. I felt good about being able to leave with a win my senior year and leave on that high note.

“As time has gone on, I’ve met people who went there. I’m on Big Ten Network now with Josh Perry (former Buckeye) and Glen Mason has his roots at Ohio State, and we have dinner after every show, and I like these guys now. There’s a handful of them that aren’t so bad, but when I say what I said to you, that’s my feeling of when I played. That was the environment. They’ve gotten it done this year. They haven’t just gotten it done, they done it by huge spreads. The way they’re beating teams and the point differentials, and the defense, the offense and special teams, just every phase of the game they’re excelling. In the Big Ten, they’ve separated themselves.”

John Kolesar (1985-1988)

“Respect. I know so many Ohio State people, and I know the history and I know Woody and I know Bo, and that’s who I played for. I respect Bo, Bo respected Woody, and that’s what I have for Ohio State. One hundred percent. Obviously, the banter and some of the dirtiness and the nastiness around the fans and the campus is disappointing, but they can’t control that, neither can Michigan. The program itself, what Woody built — when I played and what I think about, they’re still the nemesis, and if you want to be the best, you have to play the best. You want to play your heart out. I was excited to play them, couldn’t wait to play them. I wanted to be at my best. I knew I had to be at my best to play them. And if I’m in that game, that means I’m pretty damn good, too, and I want them to know I’m coming.”

Doug Skene (1989-1992)

“It’s time to win, that’s my gut reaction. It’s time to win. We’re way past due, and it’s time. It’s hard to find a glaring weakness on their team. But’s this is not the first time what looks on paper to be a more talented Ohio State team and Michigan’s found a way to beat them. It’s time to rise up and reestablish ourselves in this rivalry. It is time.”

Jamie Morris

Jamie Morris (1984-1987)

“The Game, Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes. I don’t have a nasty thing to say about Ohio State. Michigan State, (blank) them — that’s what I would have said if you said Michigan State — but I respected Ohio State. It was a rivalry and it was the hardest and cleanest rivalry. Ohio State was your true test. I don’t care what you get all season long, when you got to the Ohio State game, you found out, ‘What did you really do the whole season?’ It’s not about the hate, it’s about the game and how these two elite programs compare to one another. They didn’t care about anybody else around the country, that’s the key.”

Thomas Guynes

Thomas Guynes (1993-1996)

“Visceral. Disdain. Genuine hate. What other negative adjectives can I throw out there? That is my gut reaction. It’s a point of, how do I put it, marrow-sickening adversary. You feel it down to your marrow. You instantly become agitated. You wanted to engage in some sort of gladiatorial experience. What’s worse for me is I hate people that are in Michigan that are rocking that team’s apparel. Like, why are you even here? If I pull a car over (Guynes is a deputy at the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s office) and that’s the case, like you’ve got some OSU stuff on you, oh, you’re definitely getting a ticket, and then I’ll finish up by saying, ‘Go Blue.’ I remember my mom saying when she came for my very last game against the Buckeyes there, she’s never been called (expletive) that many times before in her life. I can feel this way, but we don’t necessarily let our feelings come to fruition so to speak. We still as Michigan fans are able to have a sense of decorum, where they, on the other hand, are literally rabid dogs that don’t really know any better.”

Rod Payne (1993-1996)

“When I hear Ohio State, there’s nothing you can write about (that's clean).”

Aaron Shea (1996-1999)

“When I think of OSU? Respect, best rivalry in all of sports. When I got drafted by the Browns, coach (Lloyd) Carr said be humble in victory, and I remember calling him and saying they are nice in Cleveland, and then we started losing and now every person around here acts like they went to OSU. Go Blue!”

Marcus Ray

Marcus Ray (1995-1998)

“They’re like Deebo, the bully (in the movie “Friday”). You can beat them, but you have to have the courage to fight the guy. By the end of the movie he got beat up, but Ice Cube needed a brick to beat him. When I think of Ohio State, I need to find that brick. I need something extra in this fight to beat them because it’s not a fair fight. And what I mean by a brick, you need a (Charles) Woodson. You need a guy who can put the cape on. Where is the guy who can put the cape and make it right for you? Desmond (Howard) did it, Charles did it, and I tried to do it in my own little way. Where is the guy with the cape on? That’s who we need to beat this guy. They’re a bully who can fight. They’re not just pushing little teams around.

“You say Ohio State, I think a dirty street fight, and we need a weapon, because if not, it’s not going to happen. Me playing against Ohio State back then, Ohio State was like a watermelon. They were big, but they would crack easy back then. Ohio State was a watermelon.”

Jim Brandstatter (1969-1971)

“The PG version is there’s nobody more I want to beat. There are adjectives that you can put in front of it, in the middle of it, and behind it that may be more descriptive, but the PG version is there’s nobody more I’d rather beat. You knew when you played them you’d better button it up because you’d better be good because they’re gonna be good. It’s going to be hard-hitting and it’s going to be tight and you’re going to have to play four quarters.”

Twitter: @chengelis