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Bulked up Michigan tight end Erick All displays gift of grab

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Erick All is known for catching everything thrown his way in practice, so after the Michigan sophomore tight end dropped a sure touchdown in the third quarter at Minnesota in the season opener, he was overjoyed his number was called again the next play.

This time, All made the catch and went 27 yards to the Gophers’ 3-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Joe Milton scored en route to the 49-24 victory last Saturday night.

Erick All

“I was way too excited,” All said Monday, explaining the dropped pass. “I feel like the coaches knew that and they gave me the second opportunity, because, man, if it weren't for that second play, I probably would have never been able to redeem myself and probably would have been in my head. I feel like the coaches knew that they had the confidence that I don't really drop balls for real. Thank God that the coaches believed in me and I was able to get out there for the second play and do what was right.”

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Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh described All as the “unheralded” player of the offense in the first game. He got the start because senior captain Nick Eubanks was unavailable for the game. Michigan’s home opener is Saturday against Michigan State at Michigan Stadium.

“His blocking was phenomenal, in line, on the perimeter, just tremendous,” Harbaugh said. “He had that opportunity for the touchdown, he’s such a good catcher, (but) he pulled his hand away as the ball was coming in. He expects to catch everything and always does. And the very next play caught a ball in the flat and nearly scored. I love him. He’s a great competitor and real football player.”

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During a preseason radio interview, tight ends coach Sherrone Moore said All was light when he arrived last year and needed to add weight. The 6-foot-4 All is now 242 pounds, up from 229 last year.

Erick All

He added the weight in large part, he said, thanks to his several months stay with Michigan linebacker Joey Velazquez and his family in Columbus, Ohio, shortly after students were sent home in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Velazquez and All, who is from Fairfield, Ohio, got to know each other freshman year and All would always comment on his strength.

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“If you ever seen Joe, he's always been like, strong and big and built,” All said. “And I'm like, ‘Man, what do you do?’ He said, ‘Bro, if you’d stay with me you’d know.’”

While home, All didn’t have a gym or many workout options. Velazquez was working out. All made a request.

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“I just asked him if I could stay with him,” All said. “After knowing his family now, I'm not surprised they said yes, but then I was like, ‘Wow, they really gonna let me come live with you guys? Like for this long?’ It was unexpected. But like, now, honestly, it was probably the best decision I've ever made besides going to Michigan.”

Each day, they both ate well.

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“Literally, every time you would come downstairs, there was food on the table waiting for you, like nice full-course meals,” All said, later thanking Velazquez’s parents for helping him add the weight.

They worked out with a trainer in Columbus every day, and All picked up new methods of training.

His stay in Columbus was not without some Michigan-Ohio State drama. He, Velazquez and Wisconsin defensive tackle Rodas Johnson were training on an intramural field behind Ohio Stadium. Video of their workout made its way to social media.

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This rankled some OSU fans on Twitter, and All said in a tweet that someone will have to “take us off” the field. OSU defensive back Cameron Brown replied asking what time?, and All said they’d be there at noon the next day working out. It never escalated.

“At first, we felt a little iffy because, you know, the rivalry,” All said referring to when they first realized they would be working out so close to Ohio Stadium. “It's just like a little intramural soccer field. We didn't think it was gonna be a big deal. But we get there, and all these football players and all the Ohio State players are there, so we’re like, ‘All right, well, the only way we get off this field is if they take us off this field, because we paid money for this session.’ It’s not we’re about to just leave because of what they think of the rivalry.

“So we get on the field, and we're doing this workout and (the trainer) records the workout. He does that with all his people that he works out with. And we didn't know it was gonna turn into a big deal. And then, when they said what they said, I said, what I'm telling you right now, they’re going to have to force us to get off that field. And wasn't nobody gonna do that.”

That was in late April. Now, with his added weight and an innate desire to block, Moore said All is a complete tight end.

“Erick All is a kid that the ceiling, I don’t know what it is, but it’s huge for him,” Moore said recently. “He’s going to be an exciting player to watch over the next years here. His real hang-up, when he first got here he was a little light. He’s up to about 245 right now and he runs like a deer. He gets the playbook. Last year left was right, right was left. I’ve been there myself. But he’s really excelled and he’s going to do great things for us.”

All said everything was so new last year, and it took him time to finally understand everything asked of him. He studied film of Eubanks and former Michigan tight end Sean McKeon, who is now in the NFL, as well as the playbook.

“Last year I was messing up everything,” All said. “I look back even now like, ‘How was I messing this play up? It's so easy.’

"Just everything clicked. Last year was really my first year like actually playing the role of a tight end because in high school, they used me as a wide receiver from the backfield. I mean, I would pull and lead block and stuff, but I never had to work on a down block or a seam play. There’s so much this behind it that I didn't know about last year, but I got this.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis