Ann Arbor — There are certain titles football players like to claim — fastest player on the team, most athletic, and hardest hitter.
But with those claims always come playful disputes.
Michigan linebacker Devin Bush Jr., who will be a sophomore this fall, believes he’s the Wolverines’ hardest hitter.
“Yeah,” he said softly after Michigan’s youth camp last weekend while sitting next to some of his teammates. “I’d like to believe that. But he’s not going to let me have that. He’s forever not going to let me have that title.”
Bush looked toward safety/viper Josh Metellus, his friend since high school at Flanagan in south Florida.
“Who’s the hardest hitter on the team?” Bush asked.
"Who?” Metellus responded. “Me.”
“Like I said, he’s never going to let me have that,” Bush said.
“I don’t know why you asked me,” Metellus said.
“We have proof I’m the hardest hitter on the team,” Bush said, before adding a qualifier. “If it’s not me, it’s him.”
Suddenly, a new contender, sitting behind the group of defenders, turned and revealed himself.
“Who’s the hardest hitter on the team? Are you talking about me?” tight end Ian Bunting said, smiling, while his teammates broke into laughter.
The tackle by the 5-foot-11, 232-pound Bush that got plenty of attention was on a punt return against Michigan State, when he hit Chris Frey in what was heavily debated as a potential targeting. Frey was helped off the field and missed two plays, but no penalty was called.
“Good for him,” Frey later told reporters. “It’s a big hit. But I’m still standing here.”
Bush was called for Michigan’s first targeting late in the season at Iowa. Iowa punter Ron Coluzzi took the snap, it was a fake, and he began to run left. He then stumbled and rolled forward. Bush dove at him, and after reviewing the play officials said it was a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first quarter. Bush was ejected.
He shakes his head now at that call, but has no interest in changing the way he plays, though. He said he will not hold back.
“Never,” he said. “That’s not my style.”
Being a big hitter doesn’t just happen. Bush prides himself on his preparation to be the kind of physical, imposing player he wants to be.
“You have to make your mind up,” Bush said. “If you want to hit, you’re going to do your best to hit. You’re going to try your hardest to hit. You’re going to put yourself in positions to hit. You’re going to do it in the weight room — you’re going lift extra weights, do extra shoulders, extra neck, extra squats. If you want to hit hard and if you really mean it, by all means, any play you make you’re trying to hit hard.”
Mike McCray, a fifth-year senior, is the veteran of the linebackers, but defensive coordinator Don Brown recently joked about how Bush sees himself as a player who has been around for a while even though he’s entering his second season.
“Devin Bush thinks he’s a grizzled veteran now,” Brown said, smiling.
But Bush is passionate about this defense and his team and has no problem being a vocal leader even as a sophomore.
“I don’t think I’m the person to force it and be extra about it,” he said. “I’m just going to be me. I’m just going to be that player I’ve always been my whole life. I’m going to be loud on the field, I’m going to make corrections, and I’m going to get on you when you’re wrong, and I’m going to let you know when you do good. That’s just me. I love to win. Losing is one of the worst things ever to me. Whatever I have to do to win, I’m going to do it.”