Michigan D-line linchpin Rashan Gary a new man

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan rising sophomore Rashan Gary shed 6 percent body fat since arriving in Ann Arbor as he tries to lead by example.

Ann Arbor — A little more than a year ago, the veteran Michigan defensive linemen were not sure what to expect when Rashan Gary showed up.

They said they anticipated the nation’s No. 1 recruit would have a know-it-all attitude and perhaps would be standoffish and a prima donna.

Were they ever wrong, and the first to say so, too.

Gary is now a grizzled veteran as a sophomore who is beyond his years in terms of football smarts and ability — defensive coordinator Don Brown this summer called him the best player he’s ever seen at the position — and understanding his role as a leader. He arrived at Michigan last year as a skilled prospect willing to follow the lead of his older teammates, like Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton.

And now he’s preparing to lead the defensive line with Maurice Hurst.

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"I look at everything as a growth process,” Gary said after practice Tuesday. “I came in with the mindset when I got to Michigan, I’m going to wait my turn, I’m going to learn everything I can so when it’s times like this I’m able to do what I can.”

During spring practice, he didn’t wait to show his leadership skills. After all, being a leader has been part of his football DNA until last year when Wormley and Charlton took Gary under their collective wings as the leaders of the defense.

While in Rome this spring going through drills, he not only pulled younger players aside and spoke gently to them about what to look for and how to improve what they were doing in the drill, but he could give Winovich advice the older player would not dismiss.

Hurst on Tuesday called Gary a “high-character guy.” Gary described what he believes leadership is about.

"Just seeing somebody struggling and just show them the way and lead by example,” Gary said. “And also when they’re down and don’t know what to do, you’ve got to be their big brother, pick them up and tell them, ‘Let’s go.’”

Leading by example is not only on the field, but off the field and even at the training table. When he arrived at Michigan, he was at about 20 percent body fat, he said, and is now at 14 percent. He cut out his favorite ice cream.

“Once a week, that’s definitely my cheat meal,” he said.

Gary praised the strength staff for helping change his body.

“There’s a big difference,” he said. “Certain blocks I wasn’t able to handle last year, I’m able to handle now.”

He also feels he can handle the pressure. Gary has received plenty of preseason watch-list praise, but he doesn’t care about that.

“I don’t really pay attention to it,” Gary said, before emphasizing the team focus on the season opener against Florida. “I just got to do what I got to do. I know what we’re capable of and we’re going to show it Sept. 2.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis