Ann Arbor — There is nothing showy about Rashan Gary. The defensive end who was the nation’s top-rated recruit coming out of high school two years ago has never flaunted his well-appointed resume.
He arrived at Michigan last year eager to be mindful of what his upperclassmen teammates had to say and to absorb their knowledge.
Now, as a veteran sophomore and advanced beyond his years as a player, Gary is ready to help lead the Michigan defensive line as the Wolverines prepare to open the season Saturday against Florida in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“I’m anxious. I just want to go,” Gary said after practice this week. “We have beaten up on each other for so long, I’m ready to take it out on somebody else.”
Gary also is ready to prove himself, especially now that Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley, who both guided him last season, are now playing in the NFL.
“To myself, my coaches,” Gary said, when asked who he’s proving himself to. “Chris Wormley, Taco Charlton got me ready for now. I’ve got to show them, once they look back at the film, that I did take that extra step. Showed my coaches that I did put in that extra work. I just can’t wait to show it.”
By proving himself, Gary said he’s also showing how much he learned from Wormley and Charlton.
“They were my big brothers,” he said. “They showed me the way, and I just want to let them know that I appreciate everything they did. It’s my time. Let me show you.”
After a youth camp at Michigan in June, Don Brown couldn’t say enough about Gary. He called the sophomore the best player he has seen at the position. The low-key Gary shrugged off the praise then, and he still does.
But Brown knows he has something special on a line that could be more athletic than last season’s NFL-caliber group.
“He’s got all the tools,” Brown said Wednesday. “He can rush the passer from the edge. He’s strong against the run game, especially versus the tight ends. I just see him elevating his game. He’s prepared well. He’s a smart guy. We’re going to let him do all those things — pass rush, defend the run. He’s got very good leadership ability as well.”
Gary and senior tackle Maurice Hurst have received plenty of preseason accolades. What they value most are the comments from teammates.
Starting defensive lineman Chase Winovich echoed what many of the Wolverines have said about Gary.
“Rashan’s an animal,” Winovich said this week. “I’m lucky to play across from him. Every day it’s a give and take relationship in practice. I think I can maybe do a little better or maybe in a different way and that feeds into some of his process. He does some stuff, and I look at it and I’m like this is something I have to incorporate in my game.”
In many ways, Gary is wise beyond his years. Sometimes it’s hard to fathom he’s only a sophomore, considering how he has become such a leader. In practices during the spring, he’d pull teammates aside during drills and offer tips. And most of those teammates were his age or older.
Still, he’s really just a young player who happens to be a very good player.
“I do forget sometimes,” Gary said referring to just how young he is. “When we go joke around it puts me back to, ‘Yeah, I’m a kid. I’m still young.’”
Despite his youth, Gary knows the freshmen look up to him. He is trying to lead them as the older players helped him last season.
“I just tell them my story freshman year, how I came in eager to learn and my expectations for myself freshman year,” he said. “Everyone who come in, they want to play, they’re ready to play. I told them they have to take it as a process day by day.”