Michigan's Rashan Gary: 'I need a national championship'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Defensive lineman Rashan Gary is emphatic about this season's goal: "I need a national championship."

Ann Arbor — Rashan Gary smiled as he looked around before revealing his secret.

He took a Sharpie and wrote inside his locker a permanent reminder — "Best defensive line in the country."

Gary participated in Michigan’s football camp Saturday at Glick Field House and was a feisty, demanding instructor during drills, frequently getting on the ground and showing the high school athletes ideal defensive end form.

Later, he didn’t hold back about the defensive line goals for the season.

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“To be the best in the country. That’s it,” Gary said “We come out here every day and push each other. We want to be the best in the country, that’s it.”

Certainly, defensive coordinator Don Brown and defensive line coach Greg Mattison have together created a formidable line the last few years. Gary has said he wooed Chase Winovich back for his final year of eligibility so they can become the best defensive ends duo in the country.

Lots of defensive linemen around the country say similar things, but Gary reacted with an extended stare and silence when asked if Michigan having the best defensive line is within reach.

“You see how I’m looking at you?” Gary said, breaking his silence. “We’re serious. That’s something we really want, and you always push each other to become that. Best defensive line in the nation, that’s written on our walls, that’s in our locker, we look at it every day and that’s what we came out here today trying to do. Even though we were showing drills today, when I’m finishing, I’m making sure I’m doing them perfect. The defensive line is building our brotherhood. We’ve got to make sure we go out there and take it.”

Gary wanted to his locker to be a shrine to his overall team goal.

“I don’t know if I was supposed to,” Gary said, looking around, “I took a Sharpie and I wrote inside in my locker, ‘Best defensive line in the nation.’ It’s permanent. So whoever goes by my locker, they’re going to see it. I keep it open. My locker is a little messy, but they see it. The message is there.

“I just like seeing it. I have it in my head, but I open up my locker and, boom, it’s right there.”

He has individual goals, too, and they’re written in a notepad. Gary was All-Big Ten first team last year and won the team award for the best defensive lineman last year. He had 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks

“I don’t like talking about them,” Gary said. “You’re going to see them, though. I’ve got a list, that’s also in my locker.”

Gary is entering his junior season and already some publications have projected him a top prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft.

He said the NFL is not on his radar right now.

“I’m focused on going to the Big Ten, winning it, going to the national championship and winning it,” Gary said. “I’m just focused on the season. I ain’t even thinking about the NFL, to be honest. I’m focused on the season, focused on my brothers and what we’ve got right ahead of us. It’s right there, we’ve just got to go get it.

“I need a national championship. I need that. That’s something that me and (linebacker Devin) Bush and our whole 2016 class was talking about is winning that national championship. That’s something I need a taste of. I’m not thinking about (the NFL). I’m focused on the season and my brothers.”

He currently weighs 280 and said he will play this fall at a max of 286.

Gary was among the most spirited of the camp coaches Saturday and enjoys helping younger players.

“I can see why coaching is so fun because from the beginning of camp you can see people that was really listening, really trying to take in the fine details I’m telling them,” he said. “I feel like if they see I’m serious about it, which I am, then it’s going to push them to work harder and become the best player they can. I told them, you’ve got to pay attention to the fine details. You come to college, a coach is not going to tell you multiple times to do it over and over you don’t have that much time to do so, so I’m like the more you work on it now, the easier it’s going to be when you go to the next level.”