Ann Arbor — Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary stared straight ahead into the lens of a video camera and charmingly sent a message to his family in New Jersey.
Yes, he knows about 40 of them want to come to the Rutgers game on Saturday and see him play a college game there for the last time, and he’s trying, wheeling and dealing for tickets from his teammates.
The Michigan players each get four tickets, and with the abundance of New Jersey-natives on the team, the competition has been stiff.
“You’ve got to fight for some tickets,” Gary said Tuesday night. “I’m throwing my one-two punches in there just trying to get some tickets. It’s a home-state game and I’ve got a lot of family that want to come so I’ve got to make sure they can come.”
He then looked into the lens.
“I’m trying to get y’all tickets,” Gary said.
A few weeks ago, no one knew for sure if Gary, a junior, would be able to play at Rutgers, let alone any game.
He missed the Maryland, Wisconsin and Michigan State games while recovering from an AC joint injury in his right shoulder. He suffered the injury in camp the week before the Notre Dame game week.
He returned to the field last Saturday against Penn State.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Gary said of getting his first contact in that game. “I feel like for anybody who was hurt they understand what I say — stepping back on that field in the stadium, after missing those games, I got them chills back.
“I looked to my right, I see Devin Bush, I look to my left, I see Josh Metellus. I’m looking, I’m seeing Chase (Winovich). Carlo (Kemp), ‘Yeah, I miss y’all, I love y’all.’ Felt good putting the pads on somebody else and getting my feet wet.”
There had been speculation Gary would not return and focus on his NFL future. But that never was a consideration as far as he was concerned.
“Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” Gary said. “We’re in a position we control what we want to control. Those are my brothers. We came here together, we started something and I need to finish it. I feel like that’s how everyone feels.”
Michigan is ranked No. 4 and has won eight straight since losing the opener at Notre Dame. The Wolverines are huge favorites heading into Rutgers, winless in the Big Ten, on Saturday.
Gary is overjoyed he was able to return to play again with his teammates.
“It’s good to be back,” he said. “It’s good to be back practicing with my brothers, playing with my brothers, working hard with my brothers. That was something I missed. I’m happy to be back with it. Being able to play in the Rutgers game, I’m happy. I worked hard getting back healthy. I’m back now and we’ve still goals to accomplish as a defense and as a team.”
Safety Tyree Kinnel, a co-captain, said the feeling is mutual.
“We were all excited for him to be back,” Kinnel said. “A lot of people was trying to count him out, but those last three, four weeks that he was out, he was battling to get back, he was always in the training room every single day to get back. He missed being out there with us, he told us every single day. He was happy to be there, and we were just excited to have him there. It was really good to see (No.) 3 back out there.”
Kinnel said Gary “definitely” heard people speculating whether Gary would follow the lead of Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, who was also struggling to return from injury and opted to focus on preparing for the NFL.
“He reminded us every single day that he wanted to be with us and play with us,” Kinnel said.
Gary said he was able to start hitting the sled the week of the Michigan State game and as much as he wanted to play against the Spartans in the rivalry game, he just wasn’t ready.
He said it was difficult sitting out the three games before returning.
“I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t,” Gary said, “but having my team behind my back, my coaches behind my back and my family behind my back, they wouldn’t let me get down. They only kept me working, getting treatment, getting right so I could come back. That’s what they’ve been doing. There was no time for me to stop. It was time for, ‘All right, you’re hurt, get healthy, we need you,’ and that’s what was in my head every time.”
Gary is 100 percent now and said he wouldn’t have returned if he was anything less. His mother took to social media a few weeks ago to share some insights about her son’s recovery.
But Gary said he paid no attention to what anyone was saying about his future as a Michigan player.
“It wasn’t much on me. Just on my family,” Gary said.
Michigan at Rutgers
Kickoff: 3:30 Saturday, HighPoint.com Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
Records: Michigan 8-1, 6-0 Big Ten; Rutgers 1-8, 0-6
Line: Michigan by 381/2