Michigan's Luiji Vilain healthy, 'anxious and excited' to get rolling

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor – Somewhere under the radar during spring practice at Michigan is defensive lineman Luiji Vilain.

Maybe he’s not flying as low as one might think. But after his career has been sidelined the last two seasons because of knee surgeries, the Wolverines players and coaches are collectively crossing their fingers for Vilain to finally be injury free and able to get on the field this fall.

Luiji Vilain

He was a four-star recruit per 247Sports and the sixth-ranked defensive end nationally and has always been regarded as a player with great potential.

“You always feel for a guy, especially Luiji, because he’s such a good kid and just how hard he works,” defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said Wednesday night after practice. “Having his first two years cut by very sad, two season-ending injuries, it’s always good to see him. Keep your head up, keep working, God has a plan for all of us and his plan was it took him two years and now we’re at this point. We’re so excited to see him play.

“You can only imagine what he’s got inside. I’d really hate to be an O-lineman (against) him.”

In late December, Vilain tweeted that 2019 would be “#YearOfLV”.

“These past two years have been a physical and mental journey for me, from the 2017 season to today and all the time in between I’ve spent my God-given time, blessings and energy on developing myself off the field, as an athlete, as well as an individual blessed with countless opportunities,” Vilain, academic All-Big Ten last year, wrote on Dec. 28, 2018. “Every day is a new chance, and with the 365 in 2019 I have nothing but hope for what’s in store for me.”

When Vilain arrived at Michigan, his position coach was Greg Mattison. Mattison has moved on to Ohio State and Shaun Nua is now coaching the defensive line.

Practice began last Sunday, and Nua already is encouraged by Vilain’s progress and what he can add to the line.

“Impressive, very athletic, very smart,” Nua said of Vilain. “He got out there and I thought he was going to be rusty, but he’s off to a great, great start. He’s had some injury problems, and crossing my fingers because he’s a good athlete.  He can play anchor and end. It’s time for him to shine, and he’s ready for it. He’s very anxious and excited for it.”