SLEEPING BEAR DUNES, Mich. — As one Michigan football player commented after reaching the top of a sand dune, the program’s trip around the state has taken a turn toward fun.
The Wolverines spent their Mondays enjoying one of the country’s most picturesque lakeshores before an evening in and around Traverse City. One player remarked: “I can’t believe this is all in Michigan.” And that was one of the stated goals when the Wolverines planned this trip. Jim Harbaugh polled the team and learned that maybe 10 had experienced northern Michigan.
Now, most of them have suffered a rite of passage for any true Michigander: Charging up the sand dune with a burst of confidence and gusto before admitting defeat and stopping for a breather. This typically occurs a fair distance from the hillcrest, which is an appropriately humbling experience — more so if one is a Division I athlete.
In a testament to Michigan’s strength and conditioning staff, every player (and coach) who attempted to reach the top of the sand dune achieved their goal. It was a good warmup for later this week, when the players will undergo cardio and running tests.
As for your author, who is not and was never a Division I athlete: For the sake of journalism, I made it up the hill three times — once with each group of Wolverines who arrived at the Dune Climb. I don’t know why I did this, because I interviewed players at the bottom of the hill near the parking lot. Logic was never my strong suit.
The Wolverines continue their trip on Tuesday by spending the entire day at a farm — a private event that is closed to the public and media. Jim Harbaugh and four players will fly to Indianapolis for Big Ten Media Day, where some of my colleagues at The Michigan Insider / 247Sports will provide excellent coverage. (The coach and players will return to northern Michigan on a flight tomorrow night to rejoin the program for the next adventures.)
Some observations from the day at Sleeping Bear Dunes:
- Several Michigan players — including quarterbacks Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy — spent Sunday with Jim Harbaugh at a property he owns in northern Michigan. I’ll have more on that soon.
- A few families suspected that Michigan would be at Sleeping Bear Dunes today. One waited five hours to meet JJ McCarthy, who was part of the last group to climb the dunes.
- McCarthy is almost certainly the most popular autograph/selfie request among the players. Blake Corum is another fan favorite.
- No players suffered injuries while running or walking down the dunes.
- Most of the players I’ve spoken with have told me that the buses have been a highlight of the trip — it’s apparently a lot of fun on there, and a great place for team bonding.
Thanks for reading. I’ll have more stories from today posted soon!