Focus on 'The TEAM' delivers Michigan football its destiny

The journey for Michigan football and its fans, made the final destination that much sweeter.
Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with the CFP
Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with the CFP / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

My first real memory as a Michigan football fan is the Kordell Stewart Hail Mary.

I remember watching the 1993 Rose Bowl win over Washington and also Tyrone Wheatley. But even then, I was in my infancy as a Michgan football fan.

Like most, I come from a family of Michigan fans. Grandpa loved the Wolverines and by extension, so does my mom, who I watched the game with on Monday night. But my love for the Wolverines dates back to that Hail Mary.

That game against Kordell Stewart is the one I remember watching by myself for the first time. Not just because my parents had the game on. It was crushing. Seeing the ball tipped into the air and caught for a 65-yard touchdown broke my little brain.

I didn't realize that could happen. I ran outside crying for Mom who was mowing the lawn and thought I was seriously injured. I was in a way, just not physically.

It's the kind of pain I would feel a lot as a Michigan sports fan. In fact, I had felt it already with the Fab Five loss in the Final Four. I remember picking up KFC and watching Michigan advance to the national championship game. Of course, I was too young to stay up for the second half of the national championship game against North Carolina and missed Chris Webber's timeout.

So in a way, I was spared. For the time being.

I remember asking my Dad about the winner the next morning, only to find out what had happened, yet still not being able to believe it. Imagine seeing that on replay as a six-year-old.

But those heartbreaks, and the scabbing that followed, made me love Michigan.

It's what got me invested and from that Kordell Stewart pass on, I don't know that I've ever missed a Michigan football game -- even during the Rich-Rod years.

There were a lot of good moments in the 90s. I saw Michigan beat Ohio State in 1995, 1996, and 1997. I saw Charles Woodson win a Heisman and the Wolverines share a national championship.

It was the best season I'd ever seen and even then, I knew how rare it was. I knew Michigan football hadn't won the national title since 1948 and might not do it ever again.

That idea was only reinforced in the years to come. Jim Tressel wrecked what was a golden era of wins over Ohio State. Lloyd Carr couldn't beat him, except in 2003.

Talk about scars -- I've got them from the 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006 editions of "The Game." Then, JT was short, there was trouble with the snap, the failed 2-point pass, 2018, the Kenneth Walker game, the John O'Korn game, the monsoon game, TCU -- all of it.

I got resigned to the fact that Michigan wouldn't win a national championship. That seemed especially true after the first few years under Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh was supposed to be the man to get Michigan there and by 2020, many wanted him fired. Some still wanted him fired after the MSU loss in 2021. They still didn't believe.

I tweeted from the GBM Wolverine Twitter account that the best was yet to come. I don't know if I believed what I was writing, but even in defeat that day, I had seen a change in Michigan and more importantly, a change in Jim Harbaugh.

He stopped being so bristly and started smiling. He got back to his roots. He got a defensive coordinator from his brother, got back to his playing weight, and embraced the grind.

Harbaugh has made a career of proving people wrong and this time, he did the unthinkable. Nobody would have predicted this a few years ago and by Tuesday morning, Jim had even turned Paul Finebaum, known SEC lover and Harbaugh hater, into a believer.

But Harbaugh didn't do it alone. He'd be the first to tell you that. It was about channeling that message he learned from Bo all those years ago: The Team, The Team, The Team.

This was a team in the truest sense of the word. The sum was greater than its parts. They love each other; sacrifice for each other and put it on the line for each other.

They are a band of brothers and as Jim Harbaugh said after the Rose Bowl to Kris Jenkins and Trevor Keegan, "We can overcome anything."

When your focus is The Team anything is possible.

Michigan football reminded us of that on Monday night.

And while it is just a game, as you all know, it's so much more.

It's football and family. And whether you shared this national championship with family members on earth or in heaven, the journey made it what it is.

Destiny finally called, and this TEAM delivered a night we'll never forget.