February 18, 2014
By Dave Brandon | Courtesy MGoBlue.com, Brandon’s Blog
When Gary Grant (men’s basketball, 1985-88), Katie McGregor (women’s track and cross country, 1996-99) and Mark Messner (football, 1985-88) were inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Department Hall of Honor Saturday night (Feb. 15), emcee and moderator Dana Jacobson, former ESPN anchorwoman and now host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Morning Show, said it best: “Tonight we are honoring the best of the Leaders and Best.”
The memories of our three honorees not only jogged the collective memory of the Wolverine fans in attendance at the William Davidson Player Development Center, the stories gave us insight into their teams, coaches and life lessons they learned as student-athletes at Michigan.
Gary Grant’s basketball career was stellar. He was a four-year starter, consensus All-American, and one of the best defensive players in college basketball. He was a senior guard in 1987-88, one season before the Wolverines won the NCAA championship.
When Jacobson, herself a Michigan graduate, asked how he felt about missing the title run by one year, Gary laughed and told the audience it was because of his mentorship of Glen Rice that Michigan won the title the year after he graduated. But he became serious when he talked about putting on the Michigan uniform and how his teammates became his new family. He talked about the support he received not only when he played at U-M, but from his coaches, teammates and alumni around the country after he left Ann Arbor.
Katie McGregor was a three-time NCAA champion and an eight-time All-American for the Wolverine cross country and track teams. With all those individual titles, her memories of the Michigan experience could easily have been all about those races and her personal accomplishments. Instead, she talked about her teammates and the ability to share her experiences and successes with others and develop life-long friendships in the process.
McGregor has been within an eyelash of making the United States Olympic team, but she stated flat out she would never trade an Olympic experience for her four years at Michigan. The team atmosphere she shared with her teammates at Michigan was special.
When Mark Messner took his seat on the stage, everyone knew there would be stories about Bo Schembechler and lessons learned about “The Team, The Team, The Team.” Sure enough, the two-time All-America defensive lineman talked about Bo and his teammates, but he told a different story of how he got to Michigan.
While Grant and McGregor were two Ohio natives who “loved the Blue” and committed to U-M rather quickly, Messner committed to UCLA before changing his mind and signing with Michigan.
Messner played football at Detroit Catholic Central High School. When he realized his parents would not have the opportunity to see him play if he went all the way to the West Coast, he changed his mind.
It was his family that brought him to the University of Michigan, and it was the Michigan family that made his experience memorable.
It was about how Bo and his teammates helped make a man out of a boy. How his best memories of U-M football were in the locker room singing The Victors with his teammates. How he believes the legacy of Michigan and Bo Schembechler continue to live in everything he does — from building a successful business career to approaching the role of husband and father with the same integrity, love and passion he learned during his playing days at Michigan.
The Hall of Honor exists to recognize and honor the “best of the best” who have competed and represented the University of Michigan as student-athletes or coaches. Yet, when the night was over, the talk of the wins, the championships and the competitions was limited.
The night was intended to be all about these three former student-athletes, and they turned it around to let everyone know it was not really about them; it was really about the University of Michigan!
To describe their time at Michigan, they used words like “pride,” “passion,” “family” and “friendships.” And to describe how they met the challenges, the word “relentless” was used more than once, the same word we use in our U-M Athletics mission statement: “Relentlessly striving to make Michigan Athletics the Leaders and Best in every way.”
These three individuals — Gary Grant, Katie McGregor and Mark Messner — are special in the history of U-M Athletics not only as championship-caliber student-athletes who wore the maize and blue uniforms and graduated from U-M, but also because they personify what it means to be a Michigan Man and a Michigan Woman.
These three student-athlete alumni are indeed “the best of the Leaders and Best.” We are so proud of them.
Congratulations and Go Blue!