He’s Something to Shout About : Rose Bowl: Michigan running back Leroy Hoard has found a method to the madness as a subject of Coach Bo Schembechler’s tirades.
This will be the last week that Bo Schembechler ever yells at Leroy Hoard.
Schembechler, as we know, is retiring as Michigan’s coach after the Rose Bowl game against USC on Monday. Hoard, a junior, stays on--a player molded and scolded by Schembechler.
Bo’s yelling, which he has done a lot in his 27 years as a head coach, hasn’t always been music to Hoard’s ears, but he has learned to accept it.
Hoard, a 220-pound fullback-tailback, was the most valuable player in last January’s Rose Bowl, a 22-14 Wolverine victory over USC.
He broke open the game in the fourth quarter with a 61-yard run that positioned Michigan for its clinching touchdown.
Hoard gained 142 yards, averaging 7.5 a carry, and scored two touchdowns in that game, shredding a defense that had not allowed another running back to gain more than 100 yards during the season.
With Tony Boles inactive because of knee surgery, Hoard will play tailback exclusively against USC instead of alternating at fullback and tailback. Hoard rushed for 724 yards, averaging almost five yards a carry, and six touchdowns during the regular season.
He is a power back with speed and was so impressive in the last Rose Bowl game that Ram Coach John Robinson told Schembechler, a close friend, that Hoard had the status of a No.1 draft choice.
Hoard is a humble athlete who wasn’t even sure he could play college football, let alone in the NFL.
He is also a friendly, outgoing sort who gets into Bo’s doghouse occasionally by cutting a class.
“Leroy hasn’t given me any trouble; I’ve given Leroy trouble,” Schembechler said. “He and I have had some disagreements, and I’m the head coach.”
That’s vintage Bo.
Schembechler made it clear, though, that Hoard has never done anything seriously wrong at Michigan.
Hoard was a high school star in New Orleans, and he recalled what friends and other coaches told him about the Michigan coach while he was being recruited.
“They said he’s a mean guy, the toughest coach there is,” Hoard said. “But he had a sweet voice. Then, when I got to Michigan, I was one of the first guys he yelled at, and it has been going on for four years.”
Hoard doesn’t seem bothered by Bo’s bombast. He seemingly takes it all in stride.
There was a time, though, when Schembechler’s tirades upset him.
“The freshmen used to scrimmage on Monday, and with Jarrod Bunch hurt, I was the only fullback,” Hoard said. “Well, I fumbled, and the coach said, ‘I’ll be glad when Bunch gets back.’
“When you’re a freshman, things coaches say tend to get to you a lot more, because when you’re older you realize they say things only to motivate you and you shouldn’t take it personally.”
He says he understands Bo now.
“He’s the kind of person that if he confronts you, he lets you defend yourself--for a couple of seconds.
“You can get a couple of words in, and I’ve been known to sneak in more than my share. But when I think about it now, it’s no use. Just be quiet.”
There was a time last year, though, when Schembechler listened, according to Hoard.
“He told me why he did everything,” Hoard said. “I said, ‘You can yell at me all you want,’ because I knew he had a reason. For a long time I thought it was just me. Maybe I wasn’t a good player.”
Hoard learned later that Schembechler is indiscriminate in his yelling, even though the running back’s ears burned more than most.
In an earlier interview with the Detroit Free Press, Hoard was philosophical about his relationship with Schembechler.
“Bo taught me that when you do something wrong, you have to accept the consequences,” he said. “Regardless of how great a game it is, school and the other things are more important.”
Hoard can joke about his years with Schembechler now that the coach is retiring.
“My mom came up for the Ohio State game and asked me why I had so many keys,” Hoard said. “I said, ‘This one is for my car and this one is for my apartment. This is for the mailbox and this is for Bo’s doghouse.’ Now I guess I’ll have to give the key back.”
Even though Hoard was a renowned player at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, he doubted his own ability and had his own priorities.
“I left Louisiana because I wanted to get away from home, even if I didn’t play a lick of football in college, and I didn’t think I would play,” he said. “I wanted to travel, I wanted to see snow, I wanted to go to the Rose Bowl. There were a lot of things I wanted to do.
“Out of all the schools I looked at, this was the only school that gave me academics, travel and a chance to go to California. I chose Michigan and I have no regrets.”
He learned that Schembechler is not effusive in his praise of players.
For example, after his outstanding performance in the Rose Bowl, Schembechler told him that he played a good game but made some mistakes that would be evaluated at a film session.
Schembechler has been rather mellow on his last trip to the Rose Bowl and has praised Hoard--to an extent.
“He’s hard to tackle and is a fine, fine runner,” Schembechler said. “He gets a big play every game, too. But he has to play better without the ball, as a blocker, receiver and faker.”
Hoard agrees with that assessment.
“It’s not that I’m standing around, but there are some points where I can improve to make myself a better player,” he said.
If he improves as expected, then Hoard will probably be an NFL first-round draft choice after his senior season.
“That’s a longshot,” Hoard said of an NFL career. “I didn’t think I could play college football, but I made it this far. If my career were to end right now, I’d be satisfied.”