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Posts Tagged ‘Brandin Hawthorne’

Frank Clark reflects on his past, growing as a leader

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Clark(Patrick Barron, The Michigan Daily)

For many kids growing up in the inner city, sports are a way out. Michigan defensive end Frank Clark is a testament to that.

Clark grew up in Baldwin Village, a section of Los Angeles filled with gangs, drugs, and violence, which served as the setting for the Denzel Washington film Training Day.

Clark’s mom struggled with drug addiction but worked hard to provide for her sons, working several jobs at a time and moving from place to place, Clark recalled. By the time he was a teenager his best friend had been shot and killed in a drive-by, and Clark was in danger of heading down the path toward gangs, drugs, and violence that so many around him had taken.

Training Day was set in Clark's hometown of Baldwin Village, Calif.

Training Day was set in Clark’s hometown of Baldwin Village in Los Angeles, Calif.

“(That was) the road that every typical guy growing up in my neighborhood and inner city Los Angeles was going down,” Clark said. “And the one thing that I had to identify quickly, with the help of my mother, was if I’m any good at doing what I do. And that’s my sports.”

Clark ran track because his mother wanted him to, but football became his passion and his escape. He would walk an hour and a half each way to Inglewood for football practice.

‘You’re good. You don’t need to be in the streets,” his mother told him. “You don’t need to be out in the hood. You don’t need to be out all night. But you do need to recognize how good you are at what you do.”

Once he realized that, and once he started seriously playing football, everything else in life came together. His mom put him on an airplane headed for Cleveland and he never looked back.

“Basically, she made the decision that I needed to move to Cleveland because I needed a better life,” Clark said. “It was her wise decision to put me on a plane…I’m sitting there on this plane just looking around scared for my life, so I ordered some peanuts and Sprite and went to sleep. And I was in Cleveland the next day.”

Clark’s father and aunt were on the receiving end of his move and enrolled him at Ohio State pipeline, Cleveland Glenville High School. There, he excelled at football under the tutelage of head coach Ted Ginn Sr., who served as the father figure Clark had missed during all those years in Los Angeles.

“He continues to play, to this day, a big role in my life,” Clark said of Ginn. “(He) just guides me the right way, and having that person there that understands football, and he’s been around it for so many years, and can guide you and show you the way to go so you can get to where you want to be.”

That place was Michigan, even though the in-state Buckeyes showed some interest in him late in the recruiting process. Clark said he didn’t care much for Ohio State; it was either Michigan or one of the schools back home, USC or UCLA. And he didn’t want to go back.

“One thing about Los Angeles is you’ve got a lot of hate there,” Clark explained. “A lot of people don’t like when you’re doing good and a lot of people don’t want to see you be successful…One thing about it is the neighborhood I lived in, you never knew when you could wake up again. You never knew when you could see another day.”

And he hasn’t been back since.

“Just going there, it isn’t like just walking outside here in downtown Chicago,” Clark said. “It’s like, ‘I’m going to have to walk outside. Hopefully there’s not a drive-by. Hopefully there’s not a shootout.’ That’s the environment that I chose not to go back to. I chose not to go back to my boys in my neighborhood, especially while I’m in college, because they won’t really understand me.”

Clark's mother sent him to Cleveland where he played for Ted Ginn Sr. at Glenville High

Clark’s mother sent him to Cleveland where he played for Ted Ginn Sr. at Glenville High (

As a freshman, Clark showed promise, and it culminated with an interception in the Sugar Bowl to help the Wolverines top Virginia Tech. But that offseason, Clark ran into trouble, stealing a laptop from a dorm room. He was arrested, and because the laptop was valued at $1,800, convicted with a felony that carried a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison and a $3,000 fine. Clark had left L.A. to escape prison or worse and now found himself faced with that possibility in Ann Arbor.

The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act allowed Clark to avoid prison by fulfilling probation obligations, and Clark is thankful for his teammates that helped him refocus.

“Just being around the guys, from my early struggles as a freshman, just hearing them talk to me and tell me, ‘Frank, we need you. We can help you. We can seriously use you on the field,’ Clark recalled. “Things like having a person to be there for me, that was a first for me in my life. Coming where I come from, there aren’t too many people like that. There aren’t too many good people like that, people who are genuinely going to be there for you. And those are the guys on my team that were there for me.”

Two players in particular helped point Clark in the right direction. Former Michigan linebacker Brandin Hawthorne took him under his wing.

“He basically told me the ins and outs of making it at Michigan the right way,” Clark said. “Because the way I was doing it at the beginning was the wrong way. There were times when I was like ‘Man, I’m tired. I don’t know if I want to go to that workout. I’m tired, I think I’m going to be late,” and he basically showed me the way to a point where it was like if you’re going to do things right you need to do them right all the time. If you’re going to do things wrong, we don’t need you here. And that’s simply how it went.”

The other was former Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs, who led by example.

“I’m sure if you’ve seen him play, (you know) Jordan was leadership on the field,” Clark said. “(He was a) great player. His story speaks for itself. As a walk-on, he comes in and starts for one of the greatest universities in the world. Jordan’s story and everything he’s been through, I just have so much respect for him for that, and that allowed me to listen to everything that he had to say. And I’m still listening to it to this day.”

Clark has come a long way since his freshman year, both on and off the field. Last season, he led the team with 12 tackles for loss and finished second with 4.5 sacks. Now a senior, he’s providing the leadership for the younger guys the way Hawthorne and Kovacs provided it for him.

“I’m the type of leader that you can respect based on work ethic and I have a big voice,” Clark said. “I’m going to talk to players, I’m going to let players know what they’re doing wrong, I’m going to bring players up when they’re doing wrong. I’m not going to bash them, and I’m going to correct players when they’re doing right, because you’re never at 100 percent at the end of the day.

Clark wears a white sleeve on one arm to honor his best friend who was killed when they were kids (Carlos Osorio, AP)

Clark wears a white sleeve on one arm to honor his best friend, Henry Smith, who was killed in a drive-by shooting when they were kids (Carlos Osorio, AP)

“I’m also a great listener and I think every leader is a great listener. I listen and I ask freshmen, ‘Do you have anything to say?’ instead of leaving them out. I ask the coaches after they’re done with meetings or when they say it’s a players meeting, ‘Do you have anything to say?’ I want everyone’s input so I know what I can do on my end of the bargain to make our group as a defense the best defense we can possibly be.”

Listening to Clark speak now, you would have no idea he grew up surrounded by gangs and drugs and is one of the lucky few to have made it out. Now he’s on track to graduate, and whether the NFL is in his future or not, he hopes to devote his post-football career to working in inner cities and trying to help out the kids that he once was.

“I want to work with children from neighborhoods like I grew up in,” Clark said. “Children in poverty-stricken neighborhoods where there’s not a lot of money, you don’t see the fancy cars. I want to work in those types of neighborhoods, where people say, ‘Oh, it can’t be done here’ or ‘Oh, they can’t make it out of neighborhoods like this,’ like inner city Chicago, like inner city Detroit, inner city Los Angeles, inner city Miami, neighborhoods where other people are scared to go into. I don’t fear neighborhoods. I’ve seen the worst. I’ve seen it all. I want to go somewhere where I can show kids like I was growing up that there are other ways out instead of the streets, instead of drugs, and things like that.”

But first, there’s one more season to play, and Clark is ready to put the pads back on and join his teammates for one more Big Ten title push. He says he doesn’t set personal goals for sacks or tackles, but he does have one big goal he would love to be fulfilled this fall: to get his mother, who sacrificed her personal relationship with her son in order to give him a better life, to a game.

“That’s one of my goals for the year,” Clark said. “No matter what happens. No matter what she can and can’t do, one of my number one goals this year is to get my mother down to a game. This is my senior year, my last year, and I think it would be one thing that she’ll really love.

“My mother hasn’t seen me play in a long time. She told me that she’s watched a few games, but not physically seen me play. My mother hasn’t seen me one time in the physical state I’m in in four years. The last time I’ve seen her was almost 10 years ago. So you could say that’s a long time, and just seeing her come to a game – oh, man, probably senior night or something like that, my last game – man, that would be the best thing ever.”

Wolverines providing hope in Florida hometown

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

We have shared the story of Vincent Smith’s urban garden project a few times. With a little over a week remaining in their indiegogo campaign to raise money for the project, we are making one last push. They’re still well short of their goal of $30,000, which will expand the garden that is already in place and provide programming for all of 2014.

Thanksgiving is next week, but many of the residents of Pahokee don’t have access to, or can’t afford, healthy food. Smith, along with Martavious Odoms and Brandin Hawthorne, are working to change that. Please consider donating to help this group of Michigan Men improve their hometown.

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Raising Pahokee: Former Michigan football stars expanding urban garden projects

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Back in February, you helped fund Vincent Smith’s painting project with the youth of Pahokee, Fla. Prior to that, the Michigan faithful helped fund he and Martavious Odoms’ #Eating project in which they built an urban garden for the town of Pahokee. Now, the duo is back along with fellow former Michigan football player and Pahokee native, Brandin Hawthorne. And this time, another familiar face has joined in: Denard Robinson.

The group along with Team Eating just launched another campaign, this time on Indiegogo, to continue and expand the community gardens program they have already started. This campaign has three goals. First, to expand the Pahokee garden that is already up and running. Second, to add a community garden in Denard’s home town of Deerfield Beach, Fla. And finally, to add a community garden somewhere in Michigan.

Photos from the current Pahokee urban garden

Each of the three goals carries a different monetary threshold, so if $30,000 is raised the first goal will be funded, if $80,000 is raised the second will, and if $120,000 all three will be. With indiegogo, the Pahokee crew has 60 days to fund their project as opposed to the 30 days that the previous Kickstarter projects allotted and there are currently 52 days remaining. The other difference between this one and the previous Kickstarter campaigns is that Team Eating will receive all funds donated even if the project does not reach its goal.

Smith, Odoms, and Hawthorne are dedicating their time to improving their community

You may be asking yourself, ‘I already donated to the previous one, why should I donate to this again?’ or ‘why should I give them my money?’. Well first of all, perhaps you’ve never been to Pahokee. I have. It’s poor, it’s hot, there’s not much around, and there isn’t a whole lot to do. There’s no major grocery store in town. It was once the winter vegetable capital of the world, but now business have closed and unemployment is nearly 30 percent. The per capita income is just over $12,000 and over 30 percent of the population is below the poverty line. Only nine percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree and the crime rate is about double the U.S. average.

Pahokee has been well publicized for its ability to produce football stars. Aside from Smith, Odoms and Hawthrone, several NFL stars have come from the Muck including Anquan Boldin, Fred Taylor, Janoris Jenkins, Pernell McPhee, and Reidel Anthony among others. The fact is football provides a way out, a way to become successful and avoid the pitfalls that abound in the small town that borders Lake Okeechobee.

While Boldin, Jenkins, and McPhee are busy making a living in the NFL, Smith, Odoms, and Hawthorne are dedicating their time to improving the quality of life in their hometown. They are using the garden as an opportunity to provide jobs, job training, and activities for the local youth. They’re using it as a chance to teach elementary grade students about healthy living, nutrition, and teamwork. All the while growing food to provide for the community.

Regardless of your political affiliation, we can all agree that in a time when America’s economy is struggling, people like Smith, Odoms, and Hawthorne are just what we need more of. People willing to invest their time into improving their communities and provide jobs and better education to ensure a better future for the youth.

The fact that the three played football at Michigan, got their degrees, and are putting them to use for the greater good should be reason enough to invest in them. We rooted for them on Saturdays, so why not root for them in life beyond the gridiron as well?

The campaign offers perks for your contributions. For example, a $1 donation gets you an email with photos from the garden; a $12 donation gets you an autographed post card from Smith; a $25 donation gets you an #Eating t-shirt; a $55 donation gets you an #Eating hoodie, and so on.

So why donate? Perhaps it’s an opportunity to teach your kids the value of giving back. Or simply a chance to support some former Michigan athletes that gave it their all for the team you root for and are now giving it their all for their community and the next generation. Or maybe you just want a cool new t-shirt to wear around campus. Whatever the reason, please consider helping them out and together we can be a part of the solution.

Brandin Hawthorne aims to document your gameday experience

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

First it was former Michigan receiver Martavious Odoms’ #EATING campaign in which he crowd-funded nearly $40,000 from 999 backers in order to plant a community garden in his hometown of Pahokee, Fla. Then, we brought you the story of of former Wolverine running back Vincent Smith’s campaign to fund a painting day of fun for the kids of Pahokee. He successfully raised over $2,700 from 93 backers.

Now, a third former Michigan football player from the small Florida town is running a Kickstarter campaign of his own. Former linebacker Brandin Hawthorne is asking for $75,000 to make a documentary about Michigan football and the “great tradition of tailgating in Ann Arbor.”

From his Kickstarter page, Hawthorne writes:

“Being a student athlete at a major university we never get to enjoy the festivities that all our fans celebrate, from things like welcome week and tailgating on Saturdays, to all of our different homecoming events and just hanging with the fans and enjoying the moment.

“We have been busy with our community art and garden projects down in Florida and we wanted to take the fall to also connect with our Michigan community.  Football is what brings us together, so we decided to make a video that we can share with everyone.  We have heard about what goes on during the weekends and how much fun it is and now its time to explore what makes you all the best fans in the world.”

While Odoms’ and Smith’s projects were focused on the well-being of the residents of Pahokee, Hawthorne’s focuses on you, the fans of Michigan football.

It includes Hawthorne and Smith visiting tailgating spots around the stadium checking out your recipes and barbecuing skills, exploring your personal Michigan football gameday traditions, holding a costume contest looking for the biggest fan, and seeking out and feature “the best” tailgate in Ann Arbor.

As with all Kickstarter campaigns, prizes are awarded for donating certain amounts. This one is a bit more personal and interactive than most, with a $45 donation earning a trampoline dodgeball with Hawthorne and Smith, a $50 donation getting a kayak/canoe trip with the two, a $65 donation earning a day of paintball with them, and higher donations earning personalized voicemails or the chance to partner with Hawthorne or Smith on the kayak/canoe trip. Smaller donations receive t-shirts, water bottles, autographed post cards, or copies of the DVD.

With only 25 days remaining in the campaign, they need a lot of help getting it funded, so take a few minutes to help out some former Wolverines.

The Michigan Medley salutes the seniors of Team 133

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

They arrived in Ann Arbor four or five years ago, to a program in a state of flux that no incoming class had seen in nearly 40 years. Unlike last year’s graduating class, none came to Michigan under the old regime of Lloyd Carr prior to his retirement. The 18 [Edit: 23] players that will play their last game in Michigan Stadium on Saturday came to Michigan full of promise with a new coach. While the first couple years of their careers didn’t go as planned, they laid the groundwork for the resurgence of Michigan football that we have seen last season and this. While they still have two games left and a bowl game, let’s take a look back at the careers of each of Michigan’s graduating seniors.

#16 – Denard Robinson

No player has meant more to Michigan over the last four years than Denard Robinson. His career began with an electric 37-yard touchdown run against Western Michigan in 2009 and has produced enough highlight-reel plays and legendary performances to assure that he will go down as one of the greats to ever don the maize and blue.

Denard currently ranks fifth in career rushing yards, third in rushing touchdowns, fourth in 100-yard rushing games, sixth in pass completions, fourth in passing yards, fourth in passing touchdowns, and first in total yards in the Michigan record books. He also ranks first all-time in Big Ten rushing yards by a quarterback, third in NCAA career quarterback rushing yards, and seventh in Big Ten career total yards. If he’s able to play the final two games and bowl game, he will surely move up even higher in most of those categories.

He arrived in Michigan a soft-spoken kid and became the face of Michigan football through the roughest patch in the past 40 years. Even when Michigan was barely competitive, Denard gave us a reason not only to watch but to be excited. This August, he delivered the keynote speech at the Big Ten Media Day and serves as team captain. This is all the more remarkable considering that Rich Rodriguez was virtually the only major coach that wanted him as a quarterback.

Denard will remain a Michigan legend long after he plays his final game, whether or not his number gets official legends status.


#32/11 – Jordan Kovacs

While Denard has been the face of the team and put up all the offensive stats over the past four years, Jordan Kovacs has been the face of the defense. And his story is even more improbable. A hardly recruited defensive back out of Clay High School in Ohio, Kovacs chose to walk on at Michigan instead of go to the only other school that showed any interest in him – Toledo.

In his first season, he was named to the Freshman All-America second team and was named Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten. As a redshirt sophomore he finished second in the Big Ten with 116 tackles and was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media. He also earned a scholarship. Last season, he was again named All-Big Ten honorable mention, and currently has 54 tackles through 10 games in his senior campaign. He also became a captain this season. From walk on to captain, he’s everything Rudy wasn’t.

Last weekend, Kovacs was awarded the Wistert brothers’ No. 11  legends jersey to wear for the remainder of his career. He has started 43 career games and has brought hard-nosed, high-energy defense every game. Every walk on from now on will aim to be the next Jordan Kovacs and he will be missed next season.


#21 – Roy Roundtree

A skinny kid from Dayton, Ohio, Roy Roundtree committed to Rich Rodriguez on his first National Signing Day. After redshirting his freshman year, Roundtree led Michigan with 32 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns in 2009 while starting four games. He was named a Freshman All-America honorable mention and Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten. In 2010, he broke out with 72 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns. He ranked second in the Big Ten in yards and was named to the All-Big Ten second team by the media.

Last season, his production fell off considerably in Brady Hoke’s first season, but he provided one of the highlights of the season with the game-winning touchdown catch in Michigan’s improbable comeback against Notre Dame. This season, Roundtree has 20 receptions for 378 yards and one touchdown through 10 games, but no catch has been more important than the 53-yarder he hauled in in the final seconds last week against Northwestern to set up the game-tying field goal.

Although he won’t go down as one of the best receivers in Michigan history, he has shown a knack for big plays and won’t soon be forgotten. For the past two seasons, he has worn Desmond Howard’s No. 21 legends jersey, which was the first one given such status.


#88 – Craig Roh

Craig Roh was a big pickup for Rich Rodriguez when he committed on Sept. 18, 2008. The seventh-ranked defensive end in the nation out of Scottsdale, Ariz. held offers from USC, Stanford, and Nebraska to name a few, but chose to make the journey east.

As a freshman in 2009, he recorded 37 tackles, 7.5 for loss, two sacks, and an interception, earning Freshman All-America honorable mention honors, as well as Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten. He upped his tackle numbers to 43 in 2010 and then was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media last season. He ranked second on the team with four sacks a year ago.

This season, he’s on pace for his best season yet with 37 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and four sacks through 10 games thus far. He has consistently represented Michigan well off the field and was named 2011 Academic All-Big Ten. He has started 48 consecutive games, 20 at linebacker, 26 at defensive end, and two at defensive tackle, showing his versatility and willingness to do what is needed to help the defense improve.


#73 – William Campbell

Will Campbell was one of the most highly touted in recent memory, a consensus five-star defensive tackle. He arrive din Ann Arbor weighing 356 pounds and never lived up to the hype through his first three seasons. At one point in 2010, he moved to offensive line, but that was short lived when Hoke took over. As a senior, he has finally earned a starting spot and done well with 32 tackles and a sack so far.

#2 – Vincent Smith

The diminutive back from Pahokee, Fla. was recruited for Rodriguez’s system and had a promising freshman season with 48 carries for 276 yards and a touchdown, as well as 10 receptions for 82 yards and two touchdowns. He earned the starting job in 2010, carrying the ball 136 times for 601 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 15 receptions for 130 yards and two more TDs. When Hoke arrived, Smith lost the job as the starter, but became the third down back. Against Minnesota last season, he became the first player in program history to record a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, and passing touchdown in the same game. This season, he has just 24 carries for 67 yards and two touchdowns, but has always shown an ability to pick up yards when needed.

#57 – Elliott Mealer

Mealer’s road to Michigan was filled with heartache when a car accident killed his father and girlfriend and left his brother Brock permanently paralyzed. But he has overcome the tragedy with a solid career as a backup offensive lineman. This season, he earned the starting nod at center, replacing David Molk and may be best known for his mountain man beard.

#25 – Kenny Demens

Demens was a highly sought after linebacker recruit in the midwest in 2008 but chose to come to Michigan at a time when linebacker play was less than stellar. He grabbed a starting spot midway through the 2010 season and never looked back, helping to solidify a position that had been a weak point for a couple of years. He was the team’s third leading tackler as a sophomore with 82 tackles. Last season, he led the team with 94, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention honors from the coaches and media. This season, he currently ranks second on the team with 67 tackles and five for loss.

#52 – Ricky Barnum

Barnum spent his first couple of seasons as a reserve offensive lineman before coming onto the scene a year ago. He started three games at left guard and finally earned a true starting spot this season, starting all 10 games thus far.

#65 – Patrick Omameh

Omameh has started 39 consecutive games at right guard over the last three seasons while being named Academic All-Big Ten twice. He was also one of 11 players nationally to be named to the AllState AFCA Good Works Team for his regular visits to Mott Children’s Hospital.

#8 – J.T. Floyd

Floyd wasn’t highly ranked coming out of high school, but has been a fixture in the Michigan secondary for the past three seasons, starting 32 games at cornerback and playing in 40. In 2010, he finished sixth in the conference in tackles per game, and last season he was named All-Big Ten honorable mention. This year, he has 29 tackles so far for the nation’s top-rated pass defense. He has recorded three career interceptions and two career forced fumbles.

#89/87 – Brandon Moore

Moore hails from the same high school as Roundtree and former Wolverine Michael Shaw and came to Michigan as the nation’s eight-best tight end. He has been mostly a special teams player throughout his career, but has recorded two receptions for 28 yards. On Sept. 15, he was given Ron Kramer’s No. 87 legends jersey to wear for the remainder of the season.

#7 – Brandin Hawthorne

Hawthorne came to Michigan from Pahokee, Fla. as a three-star player and has spent the majority of his career on special teams. Last season, he started five games, recording 43 tackles, three for loss, and one sack. So far this season, he has 14 tackles, seven of which came against UMass.

Other seniors who will be playing their last games in Michigan Stadium are #14 Jack Kennedy, #20 Steve Wilson, #23 Floyd Simmons, #31 Paul Gyarmati, and #81 Mike Kwiatkowski. [Edit: Also, Al Backey, Nathan Brink, Seth Broekhuizen, Curt Garman, and Charlie Zeller].

Make sure to get into the stadium early on Saturday to salute each of these Michigan men for their hard work an dedication of the last four or five years. Give them a standing ovation to thank them for coming in during tumultuous times, sticking it out, and helping turn the program around.