Departing Wolverines speak best Michigan memories: Beating OSU changed the narrative.

ANN ARBOR – Joel Honigford grew up in Ohio but never received a scholarship offer from the State of Ohio in high school.

But the offensive lineman-turned-tight end is exiting Michigan’s football program with back-to-back wins over his home state Buckeyes.

“Probably beating Ohio State at Ohio State,” Honigford said of his favorite memory of the Wolverines after practicing at Michigan’s Pro Day on Friday. “That’s probably the closest thing to me because Ohio is my home. I knew a lot of people on this game who didn’t root for me, so it felt pretty good. I’ve spent a few years coming back to Ohio and everyone thinks they’re the first to tell me about the state of Ohio, and they never are. So now I can go home and not have to say anything. It’s awesome. It is a good feeling.”

Honigford was one of 10 former Michigan players practicing in front of NFL scouts Friday, and most were asked about their favorite moments in a Wolverines uniform. Unsurprisingly, hitting the Buckeyes was a popular response.

“The hospital where I was born overlooks the Horseshoe (Ohio Stadium). As one of the guys from around here, I think that was a really big standout moment for us,” said Ohio native punter Brad Robbins. “Being here since 2017 and going through all the crap to get where we’ve been has definitely been worth it.”

Robbins suffered three straight losses to OSU early in his career, and although the rivalry matchup was canceled in 2020, Michigan would have been a massive underdog. It was only 2-4 and dealing with injuries and COVID-19 issues while the Buckeyes were undefeated.

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But the lost 2020 season and recent disappointments against the Buckeyes helped set the stage for what players called a necessary reality check. Michigan has gone 25-3 in the past two seasons with two appearances in the college football playoffs.

“After that 2020 season, that 2021 off-season was an absolute grind, a monster grind,” said defensive lineman Mike Morris. “We had a new coaching staff, a whole new defense and (strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert) changed the whole program to how we trained – nobody missed an optional day because we went 2-4. We have made it a priority to do everything we can to get the best out of what we do. This off-season has really just allowed us to work together as a team and lay the foundation for the team to do exactly what we should be doing for 2022.”

The Wolverines’ win at Columbus that season capped an unbeaten regular season, but their win at Ann Arbor in 2021 resulted in an eight-game loss to OSU. Both wins preceded Big Ten championships.

“Beating Ohio State in the big house for the first time,” cornerback DJ Turner said of his favorite memory. “Then obviously the second time, but the first time really changed the narrative here.”

Receiver Ronnie Bell is very proud to be leaving the program in a better place than when he arrived in 2018.

“Where we left the program on such a high note,” Bell said. “Something to be very proud of. Building from where we were to where we left it is what sticks with you the most.”

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