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December 18, 2013

Drew Dileo: Who Knew?

"Don't stand on the block 'M.'"

A handful of reporters looked at Drew Dileo with a "You serious, Clark?" when the 5-8 receiver barked the order from the Michigan locker room on media day, herding them off the maize letter like the cattle coaches probably think they are (though not quite as smart) before cordoning it off so the next group wouldn't make the same mistake.

Some of his teammates nodded and grinned, as though the Louisiana native's assimilation was complete - he was a true Michigan man now.

Four years later and with one game remaining, that much is no longer in debate. Once a symbol to Rich Rodriguez detractors of everything wrong with the previous regime ("too small, too slow, didn't play anyone in high school," etc.), the small school, Catholic League product leaves having made his mark.

He wasn't the record breaker Jeremy Gallon became (though the pride in one of his own being voted MVP was evident on his face - score one for the little guy, he acknowledged with a grin in admitting he voted for his fellow receiver), but nobody would discount his contribution.

Dileo only started six games, playing in 44 heading into the bowl game, and had notched 44 career receptions for 620 yards. He saved his best for the big games, however. The Wolverines might not have beaten Ohio State in 2011 if not for his critical, 28-yard, fourth quarter reception.

And with the Wolverines on the ropes at home against Michigan State last year, Dileo set up a game winning field goal from Brendan Gibbons with the last of his career high four catches, part of a 94-yard effort that - again - U-M wouldn't have won without.

Asked about his own career, he quickly brings the conversation back to Gallon.

"He comes in every day whether he wants to practice or not, puts in the work," Dileo marveled. "He's never finishing last in anything, and he's usually first. I've been around him for a while, and it's good to see a guy like that have that success."

His teammates would say the same about him. They were thrilled for him when he got to go home to play in the Sugar Bowl two years ago, only a year after he admitted having his doubts as to whether or not he'd fit in Brady Hoke's system.

There's always a place for a player with that kind of passion, Hoke would later say. Like Gallon, Dileo played bigger than his size, though not necessarily in the same way. He blocks with great technique, has a knack for getting open at the goal line - and he's not done yet, he said last week following practice for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. He's looking forward to joining good friend Taylor Lewan in Lewan's stomping grounds for their last game in a Michigan uniform, but the goal is to go out a winner.

"The vacation part is for coaches' wives and everyone else," he said. "For us, it's for sure business trip.

"We're going out to prepare to beat Kansas State. That's the goal. They're physical, like the Big 12 is. They've played a lot of offenses where they've spread it out. Hopefully we can find their weaknesses and go from there."

As for what follows …

"The main goal is to win this game," he reiterated. "Then I'll train for the next level and see what happens."

The naysayers will say 'no way,' the way many did about his chances to make an impact at Michigan. Those who have seen him play, though, know better than to write him off.


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