- Marissa McClain/Daily
BY STEPHEN J. NESBITT
Daily Sports Editor
Published March 20, 2012
Michigan football coach Brady Hoke's arrival last year brought the return of the pro-style offense to Michigan football. With this return came the re-emergence of the traditional Michigan tailback.
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That tailback was redshirt LSA junior Fitzgerald Toussaint.
He set his goal in mind the first time he met Hoke — he wanted to carry the load as the starting tailback.
“I knew I was going to have to show my ability to be coachable,” Toussaint said. “Just show that I’m willing to do anything for the team.”
After the weight of the Wolverines’ offensive attack rested squarely on the shoulders of explosive quarterback Denard Robinson in 2010, Toussaint broke into the backfield to share the spotlight with Heisman Trophy-candidate Robinson.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Toussaint collected 1,041 rushing yards and nine touchdowns last season en route to the Wolverines’ unexpected BCS berth and Sugar Bowl victory.
The run was unexpected, but the runner was even more unexpected.
Toussaint entered fall camp as one of a handful of players being considered for the featured running back position, names like senior Michael Shaw, junior Vincent Smith, sophomore Stephen Hopkins and a pair of greenhorn freshmen, Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls.
As the season opener against Western Michigan approached, Hoke whittled the number down to two: Smith and Toussaint. From there, they’d have to prove themselves in front of 110,000-plus fans on Saturdays.
“It actually made me feel good,” Toussaint said. “It made me feel like I should go out there and work even harder, because it was motivation. It made me want to get bigger, faster and stronger so I could perform at this level.”
Toussaint made his first collegiate start against the Broncos and went on to start 11 of Michigan’s 12 games.
The Youngstown, Ohio native compared himself to Mike Hart and Chris Perry, two former Michigan running backs he admired during his childhood. Like them, Toussaint upheld the legacy of the Michigan tailback position.
“I feel we’re coming here (to Michigan) to play for the legacy — you have to maintain the legacy,” Toussaint said. “To be able to create that, that’s good, and I try to do all I can do to keep it here.”
When fall camp arrives again in August, there will be little question of who Michigan’s featured tailback will be. Toussaint took the matter off the docket when both he and Robinson ran for over 1,000 yards last season, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished at Michigan since 1975.
Toussaint feels the Wolverines will have quite the potent dual-threat backfield combination heading into a difficult 2012 schedule.
“I feel we can be very vicious back there,” Toussaint said. “Give credit to our offensive line, because they’re doing a pretty good job. If we’re running behind those big fellas, we should be fine.”