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December 31, 2011 - 6:49am

Van Bergen assumes captain role in every way but title


NEW ORLEANS — Every Monday afternoon, the Michigan football team had its weekly press conference this season. And every Monday afternoon, there was Ryan Van Bergen, ready to answer for his teammates.

The unofficial team spokesman looked groggy sometimes, perhaps out of sorts others. Not even a captain, Van Bergen took pride in being the voice of the team.

“It’s kind of nerve-racking at first, but it’s fun because you get to represent your team,” Van Bergen said. “I’ve said some things I think people have taken off with. But it’s interesting. I’ve enjoyed it. I’m not going to miss it all that much. But it’s been fun and I’m ready to see who the next spokesman’s going to be next year.”

Van Bergen revealed that the voting for captains was extremely close. Michigan coach Brady Hoke had wanted just two captains, he said, and senior defensive tackle Mike Martin won the voting. But Fifth-year senior center Dave Molk and senior tight end Kevin Koger tied for second place — each was only one vote behind Martin. Hoke decided to make both of them captains as well.

Van Bergen was left out, sitting behind Martin by “two or three” votes.

All four were regulars speaking to the media throughout the season. But no one gave more insightful and thoughtful responses than Van Bergen, who Molk would tease, saying Van Bergen has a “media voice.”

Hoke had met with Van Bergen after the voting, and still wanted him to be a strong team leader

“I still felt a tremendous amount of responsibility for leadership,” Van Bergen said. “Coach Hoke still treats me like a captain.”

In everything but title, Van Bergen assumed the role. Still, his picture won’t appear on captains’ wall in Schembechler Hall.

“Even though the fact that I won’t be on the wall, doesn’t make as big of a difference to me,” Van Bergen said, his voice trailing off. “I just want to be a leader for the team.”