BY NICOLE AUERBACH
Daily Sports Writer
Published September 2, 2010
Ask someone to define the relationship between Craig Roh and Taylor Lewan, and you’ll get all sorts of suggestions.
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Lewan has jokingly called the pair “Romeo and Juliet.” Roh has said he is the “yin” to Lewan’s “yang.” Roh’s father thinks maybe Felix and Oscar from The Odd Couple might be the best comparison.
At the very least, it’s fascinating. You have a redshirt freshman offensive tackle – Lewan – who’s drawn comparisons to the best tackle in Michigan football history. On the other side of the line of scrimmage is his best friend, Roh – the only current defensive player to have started every game since he arrived on campus.
They go against each other nearly every day at practice. In their first year, they also came home to each other in their dorm room. Both are natives of Scottsdale, Ariz., and they played one year of high school football together in 2008.
They can finish each other’s sentences or get into shoving matches over buffalo wings – depending on the day.
Together, they are two of the most important pieces of the very young Michigan football team.
SOCKS, WINGS AND FISH TANKS
Lewan can’t forget the first time he met Roh. He had just transferred to Chaparral High School, where Roh had attended and played football since his freshman year.
“I was sitting in the weight room,” Lewan says today. “He comes up to me and just gives me a big hug and goes, ‘I’m Craig Roh.’ I was uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to do with my hands.”
Roh laughs and offers an explanation that doesn’t really explain the gesture – “He looked like he was a tall, strong, big guy, and I felt like he could do a lot so I went up and hugged him.”
Taylor fills in: “Not even a handshake. He didn’t go for the handshake. A real hug. It was good.”
“And that’s how our friendship started,” Roh says.
The two played their senior year together at Chaparral, leading the team to the state championship game. They committed to Michigan independently from one another, but after their fathers had had multiple conversations about what a great fit it could be for both of them.
The two decided to room together at Markley the summer before freshman year, and then they moved to West Quad for fall and winter semesters.
Roh and Lewan could do comedic routines describing that year spent in close quarters.
Their favorite story involves Lewan’s snoring. He’d often fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, which wasn’t convenient for Roh, who couldn’t get a peaceful night’s rest if Lewan fell asleep first.
In the middle of the night, Roh would pick up one of the balled-up socks he kept in a pile at arm’s reach. He’d hurl socks at Lewan until he’d wake up and stop snoring. Smelly socks were most effective, he says.
That wasn’t the only time anger would take over their friendship. They once got into a shoving fight over leftover buffalo wings. To this day, both Roh and Lewan claim the leftovers were their own. In their cramped Markley dorm room, the two wrestled each other, reaching for wings the whole time.
But the silly fights didn’t hurt their relationship, they said, even though both players are living with different teammates this year.
“Sometimes, best friends aren’t always the best roommates,” Lewan said. “I’m going to take the brunt of that, too. I wasn’t the best roommate. A little messy, snored a little bit.”
The messiness once led to a leaking fish tank in their West Quad room, which led to mold. Until Roh’s mother visited and discovered the mold, Roh and Lewan couldn’t figure out why they kept wheezing and sneezing.
But through all of the messes, shoving and snoring, Roh and Lewan became very close. Lewan’s outgoing personality complemented the quiet off-field demeanor of Roh.
Their fathers are close, too, often spending time together when Roh’s dad, Fred, flies in from Arizona for home games. Lewan’s dad, Dave, lives in Ann Arbor now. Sometimes after games, the sons and fathers will go out for dinner.
Next weekend, plans are already in place for the Notre Dame game – Dave will pick Fred up from the airport and they’ll drive down to South Bend, Ind., together.
Craig’s father gets a kick out of his son’s friendship with Lewan off the field and fierce rivalry with him on the practice field, one complete with trash talking and some violence.
“It’s funny because they really do get really mad at each other, particularly on a football field,” Fred said.