BY DAILY FOOTBALL BEAT
Published September 1, 2012
ARLINGTON, Texas — For Jose Perez, a 35-year-old Michigan fan hailing from Mexico City, a trip to Arlington for the Michigan-Alabama season-opening football game on Saturday has been two years in the making.
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When Perez heard his Wolverines would be playing relatively close to his home in Monterrey, Mexico, he wasted little time planning his trip.
“When I knew that they were playing Alabama here in Arlington, my wife was pregnant, so I had to ask somebody to take care of my son," Perez said. “My son is right now a year and a half old, and he's staying at home with one of my sisters-in-law. You can say that I started planning this trip a year and a half or two years ago."
Michigan football — or college football in general, for that matter — isn't too popular south of the border. Sometimes, Perez feels like he's all alone.
“I feel like an island,” Perez said. “In Mexico, there's not too much college football — it's mostly NFL. I only know two friends that are Michigan fans, and one of them lives in Chicago.”
But being far removed from college football culture hasn't kept him out of touch with the game he loves. This is the fourth Michigan game Perez will have attended since he started rooting for them during the 1997 season that ended with a National Championship for Charles Woodson and the Wolverines.
And he knows a thing or two about what Michigan has done lately.
“(Hiring Brady Hoke) was a good change,” Perez said. “At first, I was excited because of the spread offense (under former coach Rich Rodriguez). But then I realized we needed a pro-style kind of offense. It's a good thing that we went back to the football basics.”
Perez rounded up his wife and five friends for the trip and has successfully converted them to Wolverines fans. He hopes their nine-hour trek across the border will be rewarded with a Michigan victory, but he fully understands the challenge that Alabama presents on the field.
“From my heart, I think (the final score will be) Michigan 24, Alabama 21,” Perez said. “From my brain, I think Bama is going to win by more than a touchdown.”
TIME TO EAT: It was easily the most well-crafted sign hoisted above the crowd behind the ESPN College GameDay set.
It depicted senior quarterback Denard Robinson and his ‘eating’ gesture, but this time Robinson didn’t have an imaginary spoon in his hand, he had Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“When (Robinson) scores touchdown, he likes to do his ‘stay hungry’ thing,” said the sign’s creator, Michael Rose, 30, from Fort Myers, Fla. “So I figured it would be great if he was eating Nick Saban’s head.”
Indeed. The sign, complete with a rotating left arm was inspired from a rather likely source.
“From drinking a lot of beer,” Rose said with a laugh.
Rose affixed Saban’s head to the sign with Velcro just in case he makes it to another College GameDay set this fall.
“If we go to the Ohio State game, we’re going to put Urban Meyer’s head on there,” Rose said.
— Stephen J. Nesbitt
BROCK AND BRO: Brock Mealer, the older brother of Michigan fifth-year senior offensive lineman Elliott Mealer, was in attendance at GameDay with fiancée Haley Frank.
Brock, who has had a strong connection with the Michigan football program for the last five years as he has worked to get back on his feet, was elated that his brother had been penciled in as a starter at left guard tomorrow.
He may have been even more pleased with Elliott’s beard, which has gained plenty of attention this fall.
“Haley wants him to shave it before the wedding (Dec. 22),” Brock said.
“There’s no way he’ll do it before the bowl game, though,” Frank added with a grin.
— Stephen J. Nesbitt
BLUE IN OHIO:Barry and Pam Klatt live next door to the family of fifth-year senior safety Jordan Kovacs in Oregon, Ohio, and they’ve been bringing their “Go Blue, Oregon, Ohio Supports You” banner to every home and away game for four years. This year presented some technical difficulties: the Klatts, along with friend Ed Donnelly, couldn’t bring their metal support poles on the plane to Dallas. So they improvised with some PVC pipe and enlisted a friend to bring transport the goods.
“Jordan texted his mom this morning and said he saw it on GameDay.” Pam said. “So it’s like, ‘Mission Accomplished.’ ”
— Zach Helfand
HEI16MAN: Wearing a stuffed wolverine hat, with a stuffed elephant in its jaws, Nathan Lewis, from Toledo, Ohio, showed off one of the more high-tech signs at GameDay.
The sign, decked out with battery powered lights, a Michigan jersey and a stuffed elephant hanged in effigy, read: “Bama just met you/ and this is crazy / Number 16/ 4 Heisman baby.” Brook Lewis, Nathan's wife, was the brains behind the sign, and the two stayed up until 2 a.m. Saturday morning preparing it.
“Honestly, the inspiration was the Big Ten ‘Call Me Maybe’ video,” Brook Lewis said. “Since the Big Ten did that ‘Call Me Maybe’ thing with the mascots, we were just playing around with the words until we figured it out.’ ”
— Zach Helfand
A HOUSE DIVIDED: The Alabama-Michigan game has sparked fervent passions between the two intense fanbases. For Lloyd and Rhonda Williams, the conflict has even divided their home.
The pair lives in Hemphill, Texas, about five hours from Arlington. Lloyd, though, is originally from Talladega, Ala., and Rhonda hails from Bellaire, Mich.. Naturally, Lloyd supports the Crimson Tide and Rhonda’s all about the Wolverines.
At College GameDay on Saturday morning, after driving three days from their vacation spot in northern Michigan, they came sporting a flag with logos for both schools.
“When they announced the game, we had to be here,” Rhonda said.
— Ben Estes