Fifth-year senior Chris Wormley can remember the day that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who played at Michigan from 1996 to 1999, stopped by Schembechler Hall to speak to the team. It was 2013, and the defensive end was just a redshirt freshman, but he took note of what Brady said. Even though Brady had already won three Super Bowls at that point in his career, his considered his greatest honor, to that day, to be being named team captain at Michigan.
Fast-forward three years to Friday, and Wormley, along with senior tight end Jake Butt, earned the same honor in a players-only election. After learning of his new status in a team meeting, Wormley recalled what Brady said, and the moment became even more special.
“I was sitting in the team room, as a young guy, and taking those words to heart,” Wormley said Monday. “(Brady) has all of these accolades at the highest level of football, and the greatest is that he was a Michigan captain, is something pretty special, if he’s saying that.”
Now, as the captain on the defensive side of the ball, he takes great consideration with his actions, because he gets to do something most people don’t. He considers it to be the highest honor in sports, just as Brady did.
Wormley credits his family and former high school coaches into shaping him into the leader he is today. The first person to get a call when he found out? His mom.
“I called my mom, and then she started crying, and my dad and all that,” Wormley said. “Next, I called my girlfriend, and then she started to cry. Very emotional for them, but you know, like I said, it’s a very honorable position to have.”
Wormley himself didn’t cry, but it’s possible that part of the reason for that is one of his better leadership attributes: he’s level-headed, and says he tries to never get too high or too low. It’s a part of his personality that comes naturally to him. He’s never tried to be a leader, but instead he learned skills along the way that lent well to his natural personality as a mentor.
“I’ve been the same guy I’ve been for four years, and obviously you mature and you grow older and you learn different techniques and different ways of being a leader, but I don’t think there was a moment or a day when I was like, ‘Wow, I gotta step my game up and be a leader on the team,’ ” Wormley said. “I kind of lead by example more so than being a vocal leader, but nothing I can pinpoint that says, ‘Hey, I’ve got to be a leader now, those other guys have left.’ ”
In his career at Michigan, Wormley has slowly tacked on to his list of responsibilities. The 6-foot-6 defensive lineman out of Toledo, Ohio, redshirted his freshman year. The following season, he played in 13 games as a reserve and notched his first sack on the road at Penn State.
That following spring, he was awarded the John F. Maulbetsch Award, which is given to a Michigan freshman player after spring practice on the basis of “desire, character, capacity for leadership and future success both on and off the gridiron.”
In 2014, he started six games, and in 2015, he started 10 while earning third-team All-Big Ten honors.
In 2016, he’ll be a starter and a captain, and will probably have an NFL career to look forward to when he leaves Ann Arbor.
He may never be a three-time Super Bowl MVP like Brady, but he’ll share the same starting path.