Hard-headed Houma is a man of many talents

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - 8:45pm

Sione Houma played some tailback for Michigan against Rutgers.

Sione Houma played some tailback for Michigan against Rutgers. Buy this photo
Sam Mousigian/Daily

 

Sione Houma is sometimes a man of few words, but he’s not a man of few talents.

For most of his career, the senior fullback from Salt Lake City has flown relatively under the radar as a fullback on the Michigan football team. Prior to the 2015 season, Houma had caught two passes, returned two kickoffs and recorded a smattering of tackles.

Most of his work went unseen, be it blocking as a fullback or contributing on special teams.

But when Jim Harbaugh was signed to coach the Wolverines this past winter, that all changed for Houma, who already has 22 carries for 114 yards and three touchdowns in 2015, as well as five catches for 53 yards.

Suddenly, the player who was hadn’t recorded a carry before this season is now eighth on the team in all-purpose yards with 167. Last week, Houma took snaps as a running back, a development that originated from his successes running fullback dives earlier in the season. And while he never would have expected it, he’s embracing his expanding role.

“I got caught (off guard) when they (asked) me if I wanted to try out at running back,” Houma said.

“Everything happens for a reason, and I’m put in this position right now for a reason: to help the team out. … That’s what I’m here for.”

Houma is still playing fullback, too, but his skills are more visible now than they ever were in the past. Against Rutgers, Houma found himself wide open on a wheel route after a fake to Jabrill Peppers drew defenders off him.

The play went for a 32-yard gain, and were it not for a throw that was slightly behind him, Houma might have scored.

“Right after that, my little brother came and talked to me,” Houma said. “He said, ‘You’ve gotta high-knee it! High-knee it!’ Just critiquing me. He said if I high-kneed it, I would have scored, because I got shoelace tackled.

“I just gotta work on my speed. There’s a lot of things I’ve gotta work on, and speed is one of them.”

Among the things he has down, his power run game comes to mind as a definitive strength. His 5.2 yards per carry are the second most of any Wolverine with at least 10 carries, trailing only junior running back Ty Isaac.

And while he often has to absorb cringe-worthy hits, Houma is predisposed to the power style.

“I’m just hard-headed,” Houma said. “Hard-headed, like, football wise. Coming down, if it’s me and the linebacker, I’m pretty much using all head. I know that’s wrong, but it doesn’t really phase me as much.

“I think the first couple years I was here, a lot of people would be having concussions, and — knock on wood — I haven’t had one yet. So, I’ve just been using that to my advantage.”

When he isn’t taking a pounding on the field, Houma likes the same things most college kids do. He likes playing Super Smash Bros on Nintendo 64 with junior running back Drake Johnson, and he and sophomore defensive tackle Bryan Mone enjoy making music together. Houma plays the ukulele, and Mone provides the vocals. Houma’s favorite song to play is “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”

But don’t let Houma’s musical taste fool you into thinking he has gotten away from his roots doing the dirty work. Even after getting a taste of carrying the ball and scoring touchdowns, he still enjoys blocking for his teammates first and foremost.

“That’s my number one deal, right there,” Houma said. “It’s always protecting the running back and quarterback.”

So yes, blocking is still his number-one job, but as his role in the offense continues to expand, it’s far from his only one.