Michigan offensive linemen Erik Magnuson are hoping they can fulfill a longtime goal Saturday, but first, they checked off a much smaller one.
Monday at the Wolverines’ weekly media availability, Magnuson and Kalis took their seats alongside senior tight end Jake Butt and fifth-year senior defensive end Chris Wormley for a press conference in the Crisler Center media room. Typically, the players at the podium then break out from there and answer questions individually.
Not Magnuson and Kalis. The two fifth-year seniors, roommates and good friends stood together on one side of the media room to answer questions as a tandem.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment our whole entire lives,” Magnuson said with a smile.
A week after playing their final game at Michigan Stadium, they will travel to Columbus this weekend for a showdown against the second-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday. If No. 3 Michigan wins, it will advance to the Big Ten Championship the following week.
Under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines have tried to avoid placing more importance on one game than another, treating them all as championships. But with the stakes as high as they are this week, that’s no longer the feeling.
“Does it feel differently? It’s No. 2 versus No. 3!” Magnuson said. “We’ve never been in this position before. This is unreal!”
As Kalis said during the podium session, Michigan suffered through the “downs,” and now it is enjoying the “ups.” There have been plenty of both.
Three years ago, Kalis and Magnuson were the redshirt freshmen most often thrown into action on a young offensive line. Their unit took the bulk of the criticism for a 7-6 season in 2013 and a 5-7 finish in 2014, and it took half of their careers before they emerged from that shadow.
That did not come up often during Kalis and Magnuson’s impromptu joint presser Monday. Instead, the two talked of the good times that followed, the trip to Columbus this weekend and the ends of their wild careers.
Last week, for example, they spoke with each other about playing their last home game Saturday against Indiana. Magnuson is from Carlsbad, Calif., a city on the Pacific coast between San Diego and Los Angeles. His hometown weather does not mix well with Michigan winter (though, in a photo with the Paul Bunyan Trophy after the Wolverines beat Michigan State last month, he looked more like a lumberjack than a surfer).
After committing to Michigan, Magnuson always dreamed of playing in the snow, but he never had the chance until Saturday at the Big House, where the season’s first snowfall covered the field and decorated the Wolverines’ home finale.
“I mean, come on, how romantic was that?” he said. “It was snowing, the snow was just perfect, the field was white, the crowd’s yelling ‘Beat Ohio.’ We’re sitting there puffing our chests out, just like, ‘Man, we run this place.’ Pretty cool.”
Those kinds of memories have come together nicely as Magnuson and Kalis close their careers. Those, the two said, are the ones that will stick out when they look back on the time they’ve spent at Michigan.
“It was definitely something,” Kalis said. “Fifty years from now, if we’re both still kicking it, drinking our sweet tea and probably talking about that kind of game.”
And the win? “That’ll be the second thing we talk about (over) our sweet tea.”
For now, Kalis and Magnuson have one more big test on the schedule, though as always, they’ll choose to keep things loose around Schembechler Hall this week. Earlier this month, freshman offensive lineman Ben Bredeson called them two of the funniest people he’d ever met, always quick to lighten the mood in any setting.
That includes team meetings, practices and even press conferences, which they finally convinced the media relations staff to allow them to do together Monday.
“They never let us because they think we’ll mess around too much, so this is like a dream come true in the week of maybe another dream come true,” Magnuson said. “And last weekend, another dream came true, Senior Day. Come on, it’s about the dreams coming true!”