Aubrey Solomon faced a difficult change when he arrived in Ann Arbor.
The freshman defensive tackle weighed “315, 320” pounds, and after meeting with a nutritionist, was told he “ate like crap.”
Solomon had to change his entire diet. That included giving up his first love: chicken tenders and fries.
“Too much fat,” he said on Tuesday night. “I was pretty sad.”
So vegetables and pasta have replaced fried food. He misses chicken tenders, and he didn’t like his new diet at first. But he’s already seen the results of eating healthier.
“This diet has really helped me because not only do I feel more flexible, I feel more alive,” Solomon said. “In that sense, I’ll say I don’t feel as sluggish.”
Perhaps uncoincidentally, Solomon has seen his playing time increase recently as he’s improved his conditioning.
Now at 295 pounds, Solomon learned early last week from his position coach, Greg Mattison, that he’d make his first collegiate start against Rutgers.
The news surprised him. Solomon feels there are a lot of things he can get better at, such as coming off the ball quicker or getting more disruptions and quarterback hits.
It didn’t take long, though, for Solomon to make an impact against the Scarlet Knights. With just under 10 minutes left in the second quarter, he ripped past a blocker to record a tackle-for-loss.
It was an impressive play. But Solomon didn’t record a sack against Rutgers, which means he’s still behind his teammate and close friend — freshman defensive end Kwity Paye — in a friendly competition between the two.
“Every game, me and Kwity will look at each other,” Solomon said. “We were like, ‘Okay, so first one to get a sack.’ Then we were like, ‘What happens to the first person who gets a sack?’ The other person’s got to buy dinner.
“I’ve got to buy him some food. … He’s got one-and-a-half, I’ve got zero, so I’ve really got to treat Kwity out to some food because he’s balling right now. I’m broke. He just gets one meal.”
If his progression and improved physique are any indication, Solomon may catch up to Paye sooner than later.
He’ll have another chance to do so against Minnesota this Saturday — a contest that Solomon learned is a “real big game” from a class he’s in with teammates Chase Winovich, Josh Metellus, Luiji Vilain, Drew Singleton and Quinn Nordin.
“I’m in a history of collegiate sports class, and we just learned this yesterday,” Solomon said. “It’s the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. Did you guys know that? It’s been lost a couple times, but we found it.”
Solomon hasn’t seen the trophy up close and personal yet. With a slight grin, he said that’ll change Saturday.
But don’t expect Solomon to celebrate too much if Michigan wins the Little Brown Jug. He doesn’t plan on being part of the group that celebrates with the trophy before bringing it back to the locker room.
“No, because I don’t want to break it,” Solomon said. “To be honest, I don’t want to touch it.”