In August 2013, highlights were few and far between for fullback Joe Kerridge and linebacker Joe Bolden. Neither had started a game for the Michigan football team, with little more than mop-up duty in special teams or late-game action to show for their time as Wolverines.
Two years later, the two joined the likes of Tom Brady, Anthony Carter and, yes, Jim Harbaugh, as the two Joes were voted captains by their teammates for the 2015 season.
“It’s a humbling experience, it truly is,” said Kerridge, a fifth-year senior. “You look at the captain wall and see the great names that have been up there and to be a part of that is something special.
“There’s such a great class of leaders with the fifth-years and fourth-years, and so you know it was a special moment to hear my name get called, I was taken aback by that.”
Few who call something special mean it as much as Kerridge does. Unable to earn a scholarship after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during his senior season of high school, Kerridge fought through a redshirt season and dozens on the depth chart to earn a scholarship.
Exactly two years after the day he earned his scholarship, Kerridge stood before his team once again, this time as their leader.
“Looking back two years to the day that I earned the scholarship and to be named captain is truly something special,” Kerridge said. “It was really a speechless moment when our name got called. … It’s a moment I’ll remember forever.”
Added junior wide receiver Jehu Chesson: “Nobody expected much from him since he walked on campus, but the way he’s lived his life ever since is a testament to his family, who he is and everybody that had a role in bringing him up.”
Though the award wasn’t quite as surprising for Bolden — the team’s leading tackler last season — the recognition from his fellow players had more meaning than praise from coaches, scouts or opponents.
“There is a fine line you walk,” said Bolden, a senior. “As long as you’re walking on that line, doing things right … it’s just a great honor to be viewed in that way (by) your teammates.”
The two take control of a team in transition. Though they return as many contributors as any team in the country, the Wolverines are looking for serious change after posting a 13-14 record the past two seasons.
If it wants to improve upon that record, Michigan will need to overachieve. But with two captains who have done just that since August 2013, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“They both possess similar traits in terms of being leaders and doing things right all the time,” Chesson said. “Joe Bolden’s a great man on the field, everybody wants to follow him, and the same can be said for Joe Kerridge.”
As for how they’ll lead, the two are less similar. Bolden, who famously drove a stake into Michigan State’s home turf last season, aims to elevate and prepare his team for battle through speeches and example.
Kerridge, who will likely play fewer minutes and admits he isn’t a “rah-rah guy,” instead looks to count on the lessons of humility and dedication that helped him climb the ranks to keep him successful at the top.
“My dad used to send me motivational quotes throughout camp, and one that really stuck out to me was ‘Lead in silence, let the success be your noise,’ ” Kerridge said. “That was something that really stuck with me and something I told the team (yesterday).
“I’ll be there when we need a pick-me-up, and I’ll be there when someone’s down and needs some help on the side.”