While most of the Michigan football team will be anticipating a meeting with its former defensive coordinator, redshirt junior fullback Henry Poggi will be looking forward to the Wolverines’ matchup with Maryland on Saturday for a much more personal reason.
Poggi attended the Gilman School in Baltimore, Md., where his father, Biff, was the head coach. Both Poggis are now in Ann Arbor after Biff took a job as the Wolverines’ “associate head coach/special advisor” this offseason. And this weekend, there will be a third member of the household in town, though he’s not technically a blood relative.
Melvin Keihn is a redshirt sophomore defensive end for the Terrapins who left Liberia when he was 8. His Maryland bio says his hometown is Towson, Md., but it does not detail his actual living situation there.
“I just call him my little brother, because he lives at our house,” Poggi said of Keihn. “Whenever we get breaks from college, he’ll be back there. He’s a really good kid.”
Poggi says the arrangement stemmed from simple utility. Keihn’s father’s job would have made it difficult for his son to attend Gilman, so he moved in with the Poggis. In that time, he became like another sibling to Henry, who said Keihn “goes on all our family vacations.”
In a 2014 profile in The Baltimore Sun, Katherine Dunn explained Keihn’s story in even greater depth. The article detailed how, at 8 years old, Keihn’s mother put him on a plane from Monrovia to “take him away from a life of labor on the rice farm where they both worked amid the threat that he could be forced at any time to become a child soldier in the West African nation emerging from a second civil war.”
And he has indeed lived a very different life in the United States. Keihn originally signed to play for Virginia Tech before transferring to Maryland and sitting out last season. Through eight games this year, Keihn has yet to start, but has played in seven games and recorded two tackles for loss.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Poggi didn’t go into great depth about his relationship with Keihn, or what it was like to have him living with his family. But on a weekend that will also pit the fullback against his former high school quarterback, Shane Cockerille (now a linebacker at Maryland), as well as Terrapins head coach D.J. Durkin against his former defense, it’s one of the many reunions fans can look forward to Saturday.
Durkin helped turn the Wolverines into one of the nation’s top defenses last season, a mantle upon which they have only improved under new coordinator Don Brown. Routinely, players and coaches praised Durkin’s intensity, and his future as a head coach was apparent early on in his tenure at Michigan.
That came to fruition early last December, when he accepted a job to become the head coach of the Terrapins, and he has made quick work of justifying the hire. After finishing 3-9 last season, Maryland is sitting at 5-3 this year under Durkin, just one win away from bowl eligibility.
“He’s done a fabulous job,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “Just always respected D.J. as a tremendous competitor at the highest level. Smile thinking about his competitiveness. And also always happy for a friend’s success. I think he’s doing a fabulous job (with) his entire staff and team. You can see the energy. You can see the strength. You can see the competitiveness and execution on the field, etc. The flip side of that is we know that this’ll be a big game, this will be a championship game. This will be a real test for our club.”
But even while the sentiments of reunion are in the air, Poggi said he has no trouble getting psyched up for the game. When he sees Cockerille and Keihn on the field, he’s excited to do more than just say hello.
“It’ll be nice to smack those guys,” Poggi said. “For sure.”