Ten months have passed, but Ryan Glasgow still remembers the injury that ended his 2015 season, a torn pectoral muscle. He can think back to the nights he lay in bed with a cast over his shoulder to immobilize it, pillows next to him to keep his arm elevated and Saturday’s 2016 season opener a long way away.
“There were times when I’m like, ‘Am I gonna be the same person that I was last year?’ ” Glasgow said. “I think with rehab, with practice, all those doubts slowly went away. And I think on Saturday, I played well, and I think there’s still better things to come.”
Two years have passed, but the fifth-year senior defensive tackle still sometimes hears the boos that came from the seats at Michigan Stadium during the disastrous 2014 season.
He started games in that year, when the Wolverines unraveled in a 5-7 season that ousted coach Brady Hoke. And he started again Saturday, completing his recovery from the pectoral injury as the team completes an about-face from that low point two years ago.
But as the stadium fills up again, and Michigan returns to the national stage, Glasgow can’t forget 2014.
“Looking back on it, it feels so long ago, but some of that sticks with you,” Glasgow said. “Some of those fans were booing are the same ones that are cheering now.”
The noise has been loud outside the program in both years, bad in 2014 and good this season. Star power has become the norm, most recently with Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter and Charles Woodson gracing the stadium this weekend.
But 2014 taught Glasgow to tune out everything outside his control. And he’s using the same lesson in different circumstances this year.
“I know when we went 5-7, people were running for the hills,” he said. “Now it’s pretty cool to see people gravitating back, but when you go through that 5-7 season when people don’t want anything to do with you, to something like this, it’s really about the team and the guys in your room.”
Now Glasgow is healthy and playing for a championship contender, with both of those tough times in the past. Glasgow returned Saturday and anchored Michigan’s defensive line in the middle. He finished with just 1.5 tackles, but his impact on the defense is far clearer when he isn’t around.
In the first nine games last season, Glasgow was a valuable part of one of the nation’s best units. After he went down, the defense was gashed by Indiana, bent by Penn State and broken by Ohio State. The Wolverines gave up 80.9 rushing yards per game with Glasgow in the lineup and then surrendered 307 to Indiana and 369 to Ohio State.
On those days in particular — especially Indiana, when Glasgow couldn’t make the trip — the injury wore on Glasgow.
“In those games, it’s just a matter of depth,” Glasgow said. “You can’t ask D-linemen to play 80 plays when they’re snapping the ball every 20 seconds. People aren’t made for that, and I think it’s really difficult to train like that. But I think I would have added the depth, and I think I would have been able to help the boys out there.”
Glasgow became essential almost immediately Saturday, when ailing defensive tackle Maurice Hurst missed the game as a precaution and fellow tackle Bryan Mone left with an injury in the second quarter. Glasgow and fifth-year senior Matt Godin played almost the rest of the game as the first-team defensive tackles.
And with one of their top defenders back on the field, Michigan was back to limiting its opponent, albeit an overmatched one, under 100 rushing yards. Head coach Jim Harbaugh saw a simple difference immediately.
“He was one of our top performers last year, so when he’s in there, we have one of our top defensive linemen in there,” Harbaugh said. “When he’s not, we don’t. So it’s a big difference.”
Glasgow sees that difference in more ways than one.