Written across poster board in big script letters were the words “Ole Mich.”
Below the script, though, there was a second message that required no interpretation: #WeWantSHEA.
And so began the official courting of Shea Patterson.
Patterson is the former No. 1 quarterback recruit in the 2016 recruiting class. He, along with safety Deontay Anderson and wide receiver Van Jefferson, took a visit to Ann Arbor this weekend — part of a unconventionally integral recruiting effort that came in the wake of NCAA sanctions handed down to Ole Miss.
All three were in attendance for the Michigan men’s basketball team’s matchup with UCLA on Saturday.
The day, as it turns out, was void of many tangible recruiting efforts directed toward Patterson. And though the message was innocuous enough, even the sign was quickly confiscated.
LSA freshman Andy Rubin took credit for the inception of the sign but shared it with Dylan Wittenberg and Josh Goldstein — freshmen in the College of Engineering and School of Kinesiology, respectively.
Rubin said they were told the sign must be removed due to NCAA compliance rules that stated they were prohibited from actively recruiting Patterson. Writing his name on a sign fell under that category. Chanting his name did not.
And so they chanted — the same message they paired with a hashtag. It didn’t gain much traction, but according to Rubin, Patterson noticed — raising his hand in acknowledgment from a row over. The players noticed the sign, too, laughing at it and taking pictures.
To the trio of students, the rationale behind their antics was simple.
“If the best player is available,” Goldstein said, “then you wanna go get him if you can.”
Added Rubin: “Obviously if you look at at least three or four of the games this year, it came down to quarterback play,” Rubin said. “And he’s obviously what we need. And next year, we’re gonna have all of our best players — they’re gonna be juniors.
“It’s gonna be a time to push for a national championship, and obviously Peters and McCaffrey are great, but just to have one year with a stud quarterback with Rashan Gary and Devin Bush in their junior year, it’ll be crazy. We’ll open the season top three, we’ll be national title contenders.”
And so begins the mania.
Neither Goldstein nor Rubin is wrong. The Wolverines should want to pursue Patterson, and it looks like they are doing just that. Michigan would likely have finished above 8-4 with better quarterback play.
But suddenly, Patterson is already the Messiah in Ann Arbor. He has yet to officially commit to the Wolverines. Many likely don’t know him beyond his Ole Miss stat line. And yet he is tied to hopes of a national title.
For what it’s worth, Patterson is undoubtedly a special talent. Falling in love with his stat line — 3,139 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions through 10 games — is easy.
Still, the future — both Patterson’s and Michigan’s — isn’t certain. Ask Cesar Ruiz, who hosted all three Ole Miss players this weekend and played with Patterson at IMG Academy, if a new quarterback is coming to Ann Arbor, and he’ll grin as he delivers the answer.
“I know as much as y’all do.”
Ask Ruiz if his old teammate would fit well with the Wolverines.
“I think he’d be a good fit in anybody’s program. He’s a good quarterback.”
Ask Ruiz what Patterson’s best attribute is.
“He a little funny, goofy dude.”
But until that “little funny, goofy dude” officially pens his name to paper, Maurice Hurst may have a more measured take at what a transfer like Patterson could bring to Ann Arbor.
“I think it’s always a good thing to have competition,” the fifth-year senior defensive tackle said Thursday. “I know I’ve always been one to believe that competition brings out the best in everyone. I think that’s kind of where Coach Harbaugh is probably going with this.
“He’s probably thinking that, you know, ‘I can bring in some great players from Ole Miss, kind of guys that have already proven themselves.’ They’ll just be a great addition to the team, just adding another great dimension to a team that’s already pretty good.”
Maybe that’s the perfect evaluation then. Michigan is pretty good. Bring Patterson, and for one of two reasons, the Wolverines have potential to be great.
If the Ole Miss transfer is as good as advertised, Michigan has itself a hell of a quarterback in 2018. If Brandon Peters or Dylan McCaffrey beats Patterson out, then Michigan still has itself a hell of a quarterback in 2018.
That, though, is all in the future, and entirely dependent on Patterson’s decision to come to Ann Arbor in the first place.
So let’s stay in the present for a moment.
This weekend, Shea got a taste of the adoration people already feel for him and — whether he realizes it or not — a taste of their expectations as well.
He got a taste of Michigan Stadium, going onto the field before the basketball game to throw a few snowballs around.
And he got a taste of the atmosphere, with the crowd at Crisler Center chanting as loud as it has all year while the Wolverines recovered from a 15-point deficit, forced overtime and ultimately topped UCLA.
All in all, Shea had himself a Saturday. Maybe he’ll have a few more of them here, too.
Santo can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Kevin_M_Santo.