Shea Patterson has heard tales of Michigan football lore his whole life. A Toledo resident and a life-long Wolverine fan, Patterson’s dad, Sean, famously explained narratives of heroism and late victories — always set at Michigan Stadium — to his son before bedtime.
Some years later, now officially, Patterson is the Wolverines’ starting quarterback.
“It’s crazy to think I’m here,” he said Wednesday.
Patterson’s journey to Michigan — despite the scandal at Ole Miss — is indeed the stuff of dreams. Thousands of kids fantasize about playing for their favorite college football team. Patterson is one of the few living that out.
But Patterson faces a unique situation. There’s a growing expectation that he’ll turn around Michigan’s passing game — the Wolverines’ most glaring weakness in an 8-5 campaign last season.
That’s a lot to ask for, even from a guy who started ten games in the SEC.
That’s why Patterson maintains relationships with those who know best about being Michigan’s quarterback — and, yes, especially the guy he’s replacing.
“Me and Wilton (Speight) have a pretty cool relationship,” Patterson said. “We really don’t talk about football that much when we’re together.”
Despite some strong performances and no proven options behind him, Speight never earned fans’ trust entirely. That skepticism is something Patterson will probably face at some point, too. And though Speight left for UCLA, he passed down advice to his likely successor nonetheless.
“(Speight) did say to me one time that, ‘If you end up being the quarterback at Michigan, it’s the biggest thing you’re ever going to be a part of,’ ” Patterson said. “I took that and ran with it. I understand that. I understand how big of an opportunity this is.”
Patterson also received advice from Michigan’s quarterback in 2015, Jake Rudock, as well as Charles Woodson. Patterson hoped to wear Woodson’s famous No. 2 but only if he got the 1997 Heisman Trophy Winner’s okay.
“He just said wear that number with pride, and if you’re gonna wear it, know what you’re wearing it for,” Patterson said. “You’ve got to be a leader, got to show the guys how hard you work and wear it with pride.”
That was months before Patterson was announced as the Wolverines’ quarterback. The writing was on the wall for Speight, but redshirt sophomore Brandon Peters was determined to regain his starting job. Patterson still had to win a battle with the NCAA over his 2018 eligibility, too.
There were probably moments it didn’t look certain. Patterson’s case dragged into late April before ultimately coming down in his favor. And on the field, it was more so the defense “giving (him) fits” than the other way around.
“It was definitely a crazy time in my collge career,” Patterson said.
After Michigan’s trip to France and spring practice ended, however, Patterson felt things began to turn.
“Really got in the film room and (studied) the playbook … it’s a lot (to learn),” Patterson said. “It’s really just a matter of getting reps, getting that chemistry with the guys (and) the whole team.”
So began a summer camp that prompted Harbaugh to name a starter Monday — 12 days before the Wolverines’ opener. Whether or not that translates to the zipping offense fans have longed to see is to be determined.
But the expectations and opportunities ahead are certainly not lost on Patterson.
“I know there’s not going to be another shot,” Patterson said. “I only get this time once in my life.”