NEW ORLEANS — Craig Roh isn’t necessarily the wrecking ball on the Michigan football team’s defensive line, but he knows how to wield a sledgehammer.

The team’s trip to New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl isn’t the first time Roh has been in the Big Easy, though his earlier visit was far from easy.

In March 2010 — five years after Hurricane Katrina — Roh and a church group spent a week in New Orleans in a rebuilding effort with the Presbyterian Disaster Relief. They spent the day knocking down walls and spent their nights in a church compound.

Roh, now Michigan’s starting defensive end, was part of the wrecking crew.

“We did everything from demolition of houses to rebuilding houses,” Roh said. “I was more into the demolition phase because I’m a big guy who can knock down a lot of stuff.

“There is still so much destruction from the hurricane, and there’s still a lot of work to be done.’’

The Scottsdale, Ariz. native knows the value of hard labor. He learned it again this season under Michigan coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.

Roh, a former linebacker, couldn’t find his footing on the defensive line early in the season and failed to record a tackle in either of Michigan’s opening victories over Western Michigan and Notre Dame.

He admitted that he had a breakdown after beating the Broncos — “an emotional release,” he called it. Then came the epiphany. In the next game against Eastern Michigan, Roh hounded quarterback Alex Gillett to the tune of five tackles and a sack.

Something clicked.

“I just kind of had an epiphany about football and life,” Roh said two days after the game. “That’s kind of what I detected. It was just a change, and I thank Mattison, I thank God for it.

“It entailed something that just really relates to Christian belief that I’m not perfect, that it’s OK to be not perfect because God has a plan for me. It’s like God has put football into my life because He wants me to play.”

The change didn’t go unnoticed.

“I saw a different guy — a guy that said, ‘OK, I’m gonna buy into everything,’ ” Mattison said.

Roh became a demolition man. He finished the season with 29 tackles, eight for loss, and tied for the team lead in sacks with four.

After a 10-2 season and a BCS bowl berth, Roh summed it up best in just three words:

“It’s a journey.”

That journey has brought Roh back to New Orleans. This time it’s a business trip.

Before the game, Roh will take a knee and say a prayer — it’s the only pregame routine he subscribes to.

He’ll pray for safety, health and humility. And like he did at a church compound two years ago, Craig Roh will say a prayer for the city of New Orleans.

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