Ask Darnell Hood how he thinks opposing teams feel when they have to face him, and he’ll give you an honest answer.
“I couldn’t imagine going against myself,” Hood said.
Though his response may not be drenched with modesty, it certainly isn’t without reason lack validity either.
The fifth-year senior has been a mainstay on special teams since his freshman season. Even though his tenure at Michigan has been different than he imagined it would be, he has completely embraced his role with the team.
“I have accepted my role,” Hood said. “If it’s meant for me to go on to the next level, then I will. I don’t play for individual-type accolades. I play to win each game. If I am called out there for defense, trust me, I am ready for it.”
Hood, who came to the team as a highly-touted cornerback, is involved with every unit of special teams. He plays a crucial role blocking for Steve Breaston on returns, he’s one of the first to get to opposing returners on kickoffs and, maybe most importantly, he’s Michigan’s most-feared gunner on punts.
Fifteen of Hood’s 29 career tackles have come on special teams. Senior Carl Tabb is the only Wolverine with more career special teams tackles.
What may be most impressive for Hood is that opposing teams constantly choose to guard him with two players during punts.
“I expect it,” Hood said of preparing for double-teams. “I still don’t see a double-team as being a challenge for me. That is how I prepare for the game. I cannot be defeated whether it’s one guy or two guys. My goal is to get to the ball, whether it’s to create a turnover or make sure they get no yards after the catch. That is the way I attack the game.”
In Michigan’s home game against Wisconsin two weeks ago, the Detroit native, who has six tackles this season, showed just how dangerous he can be. Following a booming punt off the foot of freshman Zoltan Mesko, Hood raced to the ball. When the Badger returner bobbled the ball, Hood pounced on him, completely freeing up the ball for teammate Turner Booth to fall on and complete the turnover.
“He’s coming out there ready to hit somebody and he’s fun to be around,” senior and fellow special-teamer Brian Thompson said. “He’s just exciting, has a lot of character and gets everyone excited around him.”
Hood may not be one of the most recognizable Wolverines to the general public, even though he’s always one of the first to emerge from the tunnel and grab the banner before each game. But his teammates and coaches constantly give him credit for doing all the little things for the team.
“Well, he’s one of those guys that puts everything he has into every play,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “You couldn’t put a value on what he’s done for us.”
Hood’s role extends beyond the playing surface. Besides being named a special teams captain this year, he’s also one of Carr’s “favorite people on the team.” This is due not just to making tackles on the field, but to what he’s meant to the program off the field as well.
“He’s a great role model for everybody on our team,” Carr said of Hood, who had the honor of carrying the Little Brown Jug into the locker room following Saturday’s win against Minnesota. “He takes his academics very seriously. He’s going to graduate here shortly. He has a wonderful attitude. He’s quite the comedian.
“He can do (impressions of) all the coaches – except me – so he’s a fun guy to have around. I think a lot of him as a person, more than anything else.”