Jeremy Van Alstyne was penciled in as one of Michigan’s
starting defensive linemen when spring practice began in April.

But in the middle of those spring drills, Van Alstyne went down
with a knee injury that would later require surgery. At that point,
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr declared the redshirt sophomore out for
the season.

Turns out, nobody told Van Alstyne.

After making an unbelievably quick recovery, Van Alstyne suited
up but did not play in Michigan’s game against Indiana on
Oct. 2, and he made his way back onto the field for the
Wolverines’ contest against Minnesota the next week. The
injury that was supposed to keep Van Alstyne out for the season
turned out to cost him just five games.

“It was a big reward for me to be able to come back and
play these games,” Van Alstyne said. “It means a lot to
me that the coaches gave me a chance to play this year.”

Carr was more than happy to insert Van Alstyne into
Michigan’s defensive-line rotation, especially in light of
the tenacity he showed while rehabilitating his injury.

“He’s a guy that — the way he plays — he
has an energy about him, an intensity,” Carr said. “You
see him off the field, he’s kind of an unassuming guy. You
wouldn’t pick him out of a crowd as being a tough,
competitive, intense football player, but that’s what he
is.”

In addition to the work that Van Alstyne had to put in with
Michigan’s training staff, he also received help in his
comeback attempt from Michigan redshirt sophomore David Harris.

The linebacker had endured a knee injury similar to Van
Alstyne’s and did his best to pass on advice.

“He’s been through this before,” said Van
Alstyne of Harris. “We’ve been really good friends, and
he just helped guide me and taught me some techniques to enable my
success.”

Harris helped his friend get back on the field quickly — a
good thing, since being stuck on the sidelines was an experience
Van Alstyne could have gone without.

“I couldn’t even do the drills with the guys,”
Van Alstyne said. “I’d just be out there because I
wanted to be out there — I’d snap the ball pretty much,
because I was still in the stage where I couldn’t run.

“After the third week (of the season), when I was getting
into a lot of practices and starting to pad up, I started to
realize I’d have the opportunity to come back this
year.”

Since his return against Minnesota, Van Alstyne has seen a slow
increase in his playing time — mostly seeing the field
when Michigan is stacked up against the run.

He recorded six tackles last year in his freshman season and
registered his first tackle of this year in the Wolverines’
win over Michigan State. But whether or not Van Alstyne’s
numbers dominate the stat sheet, he’s happy enough to just be
in the game.

“(The first play back this year) was like my first play
(ever),” Van Alstyne said. “I got the same kind of
chills.”

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