At 6-foot-3, 311 pounds, sophomore guard Rueben Riley looks
imposing at first glance. But his favorite off-field activity
contrasts with his colossal stature.

Michigan Football
Sophomore Rueben Riley, below, earned his first start Saturday and opened up holes for freshman Mike Hart. (MIKE HULSEBUS/Daily)

“I’m a big cartoon guy,” Riley said.

Although he still enjoys childhood classics like “Tom and
Jerry,” his current favorite is “Family Guy.” His
reason for watching the show is simple.

“Oh Stewie!” Riley said. “Come on man —
Stewie’s the greatest.”

While the Grand Rapids native adores “Family
Guy’s” pint-sized rebel off the field, he’s fond
of another little guy on it.

“(Mike) Hart’s a little warrior,” Riley said.
“I love blocking for him. For a guy that small to be able to
break tackles like that, run through defenders and things like
that, he’s going to be a great guy for us.”

Until Saturday, Riley hadn’t had much of a chance to block
for Hart, as he played sparingly in Michigan’s first five
games. But then Michigan’s starting left guard, Leo Henige
Jr., suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Indiana game
and Riley was given his chance.

“Coach (Lloyd Carr) came to me (on Monday) when Leo Henige
went down and told me it’s my opportunity and make the most
of it,” Riley said.

Following Carr’s words of encouragement, Riley’s
practice week intensified.

“I went into this week of practice with butterflies like
it was the game,” Riley said. “It’s a big deal to
be a starting offensive lineman for the University of
Michigan.”

The anxiety carried over to Friday night.

“I didn’t go to sleep ’till like four in the
morning,” Riley said.

But the butterflies left after Riley’s initial snap.

“The first play pretty much set the tone and let me know
that, I’m a football player. I’ve been playing it for
12 years, so just play,” Riley said

Riley and the rest of the offensive line opened up holes all day
against Minnesota for the runner they call “Midget.”
Hart — a true freshman — had the finest day of his
young career, running for 160 yards (a Michigan freshman record)
and a touchdown on 35 carries

The offensive line also provided ample pass protection against
the Golden Gophers, especially in Michigan’s final drive.

“In all actuality, who made (the game-winning score)
happen was that offensive line,” quarterbacks coach Scot
Loeffler said. “When you really look at the big picture, when
you were sitting upstairs, it was absolutely unbelievable what that
offensive line did.”

Said Riley: “I just wanted to focus on staying active. A
two-minute drill can get you pretty tired, so stay active, keep
moving your feet and don’t let them touch the
quarterback.”

Although Riley’s week may have been more nerve-wracking
than normal, following Saturday’s win he had one of the
biggest grins in Ann Arbor.

“Perfect ending,” Riley said. “Couldn’t
have scripted it any better.”

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