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Original Issue


When Michigan linebacker Jarrett Irons was five years old, he
said to his father with a matter-of-factness beyond his years,
"Dad, I want to have a conversation with you."

Young Jarrett wondered why his father, Gerald Irons, then in his
second season as a Cleveland Browns captain and his eighth in
the NFL, spent so much of the off-season studying. You're happy
playing football, Jarrett said, and it's your job, so why are
you still going to school? "He was amazingly grown-up," recalls
Gerald, who earned an MBA from the University of Chicago in 1976
and then went on to study law. "I explained to him that football
was only one part of life, and that I had a responsibility to
myself and those around me to grow outside of it. He listened
very attentively."

And, clearly, Jarrett absorbed his father's words. The
unquestioned leader of the Michigan defense and one of the five
top linebackers in the nation, Irons is revered by his teammates
as a sideline sage. Having finished his undergraduate studies in
four years, Irons is using his fifth year to take master's
classes in facility planning. And it is as much for being a
savvy leader as it is for his ferocious tackling that Irons will
be the eighth player in 120 years to serve two seasons as a
Michigan captain. "He's our most important and influential
presence," says defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. "He plays
smart, and he plays with joy."

The love for football was bequeathed not only by Gerald, but by
Jarrett's mother, Myrna, who has often given Jarrett pregame
admonitions to "knock somebody's head off." He did that
regularly as a football captain at McCullogh High in The
Woodlands, Texas, and so captivated hometown fans that after he
left for Michigan, locals talked his parents into issuing a
bimonthly Jarrett Irons Newsletter. Some 150 Irons supporters
attended Michigan's 22-20 loss to Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl at
San Antonio last December, hanging a banner that read: #37
irons: flattens and folds. Though flu-ridden, Irons was named
defensive player of the game. "I liked that pressure," says the
6'1", 231-pounder. "And I love the responsibility of being a
Michigan captain. I came back [for a fifth season] because I
want to help take us to the Rose Bowl."

If the Wolverines get to the Granddaddy, it will be due to a
dominating defense. Physically intimidating inside linebackers
Rob Swett and Sam Sword round out one of the best linebacking
corps in the country. Although senior defensive back Clarence
Thompson is academically ineligible, cornerback Charles Woodson
(last year's co-Big Ten freshman of the year) is an All-America

Offensively, the departure of tailback Tim Biakabutuka and most
of last year's other offensive stars leaves an unproven cast of
backs and receivers that will rely heavily upon cocksure
sophomore quarterback Scott Dreisbach. It was Dreisbach who, in
his first college game, orchestrated Michigan's best-ever
comeback (an 18-17 last-play win over Virginia). And though he
missed the final eight games of '95 with torn ligaments in his
right thumb (Michigan was 4-0 behind Dreisbach, 4-4 the rest of
the way), he returned to have a superb spring practice. "There's
been a lot of changes on offense," says second-year coach Lloyd
Carr. "But I'm not worried if there's pressure on Scott. He's
the type of player who leads by meeting challenges."

Which gives Michigan two of that type.

--Kostya Kennedy