Michigan Football: Former Wolverines Star Marcus Ray Dishes on UM-Buckeyes

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Michigan Football: Former Wolverines Star Marcus Ray Dishes on UM-Buckeyes
Marcus Ray celebrates after Michigan's win over OSU in 1997 (photo courtesy of Marcus Ray).

Confident, boisterous, proud and unfiltered.

Marcus Ray is one of many players who personify the term "Michigan Man."

The former All-American and two-time All-Big Ten Wolverines safety doesn't hold back when discussing the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry, and he certainly doesn't mind reliving his famous throttling of former Buckeyes star receiver David Boston, who Ray says "ran his mouth to the media" in 1997 prior to Michigan's 20-14 victory at The Big House.

Marcus Ray up-ends David Boston with authority.

Ray mended the relationship and has since become friends with Boston. However, that bond hasn't diminished his healthy dislike for anything Scarlet and Gray. Despite his Ohio roots, he's been Maize and Blue from the start.

"Being from Columbus, I grew up watching (the) rivalry," said Ray, who wanted to be "on the other side" with Michigan because of superior academics, atmosphere and athletics. "I never liked Ohio State. I think (Ohio State) fans are unrealistic in thinking they’re better than everyone, and they’re not.

"I dreamed of playing for Michigan since I was seven."

Times have changed, but the passion Ray has for the rivalry hasn't. This Saturday, Michigan ventures into hostile territory when it meets the unbeaten Buckeyes at The Shoe in Columbus, a stadium it hasn't claimed victory in since 2000, when it won 38-26.

Michigan vs. Ohio State (1996)

Team 133 bears a strong resemblance to the 1996 Wolverines, says Ray, the same Wolverines who beat an unbeaten No. 2 Ohio State team. Michigan's 8-3 record (6-1 Big Ten) is a bit deceiving, according to Ray, who believes Michigan has no reason to be intimidated this year by the 11-0 Buckeyes.

"I think their schedule prepared them for this," Ray said of the Wolverines, adding that Ohio State wouldn't be unbeaten if it played the same schedule as the Wolverines have. "I think Michigan is going to win this game."

This year's matchup has a bittersweet feel. For starters, even with a win, Michigan is incapable of affecting Ohio State's postseason plans—Ohio State is ineligible due to past sanctions stemming from a tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal.

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Beating Ohio State would keep Michigan in the hunt for a Legends Division title—the Wolverines would then just need a Nebraska Cornhuskers loss—so it's far from a meaningless game, but it has lost some of its previous luster.

Secondly, Wolverines senior Denard Robinson may not start at quarterback for the fourth straight game. Robinson suffered ulnar nerve damage to his right elbow during Michigan's 23-9 loss to Nebraska, giving way to Devin Gardner, who has absolutely energized his offense in the form of multiple-touchdown outings.

Michigan has rattled off a trio of wins, and Ray believes Gardner should start at quarterback against the Buckeyes.

"I look at things—things happen for a reason," Ray said of Robinson's injury and Gardner's new-found stardom. "Denard, he played his heart out for four years for Michigan. I have no complaints about Denard Robinson; he was a ray of light, a blessing, a bright spot to watch. He'll have a successful career in the NFL as a slot or a returner. He laid it on the line for Michigan...

"Michigan has to think of the future, and I believe Devin Gardner is the future. As long as both are on the field (Saturday), I think it's good—Gardner-Robinson (backfield)."

The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry can keep a player in the limelight, even years past when he participated. Ray's hit on Boston made the cover of Sports Illustrated on Dec. 1, 1997, and almost 15 years later, he's signing copies of the magazine and giving play-by-play accounts.

That's just what the historic duel does. Those memories never fade.

"You relive Ohio State-Michigan week every day of your life," Ray said proudly. "Your legacy is defined by how you perform."

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

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