In hearing Jake Long and James Laurinaitis talk about the Michigan against Ohio State game this weekend, it’s almost as if both players could still be a part of the rivalry. They understand the competitive spirit that builds up throughout the year leading up to this game, and they know much a win would mean to the programs and their players.
On Monday, former All-Americans spoke about the rivalry on Big Ten Network.
“This is definitely the greatest rivalry there is in sports. I think not just in college football but all of sports,” said Long, a two-time All-American offensive lineman at Michigan and a former No. 1 NFL Draft pick. “Just two great schools, two great traditions and just going at it and leaving it all on the field. It’s the last game of the year, so you really don’t have to hold anything in the tank. The fans love it, the players love it, both states love it and there’s nothing like Michigan/Ohio State week.”
“It’s one of the most energetic and definitely the most physical game you’ll play all year,” added Laurinaitis, who played for the Buckeyes from 2005-08.
Both players said their respective programs prepared for The Game all year long. At every practice, Laurinaitis said Ohio State would run a drilled called Maize and Blue. The ball carrier had to protect the ball while the defender attempted to jar it loose. At Michigan, Long said there was always a countdown to the Ohio State game in the locker room or the meeting room.
During game week, their motivation tactics drastically increased.
Laurinaitis said scout team players had to grab blue and yellow electrical tape and replicate the Michigan helmet design on their own helmet.
“They weren’t just wearing the navy jerseys,” Laurinaitis said. “They were wearing these helmets that had to be replicas so that you just got used to hitting any Wolverine that you saw in practice. And those practices, those thud periods, were a lot more than just thud up.”
Michigan didn’t go that far for practices, but it did provide a constant reminder that the Ohio State game was on the horizon.
“The week of, they blared their dang fight song through our entire building, every single minute of the day,” Long said.” It’s the most sickening fight song there is, so it just rings in your ears.”
Ten years later, the rivalry still resonates with Long and Laurinaitis, so much so that they’re trying to get their kids involved.
— Jake Long (@JakeLong77) November 21, 2017