ESSEXVILLE, Mich. — Ben VanSumeren received a phone call from Michigan running backs coach Jay Harbaugh a week before National Signing Day in December.
Harbaugh offered VanSumeren a full scholarship to play football at Michigan. The Wolverines planned to make VanSumeren a fullback. He was a little taken aback that Michigan came into the picture so late in the process, as he was already committed to Iowa.
“They hadn’t talked to me earlier, at all,” VanSumeren said. “It took a day or two for it to sink in.”
VanSumeren flipped to Michigan on Dec. 15, two days after Jim Harbaugh visited him at Garber High School. He will fulfill a lifelong goal of playing for the Wolverines.
His mother, Cindy, is a Michigan graduate, and once a year the family travels to Ann Arbor for a Michigan game.
“I’ve been rooting for Michigan my whole life,” said VanSumeren, who played at tight end, wide receiver, running back and linebacker at Garber. “It was just in my blood, I guess. I started playing football in elementary school, but I grew up watching Michigan play in the Big House.”
VanSumeren committed to Michigan about a month after he originally committed to Iowa.
“Iowa’s coaches probably weren’t happy I de-committed, that’s all I can really say,” VanSumeren said. “They understood that I’m from Michigan. They knew my mom went to Michigan, but I think they knew I thought I was an offensive player, and they understood that. But they weren’t happy, especially so close to signing day.
“In recruiting, it’s business. Some things are just business, and you can’t take it personally.”
VanSumeren admits he’s a late bloomer as a college football prospect. He received his first scholarship offer after his junior season, from Western Michigan. He originally committed to the Broncos, but Garber football coach Jake Coquillard told him to be patient in the recruiting process.
“I told him, ‘what are you doing? Not yet!’ ” Coquillard said, laughing. “But I knew bigger things were going to come down the road. I think he did, too, but it was a situation he’s never been in, so it was a learning experience, the whole way.”
At The Opening’s regional camp two months later in Berea, Ohio, VanSumeren posted the highest score of any player: 127.74. His showing at the camp drew more scholarship offers.
“Getting ready for [The Opening] was something I really worked on for a while,” VanSumeren said. “I really worked on my testing, and I’d never been to a football camp before. That also taught me how important camps are in recruiting.”
Coquillard said the bulk of VanSumeren’s scholarship offers were from schools that wanted him to play on defense, including Iowa.
For VanSumeren, the most difficult part of saying no to Iowa was the mere fact that he wasn’t following through on a commitment. He is a believer in the value of following through on his word and places a strong emphasis on personal accountability.
“That was tough on him, because he felt like he was letting them down,” Coquillard said. “But in the end, Michigan came calling, and we always felt like he was an offensive guy.
“A lot of these bigger schools were coming after him as a linebacker and he hasn’t played a ton there. But when Michigan came, it just fit. It was sort of meant to be. He wanted to be an offensive player and he has always had that ability to make an impact. With all those intangibles, it worked out.”