ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The first day Tarik Black returned to playing football, he admitted to some hesitation. The Michigan wide receiver wasn’t sure how his left foot would hold up as he attempted to run routes and catch passes at full speed for the first time in more than six months.
Black jumped back into the routine of practicing this spring, determined to not let the thought of an injury sustained last season keep him from contributing to Michigan’s wide receivers.
“I hadn’t played football in six months,” Black said. “There maybe was a little bit of rust, not too much, but maybe after a day or two I was straight.
“Maybe the first day, you just got to get over that hump. But after that, I was alright.”
Black made an early splash as a freshman last season before a broken foot sidelined him. He wants to pick up where he left off in 2017, and he wants to be a major contributor to Michigan’s wide receivers this fall.
Black caught 11 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown in Michigan’s first three games in 2017. But the 6-foot-3 receiver from Hamden, Conn., sustained a foot injury in a 29-13 win against Air Force on Sept. 16, leaving the field on a medical cart. He underwent surgery the next week to repair a broken bone in his left foot.
He didn’t let his first season of college football become a total loss. Black made the most of his time out of the lineup, confident he would set himself up for a solid second season with the Wolverines. He prepared as if he were taking an exam. He studied opposing defenses and visualized the routes he would run when he returned to the field.
“When I was sitting out, I continued to watch a lot of film and take a lot of mental reps,” Black said. “That helps when it comes to reading defenses, because that’s what you need to do as a receiver. Just being out, that’s what I did the entire time, and I think it translated over to playing now.”
Physically recovering from an injury and surgery became another matter. Black said he felt the most healthy just before the start of spring ball.
“I probably could have played [in the Outback Bowl] but I was not where I wanted to be,” Black said.
“I had certain goals I wanted accomplish but then I got hurt, and there was no way to accomplish those. But I know God has a plan, and I’ll come back this year and do everything I can to play really good.”
Now Black is back to playing shape. Wolverines wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones was quick to give his roommate a vote of confidence.
“Tarik’s looking good,” Peoples-Jones said, nodding confidently.
Michigan’s spring practices have helped polish the rough edges from when he joined the Wolverines in January 2017 as an early enrollee. Now he focuses on his improvement and helping the Wolverines to a successful 2018 season.
“I just want to be the best receiver I can, for our team,” Black said. “That’s all it’s about, winning games. That’s all we need to do.”