ANN ARBOR, Mich. — At first glance, Ben Gedeon is all business. He has a quiet, no-nonsense, almost intense presence and barely cracks a smile during an interview or a casual conversation.
His roommate and best friend, though, insists there’s more than what’s on the surface of Gedeon, a senior linebacker for the Michigan football team.
Jake Butt won’t give away too much about Gedeon, but first praises him as a football player and as a leader for the No. 4 Wolverines (3-0), who host Penn State (2-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
“As a middle linebacker, the biggest thing you can see is his leadership,” said Butt, a tight end at Michigan. “He’s taking command of everybody, getting everybody lined up and making sure everybody is doing their assignment.”
That’s Gedeon to a “T.” A taskmaster, an analyst and a leader of one of Michigan’s most effective units so far this season. In fact, that’s one of Gedeon’s interests, post-football. Telling people what to do in an educated, constructive manner.
“I’m interested, possibly, in consulting,” said Gedeon, an economics major from Hudson, Ohio. “That interests me as well.”
Self-praise isn’t Gedeon’s style. He’s not a rah-rah, in-your-face type of teammate. Instead, he makes his loudest statements with his play on the field.
Gedeon led the Wolverines with 12 tackles last Saturday in a 45-28 win over Colorado. He’s also emerged as a leader in a unit that many didn’t give much credit to after the graduation of Joe Bolden, Desmond Morgan and James Ross III from a 2015 team that finished fourth in the nation in total defense (280.7 yards per game).
Michigan linebackers coach Chris Partridge views Gedeon as a throwback of sorts — “an old school, tough guy.”
“He is the leader,” Partridge said. “He takes charge. He makes the calls. He leads by example. He comes out to practice every day and takes a stronghold on whatever we’re installing or whatever we’re doing. He’s a tremendous leader.”
Does he make Partridge’s life easier as a coach?
“Oh, 100 percent!” Partridge said, grinning.
Before the season, Gedeon said the linebackers had a goal: to prove themselves as a unit. And without saying too much, Gedeon is fulfilling that responsibility. As Gedeon has gone, so have Michigan’s linebackers. The unit has gone from being one of the most questioned facets of Michigan’s game to being one of its most consistent.
Of Michigan’s top five tacklers, three are linebackers: Jabrill Peppers, who in a pass-rushing role has 28 tackles; Gedeon (25) and Mike McCray (19). Peppers is third in the Big Ten in tackles while Gedeon is sixth.
“He’s a great leader,” McCray said. “He played last year and the year before that and I go to him when I’m confused about something or need some advice when I’m playing out there. He’s been out there, and I really haven’t. He’s been a great help for me so far.”
Away from football, Gedeon is a confessed travel buff. This summer, he hiked Colorado’s Mount Evans, a 14,265-foot peak about 60 miles southwest of Denver, with Butt, Patrick Kugler and Henry Poggi. Yet, for all his preparation and analysis when it comes to football, Gedeon admitted he and his teammates weren’t necessarily prepared for the climb.
“You want a 48-hour acclimation period to get used to the elevation,” Gedeon said. “But we just kind of got there and ran right up on the 14er. There were little kids going up there too and it’s like, how are these kids doing this? We were dying.”
When they reached the summit, they didn’t celebrate. Instead, they took in the vast country of the Rocky Mountains that was in front of and below them. And caught their breath. Give Gedeon, the taskmaster, an “A” for ambition.
But Butt will divulge a little bit more about Gedeon.
“He’s hilarious,” Michigan’s All-America tight end said. “You don’t see that humor from him, though. He’s one of those guys, he has to feel comfortable around you. But he’s one of my best friends on this team, and he’ll be a lifelong friend of mine.”