Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Michael Cox excited to face former team

Maria Uminski/Collegian

Michael Cox has had this game circled on his calendar for a long time.

For four years, the new Massachusetts running back served as a backup at Michigan, dreaming of one day playing as the starting tailback for the Wolverines.

But for one reason or another, that never happened. Cox never got the chance to be the lead back for Michigan. He never got a chance to start a game at the Big House, home to over 100,000 fans every game day.

This Saturday, however, he’ll finally get that chance – not as a Wolverine, but as a Minuteman.

UMass travels to Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on No. 17 Michigan this Saturday.

“He’s excited,” UMass coach Charley Molnar said. “But he hasn’t talked too much about it. He’s just focused on trying to take care of his own business. And I think there will be enough juice and when that plane lands in Michigan, he’ll be plenty excited.”

Cox, who is originally from Dorchester, played high school football at Avon Old Farms in Avon, Conn., where he was a standout running back. He earned a four-star rating from the recruiting website and received scholarship offers from schools like Boston College, Connecticut and Maryland before eventually committing to Michigan.

But as the years passed at Michigan, Cox never really found his place in the Wolverine backfield. Playing behind standout running backs like Brandon Minor, Michael Shaw, and even being overshadowed by quarterback Denard Robinson, Cox barely got any playing time.

Cox redshirted his freshman season, but then saw game action in only three games as a running back in his Michigan career. He had his most productive day in a game against Delaware State in 2009, when he carried the ball 11 times for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the Wolverines’ 63-6 victory.

After not getting a real chance at the starting role in Ann Arbor, Cox finished his degree at Michigan before transferring to UMass for his fifth and final year of eligibility, one in which he’s finally getting the chance that has always eluded him.

The job wasn’t always his, though.

Cox had to fight for the spot with new teammate Chris Burns throughout camp, and it wasn’t until recently that Cox earned the role as the lead back for the Minutemen. He’ll even serve as an offensive co-captain for this weekend’s game, Molnar said.

In two games for UMass, Cox is starting to settle in to his new role. He didn’t get the most carries in the Minutemen’s season-opening loss to UConn, only finishing with five carries for five yards. He did, though, get the bulk of them last week against Indiana, as he carried the ball 15 times for 49 yards, including a 17-yard burst in the first quarter.

This week represents a new and exciting opportunity for Cox. While Molnar said that Cox has kept quiet for the most part about his return to Michigan, the fifth-year senior didn’t deny having any extra motivating factors about going up against his former players and coaches this weekend.

“I’m always motivated for any game I’m going into, but there’s definitely a little extra for this game,” Cox said.

Cox said he’s been texting and calling his former teammates, who are still friends of his, exchanging friendly jabs and trash talk for this Saturday’s game. But by game time, he said he’ll be ready. No matter how strange it will be to enter the Big House in different colors than Maize and Blue, he and his teammates will need to be ready going up against arguably their most challenging opponent of the season.

He said he won’t let his emotions get the best of him come Saturday.

“I’m always focused during the game, so I don’t really think that’s going to be a problem,” Cox said. “I think as a team we can do good, we just need to go by our game plan and execute well.”

Stephen Hewitt can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @steve_hewitt.


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