A Bo story: 'There is no way we are going to play for him'

By Steve Thorpe

Legal News

The stereotype of the coach/player relationship is that the athlete worships the wise mentor. Billy Taylor and Bo Schembechler may have eventually reached that point, but it sure didn't start out that way. As Taylor tells the tale:

When I first met Bo, I was about nine or ten. His mom was a bank teller in Barberton, Ohio, where I grew up. I was with my mom and everyone was making a fuss over him. I thought to myself, 'It's just another white man.' I didn't know who he was.

Later, in high school, he recruited me, trying to get me to go to Miami of Ohio, where he was coaching at the time. He recruited both me and (future U-M and NFL star) Thom Darden. We went down there for a weekend and, although it started out normal, it turned out horrible. We had dinner, toured the campus, then he left us with some members of the football team. We had fun and got to bed about 2 in the morning.

About 6 a.m., bam bam bam ... there's pounding on the door. We open it and Bo is standing there. 'You guys ready to work out?' he says. Thom and I look at each other in disbelief, both thinking 'This man is out of his mind.' Bo says, 'You guys got 15 minutes.'

It's 6:30 in the morning and we're lifting weights and running 40s for time. He felt my arm and growled, 'You're soft!' He looks at my sprint times and he's sneering, "How'd you run for all those touchdowns?'

Darden and I are whispering to each other, 'This man is nuts. There is no way we are going to play for him.' We couldn't wait until the weekend was over.

When we got back home, we told everyone we knew, 'Don't go to Miami. They've got a nut for a coach down there.'

Fast forward now ... we signed with and went to Michigan. Thom and I were roommates.

It was Dec. 24, 1968, and I'm home from school on Christmas break. I pick up the Akron Beacon-Journal and, on the front page, it says 'Bo Schembechler named head coach at the University of Michigan.' I damn near died.

I called Thom Darden and he said, 'B.T., it's true, man! He's the head coach!'

We had talked about Bo like he was a dog. We had said he was crazy. We didn't like him or his coaches ... and he brought all those guys with him.

We go back after break and we're in winter conditioning. Bo walks around, would glare at me and just keep on walking. Never said a word for a week.

At the end of the week, he walks up to me and says, 'I wanna see you in my office after conditioning.'

I'm thinking, 'Oh, lord. My college career is over before it really starts.'

I go over to the athletic department and his secretary calls out, 'Bo! Billy Taylor is here to see you!'

'Tell him to come in!' Bo says.

He's sitting at his desk writing. Looks up for a moment and then just keeps writing. So I'm just standing there.

Finally, he says 'Sit down.'

He continues to write and I'm really sweating bullets. I'm thinking back to all the things we said about him and I'm imagining going back to the dorm to pack.

After five more minutes, Bo sits up in his chair and smiles, 'You thought you got rid of me, didn't you?'

Billy Taylor went on to have one of U-M's most illustrious football careers as a tailback, setting many records, including some that have yet to be broken.

Published: Thu, May 31, 2012