ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Respect Matt Godin’s grind. Respect his commitment and dedication to Michigan football. Respect the fact that he’s given five years of his life in exchange for a few moments of on-field glory with the Wolverines.
Respect the fact that he’s always been prepared.
“For the last four years, or three, we’ve always had good depth. Going along those lines, coach (Jim Harbaugh) told us all camp, all spring, that you’ve got to be ready to play just as good as the guy (in front of you),” said Godin, who started in place of the injured Bryan Mone on Saturday, posting a career-high five tackles during Michigan’s 51-14 win over UCF.
No return date has been set for Mone.
“If you’re second-string, you have to play just as good as the guy who’s starting. You know, (Bryan) Mone went down, so it gave me an opportunity to come in and the start the game. I wanted to go out there and play the best I could.”
On Monday, Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh propped Godin’s benchmark by comparing him to another fifth-year lineman: star brawler Ryan Glasgow. Rare, really. Harbaugh hardly ever stacks one on one. In fact, he tries to stay away from that territory all together.
But the comparison fit.
“He’s a steady, high-performing guy — tough guy, always in the lineup,” Harbaugh said of Godin. “Really, really impressed with him. He is almost playing to the level of Ryan Glasgow, who is a defensive lineman who played his best game this past week.”
It wasn’t just Glasgow’s “best” game, either.
“And probably one of the better games I’ve ever seen a defensive lineman play — he was that good in terms of how he played the position and graded out,” Harbaugh continued. “You know, Godin is a very similar player…”
Harbaugh added that the 6-foot-6, 290-pounder also graded-out very well, right up there with the team’s best defenders of the day.
So let’s connect some dots, here.
If Glasgow played one of the best games by a D-liner ever seen by Harbaugh, and Godin has elevated his level close to that of Glasgow… what does it all mean? It means what it’s meant for years: Matt Godin — who has five career starts and 29 appearances — has more than earned his keep with the Wolverines; it means, without players such as Godin, Michigan wouldn’t have all of this incredible depth everyone talks about.
Conversely, the comparison was an honor for Godin.
“He has one of the best work ethics I’ve ever seen,” Godin said of Glasgow. “Him being my roommate, one of my best friends, it’s great to have him around with his work ethic — and it definitely rubs off on everyone else on the D-line.”
They watch film together. They study tendencies. They both “take a lot of pride” in being ready to play at a moment’s notice. Whether with an interception at Northwestern in 2014 or four tackles versus UNLV in 2015, Godin has always answered Michigan’s call.
That type of longevity and spot-man consistency deserves attention. With all of the recent change, it would have been easy for Godin to transfer to another school in search of more playing time. Harbaugh doesn’t guarantee a fifth year to anyone, evidenced by the handful of recent transfers, departures and medical retirements.
Instead of worrying too much about his status with a new coach, which would have been quite natural given the circumstances, Godin “just kept working hard every day,” focusing on the task at hand while letting his play and demeanor do the talking.
“(Harbaugh) gave me this opportunity to come back for a fifth year,” Godin said. “And every single day, I am very, very grateful for it.”
Harbaugh may have “given” an opportunity, but Godin’s commitment to the program secured another season.
“It’s always nice when you work really hard and you get something out of it,” said Godin, who’s in line to see more snaps due to Mone’s injury.
However, despite a milestone finish on Saturday, he’s not taking this window for granted.
“It’s early in the season and I’ve just got to keep working hard, you know?” he said.
No stranger to the hard-nosed approach, Godin has kept pace with the times. Whether led by Greg Mattison or D.J. Durkin — a vocal director who now coaches Maryland — or first-year coordinator Don Brown, Godin has responded well to his coaches expectations.
Each one has helped shape and mold the way Godin views the game. And each one has cited contributions made by the veteran lineman.
“You’re either going to have armadillo skin or you’re going to have rabbit skin,” said Godin, relaying one of Mattison’s sayings. “So you take their coaching no matter how they dish it out to you — you take their coaching and you go on the field and you fix it.
“That definitely correlates with high school — it was the same thing. It’s not going to be pretty… the coaching all the time… the comments might not be the best thing in the world. But you’ve just got to take it and go get better.”
While at Detroit Catholic Central, Godin played for Tom Mach, one of the most successful and demanding prep coaches in Michigan. Because of that disciplined angle, Mach had won four Division I state titles since 2000 (10 total in various divisions) — plus three runner-up honors, including Godin’s senior year of 2011-12.
That said, Godin was well educated by time he landed at Michigan in the fall of 2012.
“He stayed on us, yeah — he’s an old-school guy,” Godin said of Mach. “I love the old style. I love that. If I did something, I mean, tell me — give it to me straight. You know what I mean?”
How has Michigan consistently fielded a knock-back defensive line for the past three years? Coaching. That’s why. But there’s more. Players have to absorb the coaching. When that happens, a program creates the luxury of having Matt Godin-type of veterans.
Guys who know the system. Guys who know their role. Guys who stay ready to play.
Saturday wasn’t really anything new for Matt Godin. Sure, he got a rare start, played well in place of Mone and had a career-high five tackles against UCF — but rolling hard for four quarters, regardless of when summoned, isn’t too hard when you’ve spent five years preparing for the moment.