"I saw that," Victoria said, "and I wanted to throw up."
By all accounts, the early part of Sam McGuffie's freshman season at Michigan in 2008 was a raging success. Even though the Wolverines played poorly as they adjusted to first-year coach
McGuffie should have enjoyed his early success, but he didn't. Sam's father,
Flash forward to last Saturday, when a cool breeze blew and the sun shone on the largest city in Texas. Rice's spring game had been over for almost an hour, but Sam McGuffie still sat on the field with a circle of family around him. Terrie was there. So was Sam's uncle,
After wrestling with the decision to leave Michigan, Sam finally made it after he returned home from a funeral late in the 2008 season. The Wolverines still had to play Ohio State, but McGuffie knew he wouldn't be back. He had decided to come home, because his family needed him. "Sam came back mainly for his family," Victoria said.
During an interview with McGuffie in 2008, he wondered how his departure might affect the lives of his younger brother,
Sam was prescient. With him gone, Jacob struggled. Victoria said the family even discussed moving to Michigan to reunite the siblings. "Sam has always been the heart of the family," Victoria said. "He's like an old soul."
So Sam decided to come home. Other schools were interested, but McGuffie wanted to stay within 100 miles of his home in the Houston suburbs. In the FBS, that limited him to Houston, Rice and Texas A&M. When he visited Rice, the Owls were preparing for the Texas Bowl, which would cap the stellar careers of quarterback
Between the issues back home and the pressure of starting so soon, McGuffie never quite felt comfortable at Michigan. "You're going into Michigan playing in front of 110,000 people," he said. "You start your first game as a damn freshman at running back. At Michigan, that's a big deal. And
McGuffie said he didn't shrink from the competition, and Rodriguez said the same during a conversation at the American Football Coaches Association Convention in January. For McGuffie, the transfer was strictly for personal reasons.
Baliff and McGuffie are quick to rattle off names such as
Baliff hopes to use McGuffie in a variety of ways. The Owls will line him up next to the quarterback, behind the quarterback in the pistol and in the slot. "He's electrifying," Baliff said. "The first time he touched the football [during spring practice], he went 50."
In Saturday's spring game, McGuffie showed once again why so many colleges wanted him. He took one shovel pass and darted down the right sideline. When a defender dove for his knees, McGuffie hurdled him, drawing an "Ooooooh" from the sidelines and the stands. Later, McGuffie caught a pass in the flat, took a stutter-step and zipped down the sideline for a 63-yard gain. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder also made some runs that should raise the same question that has dogged McGuffie since high school. Will his running style get him killed? McGuffie has no qualms about reversing field, and on several occasions Saturday he turned and ran smack into a tackle.
Baliff would love to let McGuffie return kickoffs, but he worries McGuffie will change directions one too many times and get blindsided by a special teams kamikaze with a full head of steam. Still, both Baliff and McGuffie are reluctant to make too many changes, because that style also makes McGuffie a threat to score whenever he touches the ball.
"If you run that way your whole life, you're not going to change that much," McGuffie said. "It's like
But McGuffie could change one thing. He was miserable in Michigan. Now he's happy in Houston.
As the rest of the Rice players and their families filtered into the locker room Saturday, Baliff pointed to the end zone where the McGuffies held an impromptu family reunion. "Look at them," Baliff said, smiling. "They'll be the last ones out of here."