In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Maureen Fulton talked with Mike Weger, an All-American second-team selection on the Bowling Green State University football team and an 11-year NFL player. Weger recently gave $550,000 to the BGSU athletic and music departments to assist in funding the Sebo Athletic Center.
Playing in the NFL was a joy for Mike Weger, but it was just as big a thrill for him to sing BGSU's unofficial fight song, "Ay Ziggy Zoomba," in the movie Paper Lion as a rookie.
Weger got his love of music from his father, Dr. Roy Weger, who directed the BGSU band in the 50s and 60s. Mike Weger's recent gift to the school will benefit the band as well as the athletic department.
The Wegers moved to Bowling Green from Oklahoma when Mike Weger was in seventh grade. He played football, basketball and track at BG High School and enrolled at BGSU in 1963. Weger played defensive back for the Falcons under coach Doyt Perry. His sophomore year BGSU won the Mid-American Conference championship.
In Weger's junior year he was named second-team All-American and BGSU shared the MAC title. In 1967 Weger graduated from BGSU with a degree in business administration and was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the ninth round. He played nine years for the Lions, twice earning honorable mention All-Pro honors, and two with the Houston Oilers.
To honor his father, who died in 1991, Weger gave money to build band bleachers on the south side of the Sebo Center. Weger, 60, was inducted into the BGSU Hall of Fame in 1972. He has owned the Willow Creek Golf and Sports Center in Lake Orion, Mich., for 28 years.
"I HAD SUCCESS in high school and I had people telling me I had the ability to go to college and play, but you really don't know if they're blowing smoke. I had offers from Ohio State and Oklahoma; it was a little bit overwhelming. It was more than anything my lack of understanding what I could do. The deciding factor to go to BGSU was how personable coach Doyt Perry was to me. Regardless of whether I was a good football player, or a starter, I was going to get my education."
"WHY DO ANYTHING other than try to be the best? If you do anything other than that, you've wasted your time, you've wasted everybody else's time. That's what my dad told me about playing high school football. That's the way he was in music. It was the most simple formula to say, if I'm going to be doing this, I'm going to be the best I can be. I couldn't even get people to work out with me because I would work out so hard, do so much more than anybody else, even at the pros."
"ONE OF THE requirements that the NFL veterans made of rookies was to stand up and sing your school fight song. I sang a capella choir, was lead singer in high school. I had a good voice and learned early on to sing with feeling. Before the movie, when I stood up and sang, my teammate Alex Karras said, 'Yeah, we finally got somebody who can sing.' That's literally what happened in real life. So when it came time for the movie, everybody said to the director, you've got to have Mike Weger.
"THE LIONS HAD a great following, very faithful fans. We had some good years during the years that I played. They paid us so little that all of us had jobs in the off-season. But playing the game was like stealing. To have someone pay you for something that gives you exhilaration, it's the best feeling.
"When I got into the pros, I didn't know who the pros were. Football was another performance for me. That's what I really loved about it. It wasn't that I was so obsessed with it that I had a Lions flag hanging from my car. I'm more of a fan of music than football still. I play guitar and perform for my family and friends. While I was playing football I did some commercials for Pants Galore. I would also go sit in with different performers around town."
"I REGRET THE fact that I didn't learn music in a professional manner, but that doesn't make a difference because I can still feel it. I was fortunate enough to have an impact on the university through athletics. And when I learned about Bob Sebo, who played in my father's band, I thought how fitting is that, to try and help and support him, to make his addition to the stadium.
"To be able to give this money means a lot. It probably means more for my dad than for me because he was just a tremendous innovator and he was a pure heart. He approached every one of his students like Doyt approached me. He passed on to his students a legacy of professionalism, focus, attention to detail. He imparted that on so many people. At his funeral, there were people who came in from all over the country who stood up and gave a testimony that he prepared them for life. It was an opportunity to say thank you, finally, after all these years."
Contact Maureen Fulton at: email@example.com or 419-724-6160.