COLUMBUS - Justin Boren thinks it is an old story, and if one year's time can "date" such a thing, he's probably right. He thinks his situation is nothing special, and he's probably wrong.
As far as The Game's historians can tell, Boren is one of only three players who have experienced the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry from both sides. He is the first since the World War II era and the only one to travel from north to south.
Surely, his story doesn't stack up with that of J.T. White. He actually played on national championship teams for both schools. White was coach Paul Brown's center at Ohio State in 1942, then served in the U.S. Army during WWII. After being discharged, he enrolled at Michigan and played for Fritz Crisler's 1947 national championship team.
One of White's UM teammates was quarterback Howard Yerges, another ex-Buckeye who as a U.S. Navy trainee was reportedly transferred by the Navy from a Columbus base to Ann Arbor after lettering for OSU in 1943. Maybe some admiral was a Michigan Man. Yerges, too, was a starter for the '47 national title team that was led by Toledoan Bob Chappuis, the Heisman Trophy runner-up.
College football was dotted by numerous oddities during those war years, so maybe nobody batted an eyelash. The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry certainly existed, although perhaps with less passion in the pre-Woody and Bo days, and, face it, people had more important things on their minds while our nation and its allies fought the axis powers on two fronts.
With Boren, though, people sat up and took notice. Wolverines just don't become Buckeyes, or vice versa, and Boren certainly spiced it up by firing a parting shot across the bow of the Good Ship Rich Rod.
Boren's father, Mike, was a linebacker under Bo Schembechler at UM in the early 1980s. Justin played under one of Bo's bloodline successors, Lloyd Carr, and was a starter on the offensive line in 2007. Father and son were in the room on Nov. 16, 2006, the Thursday night before maybe the biggest OSU-Michigan game ever, No. 1 vs. No. 2, when Bo delivered an inspirational speech to the Wolverines. The legendary ex-coach died the next day. Boren said Bo's speech "was the one thing I will never forget about Michigan. It was the highlight of my whole time being there."
Carr, meanwhile, retired after the '07 season, and Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez. Boren stuck around for awhile during the offseason, but soon announced he would transfer. If it wasn't bad enough that he would end up at OSU, he explained his departure by suggesting that Michigan's "family values" established by Schembechler and passed down through the years were eroding.
To outsiders, the term Michigan Man is a tad overbearing, but it has a deep meaning to insiders. Rodriguez was not one, a Michigan Man, that is, and Boren's comment fanned the flames of what many UM devotees suspected. It may have been the first evidence of what Rodriguez was - and to this day still is - up against.
That's not Boren's problem, though. OSU's senior left guard has "never had any regrets," calls himself "100 percent Buckeye," thinks the rivalry "is a little bigger here," and is hoping for a second straight win over his former team on Saturday.
"It's a big game because of the rivalry, not because I've played for both sides," he said.
He's right, of course. And wrong.
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