ADRIAN, Mich. - Jewel Threet is a father who wants to know how any set of parents could dream this.
Dream that their youngest son, who watched Michigan beat Southern California in the Rose Bowl with his mother on Jan. 2, 1989 - the day he was born - might actually quarterback the Wolverines.
Imagine that their boy would call the signals for the team they had season tickets to watch play eight years before he was born.
Think they could raise him in their house on Lake Adrian in Michigan and have him grow up to be THE MAN for the tradition-rich football factory 35 miles away in Ann Arbor.
This is about to be reality for Threet and his wife, Pam. Their son, Steven, is the odds-on favorite to debut at quarterback as a freshman for the Wolverines in their 2008 season opener against Utah on Aug. 30.
"How do you dream that?
Seriously, you don't," Jewel said.
"Never even dreamed it," added Pam, UM class of 1975.
New coach Rich Rodriguez has yet to name Threet as his starting quarterback - challenges from sophomore Nick Sheridan and true freshman Justin Feagin still abound - but most signs point to the Threets' son being under center against Utah.
If indeed it is Threet who's making throws and otherwise directing Rodriguez's spread-option offense, the town of Adrian, all Michiganders loyal to the Wolverines, and the program's national following will be counting on him.
Threet, of course, wants nothing more than to be in that spot. But did he ever think he'd be here, at least up until the point when he transferred from Georgia Tech to UM before last season?
"No. Not really. I mean, football wasn't even in the picture for me," Threet said. "I liked watching, but my brother never played, my dad never played, so I never envisioned this when I was younger."
Picking a sport
Steven Threet is the son of a baseball player.
TONY DING / AP Enlarge
Jewel, pitched, played third base, shortstop and the outfield for Adrian College, graduating in 1975.
The Threets' first son, Jay, played baseball at Purdue and then Bowling Green. Their second child, Kristin, was a softball player at Eastern Michigan.
Steven, the baby of the family, never laced up football spikes until the eighth grade. Before then, it was mostly baseball and basketball for him.
"I made a deal with one of my friends, where if he agreed to play basketball I would come out and play football," Threet said.
So Threet became the quarterback at then-Springbrook Middle School, where he remembers throwing lots of passes for coach Roy Gonzalez. He liked football so much that he stuck with it in the ninth grade, and he lettered in three sports his sophomore year at Adrian High School - earning all-conference selections in football and baseball.
"By the end of my sophomore year, I liked football better than the other two," he recalled.
Threet dropped baseball as a junior. The springs and summers were to be spent traveling to football camps at places like Toledo, Michigan, Notre Dame - places he could polish his skills and showcase them to college coaches.
He went on to throw for 4,824 yards and 49 touchdowns in three years for Adrian coach Phil Jacobs' program. And at 6-foot-5, those college coaches he visited in the summers were interested.
"He had a big frame and a very strong arm. It was inevitable that colleges would find him," Jacobs said.
As for his friend who first turned him on to playing football, Threet can't remember his name.
"I just remember he ended up not coming out for basketball," Threet said with a laugh. "The deal worked out for me in the end."
Threet's parents began using their friend's UM season tickets in 1981. In 1983, the Threets purchased their own set and joined the Victors Club.
"They were on the 42-yard line, section 26," Pam recalled.
Steven's earliest, fondest memory of going to UM games is of something that didn't even happen at the Big House. He remembers being 8-years-old and watching Charles Woodson make a one-handed interception in a 1997 game at Michigan State.
Jewel took Steven to several Wolverines games a year, which sometimes included bowl games. They were at the Rose Bowl in 2005 and attended the coaches' luncheon, and Steven was picked from the crowd to represent UM in sort of a cheer-off, if you will.
"Stevie was on stage and later talked with [former UM coach] Lloyd [Carr] about it, that was pretty cool," Jewel remembered.
Some Rodriguez detractors say the new coach isn't a "Michigan Man." No one could've said that about Threet - until it came time to pick a college.
While there was some mutual interest between Threet and UM, the Wolverines already had a commitment from Ryan Mallett, and were recruiting others at the position.
Georgia Tech and Wisconsin recruited Threet hard, while Indiana, Illinois, Michigan State, North Carolina State and Mid-American Conference schools also showed interest.
In the end, Threet, who was rated the ninth-best quarterback recruit in the country by Rivals.com, said UM wanted him to wait a little longer before he made his choice. He chose Georgia Tech.
"I know the Threets were always Michigan fans. Stevie was always a Michigan fan," Jacobs said. "But they were looking for the best fit, first and foremost. They gave Georgia Tech a try."
Of course, Threet's tenure with the Yellow Jackets was over almost before it began.
He enrolled at Georgia Tech in January, 2007, and announced his transfer to UM in July.
"The coaches who recruited me were gone," Threet said of former Yellow Jackets offensive coordinator Patrick Nix. "They had brought in new coaches and it just didn't feel like the place for me."
Jacobs called himself "the communicator" between the Threets and UM, working to bring them together.
Per NCAA rules, Threet had to sit out the 2007 season because he transferred. He took in the games on the sidelines, watching as Chad Henne played his final season and Mallett filled in as his backup.
We all know what happened from there. Carr retired, UM replaced him with Rodriguez (and with Rodriguez came a totally new style of offense), and Mallett transferred to Arkansas.
Unless there's an upset or an injury in the coming weeks, it appears the prestige and pressure of being UM's starting quarterback will fall on Threet's shoulders.
"I was here last year and was able to talk to Chad quite a bit," Threet said. "I was able to be on the field and see what it's like. It was different because I was in street clothes, but it won't be completely new, either."
Here's what we know about UM's quarterbacking scenario as fall camp approaches Aug. 4.
Threet is 6-5 and 230 pounds with a strong right throwing arm, and was hotly sought after as a prep quarterback. Sheridan is 6-1 and about 200 pounds, is the son of a former UM assistant who now coaches with the New York Giants, and as of spring practice was not on scholarship.
In the Wolverines' spring scrimmage, which was open to the media, Threet took every single snap with what is widely regarded as the first team. Rodriguez said afterwards that Threet and Sheridan were still competing for the job, but it's hard to get around what was on display in the scrimmage.
There's also Feagin, a true dual threat from Florida who may be more suited to run Rodriguez's spread-option scheme, but the Wolverines' first practice in August will be Feagin's first as a college athlete. For him to start against Utah would be a remarkably quick transition, but it's not out of the question that Feagin could see some playing time early.
So with all of these variables, perhaps this is why Threet, who considers questions from reporters before giving answers, said the pressure of playing at the Big House hasn't hit him yet.
"There's more pressure on 'if' I'll be the quarterback," Threet said.
While some pundits anointed Feagin as the answer at quarterback by midseason, others point to 2009, when Rodriguez recruits like Kevin Newsome (Chesapeake, Va.) or Shavodrick Beaver (Wichita Falls, Texas) should be on campus.
Threet said he welcomes the immediate and future competition.
"If anything it helps just to make sure you know you've got to keep working," he said. "The last thing you want is to go into your freshman season complacent."
At the local chiropractor's office and pizza shop in and around Adrian, people are talking about Steven Threet.
They go up to Threet's parents and ask about their son, wondering how he's doing and if he's up to the challenge.
"My sister told me I need to get thicker skin," Pam said. "I'm proud of him no matter what he does."
Those who approach the Threets and inquire about their son are kind, but some bloggers, talk show hosts and magazine scribes haven't been as nice. They raise questions about Threet's lack of experience and ability to run Rodriguez's offense, and look forward to the days when Rodriguez's recruits take over.
But in Lenawee County, the talk is much more positive.
"This is a big deal," said Brian Phillips, 43, of Sand Creek, Mich., at the Fricker's in Adrian. "I work over at Merrilat Industries, and there are a lot of parents of kids who went to Adrian. This is all we've been talking about. Wait until August."
Another Adrian grad, Kellen Davis, starred as a tight end at Michigan State and was drafted in the fifth round by the Chicago Bears in April.
But this is different. This is a quarterback. This is Michigan.
"This is a big, big job he's hooked onto," said Denny Schar-
er, 53, of Sand Creek. "I hope he can fulfill everybody's expectations."
Contact Joe Vardon at:
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