NEW ORLEANS -- When Michigan players learned they'd be traveling to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl, their immediate reaction was to bombard teammate Drew Dileo with phone calls and text messages requesting restaurant and entertainment recommendations.
His response disappointed them.
"Technically, I'm from Baton Rouge," Dileo said Thursday. "I've only been here a few times."
New Orleans is about 90 minutes from where Dileo grew up in Greenwell Springs, La., but on this week, it certainly feels like home. After two years of living in Michigan and enduring inconsistent weather, homesickness, and indulging in what he calls bland food, the sophomore receiver feels "incredible" to return to the state he left two years ago.
About 50 of Dileo's family, friends, and high school teammates will file into the Superdome on Tuesday to watch the Wolverines square off against Virginia Tech, and there's no telling how Dileo might affect the game. A budding fan favorite, he carved out a niche role this season, catching nine passes from the slot position and executing two fake field goals as the holder. Not bad for a guy who was considered by some to be a reach in recruiting and who stands at least two inches shorter than his listed height of 5-foot-10.
"It's something I really could only dream about and now it's actually coming true," Dileo said. "I played in the Superdome twice in high school in two state championships. Seeing the Allstate Sugar Bowl banner was kind of surreal. Now that I'm playing for that Allstate Sugar Bowl, it's fun."
Not surprisingly, Dileo grew up rooting for LSU, the local team. He also was drawn to Michigan because he liked its winged helmet. Whenever he'd take on his friends in football video games, he'd play with the Wolverines. However, Dileo never figured he'd play for the Wolverines.
"Definitely not," he said. "It was kind of ironic when [running backs] coach Fred Jackson gave me a scholarship offer here."
It seemed to be a perfect marriage. Initially, it wasn't. Dileo got homesick "all the time."
"My first year I came in the summer and those first couple months were awful," he said. "Getting used to the food, getting used to having decent weather in the summer where I could actually breathe. Really, being away from my family and my grandparents and stuff like that was hard, but I'm getting used to it now."
Playing for Parkview Baptist, Dileo was 1-1 in games played at the Superdome. As a sophomore, he was named MVP of the state championship yet he didn't score a touchdown. As a senior, his team lost. Again, he was kept out of the end zone. Does he plan to buck that trend?
"Hopefully," Dileo responded.
HEININGER HOPEFUL: Even though Will Heininger has a sprained foot requiring him to wear a boot, Michigan's senior defensive lineman isn't ruling out his availability.
"I'd love to play," he said. "If there's anyway I can play, I'm going to play."
Michigan coach Brady Hoke considers Heininger questionable.
Whether he plays or not, Heininger's career is probably over after Tuesday. The top senior scholar on the team, he has a job lined up at Morning Star in Chicago handling investments. Long term, Heininger would like to own a sports team -- preferably football, but maybe baseball.
ANOTHER VT KICKER SUSPENDED: Virginia Tech suspended its second kicker since the end of the regular season Wednesday, sending fifth-year senior Tyler Weiss home for missing a 1 a.m. curfew. Weiss was expected to replace Cody Journell who was suspended last week after his arrest on felony breaking-and-entering charges. Now, the Hokies will likely turn to senior Justin Myer, the team's kickoff specialist, to handle place kicking.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160, or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.
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