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Published: 9/5/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Toussaint calls arrest, suspension 'educational'

Running back reflects on missing Alabama game

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR -- In a matter of minutes, Fitzgerald Toussaint learned about his own character.

When he ran a red light in Ann Arbor early on a Saturday morning in July, he didn't realize the impact that one decision could make on him and on his status with the Michigan football program. When he was pulled over by the police, that's when he realized everything was about to change.

"It was definitely an educational experience," said Toussaint, a tailback for the Wolverines. "Guys my age, they think they know everything until they get in trouble. That day got me. It really showed me a lot of things about my character.

"I made a bad decision. I let my team down. I wasn't trustworthy. I wasn't accountable."

Toussaint wouldn't elaborate on the details of the morning of July 21, when he was arrested in Ann Arbor on a charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Tuesday at Schembechler Hall, the junior spoke to the media for the first time this fall about his suspension from the team and his preparation for returning to the lineup.

"It was tough," Toussaint said of the last six weeks. "I let my team down and I let my family down. I've been trying to build back everything."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke announced Monday that Toussaint and Frank Clark, who has a hearing Tuesday on a second-degree felony charge of home invasion, were reinstated for Saturday's game against Air Force at Michigan Stadium.

Toussaint missed the first week of preseason practices after his arrest, but Hoke announced Aug. 12 that Toussaint and Clark would rejoin the Wolverines for practices.

Four days before last Saturday's season opener against Alabama, Toussaint pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle while visibly impaired -- a lesser charge than the original citation of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The day before a 41-14 loss to Alabama, Hoke said in a statement that Toussaint and Clark would not travel to Texas for the season opener.

"It wasn't a surprise," Toussaint said of the suspension. "I kind of knew I messed up, and I was ready to face the consequences."

Since his return, has Toussaint refocused his energy?

"He's always been a hard worker, no matter what the circumstances are," cornerback J.T. Floyd said prior to the season opener against Alabama. "He's been a guy that's always came in, worked his tail off, and gave everything he had."

While Toussaint is listed as Michigan's No. 1 running back on the depth chart against Air Force, neither Hoke nor offensive coordinator Al Borges would say whether a decision has been made to start Toussaint.

"I'm going to go out there every day and work, day by day, to try to earn it back," Toussaint said.

Likewise, neither Borges nor Hoke would commit to saying if Toussaint would have been a factor in the run game in last weekend's 41-14 loss to Alabama, in which the Wolverines ran for only 69 yards on 29 carries -- Vincent Smith led Michigan with 33 yards on 13 carries. Last season, Toussaint had a breakout season, running for 1,041 yards on 187 carries, with nine touchdowns.

"We've got another back," Borges said. "We'll see how it goes during the week but it's good to have him back. We'll see how we want to play him now."

But last weekend, Toussaint said the hardest thing for him was watching the Wolverines struggle against Alabama. At the home of Bacari Alexander, an assistant coach with the men's basketball team, he said he became emotional while watching the Crimson Tide manhandle the Wolverines.

Because of one decision, there was nothing Toussaint could do to help his team that night.

"It was tough," Toussaint said. "I was emotional. I'd let my team down.

"I wished I was out there, playing with them."

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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