Michigan fullback Kevin Dudley carries himself quite well on the field. It s a good thing.
Dudley rarely carries the football for the Wolverines.
He has appeared in 27 career games, making 15 starts. But he has just two rushing attempts totaling 11 yards. That s right, two. Dudley also has one catch for nine yards.
Don t get nervous. There s no need to worry.
Dudley isn t selfish. He isn t a stats freak. He doesn t care about carries or catches. Until this season, he had gone three years without a carry, although he did manage to get his hands on three receptions for 29 yards.
The only two things Dudley wanted to accomplish in his final season in Ann Arbor was carry the ball at least once - which he has already done - and score a touchdown.
This summer, he sought out coach Lloyd Carr in an attempt to strike a deal that would allow him to score a TD. Carr has yet to sign off on it, leaving the fifth-year senior in limbo.
I refuse to make that promise, Carr said, laughing.
Carr, though, realizes just how important Dudley is to the makeup of his team, which is 2-1 after beating San Diego State 24-21 Saturday.
He's a great leader, Carr said. And I think everybody appreciates what Dudley brings to this football team.
Although UM s running game has been erratic this season, Dudley has gone about his business of blocking. And he s having a ball - even if he doesn t get to carry it.
I don t say I don t want the ball - it doesn t matter to me, said Dudley, a former star tailback at Franklin County High School in Brookville, Ind., where he rushed for 3,296 yards and 45 touchdowns in his career. I m just trying to help our team achieve its goals. The coaches know what s best. If it takes not carrying the ball, that s fine, as long as we re winning.
Everybody wants to be the guy in the spotlight, but it doesn t really matter to me.
Whether I m getting the all or not, I will do my job. I will block.
Left guard David Baas, Michigan s Mr. Tough Guy, softens when talking about Dudley, who doubled as a linebacker in high school.
He s got the meanness, the toughness, of an offensive lineman, Baas said. Kevin Dudley is very important to our success. The fullback in our offense doesn t have a high-profile job, but he sticks his nose in there and gets those blocks.
A year ago, Dudley (6-1, 236) helped open holes for Chris Perry.
Perry finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, won the Doak Walker Award as the nation s top running back, was team MVP and Big Ten offensive player of the year. He rushed for 1,589 yards and scored 17 touchdowns.
Dudley s unselfish play has not gone unnoticed.
He s more athletic than he seems, running backs coach Fred Jackson said. He s a tremendous football player, a tremendous blocker.
When Dudley hits opposing players, he does so with great force. He plows into them, submarines them. And usually, they buckle.
Basically, I put my head down and stun the opponent, he said, and then I get my hands on him. Ideally, I like to knock them off their feet.
While working out with some of his Michigan his teammates this summer, Dudley had a dream that he scored the winning touchdown against hated rival Ohio State. But as the days wore on, his desire to score a TD diminished, relative to the more important team
goal of repeating as Big Ten champions.
You re either believe you re playing for a cause greater than yourself or you struggle to live up to all the selfish personal goals, Dudley said.
Perhaps, with a little luck, Dudley could achieve both goals - helping the Wolverines win the Big Ten and scoring a touchdown.
It s not out of the realm of possibility.
I desperately want to score a touchdown, he said. If it s one-yard or 25 yards, some way I m going to get there. I m going to score a touchdown.