Guest post: why the Michigan MAC Trophy matters
Khalid Walton is a former collegiate student-athlete for EMU. He was a former four-year starter for the football team (’03-’07). Khalid is still involved with the program through the E-Gridiron Group. He brings a players’ and spectators’ perspective to Eagle Totem.
Eagle Totem’s very own, Carter Adler, posted an article about the irrelevance of the Michigan MAC Trophy. Being a former player of EMU football, I beg to differ. It’s more relevant than one outside looking in may think.
Here’s a little bit of my journey with the Michigan MAC Trophy.
During my freshman year at EMU, I was a spectator on the sidelines. As the season progressed and we approached game week against CMU or WMU, I noticed a particular level of intensity. Those weeks were different from the others. I didn’t quite understand why, but that changed the following year.
In 2004 — my redshirt freshman year — I experienced beating both Western and Central Michigan in nail-biting games. At WMU, Matt Bohnet threw about a 40 yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to a diving A.J. Bennett. At Ford Field against CMU, going into quadruple overtime. The fans were going back and forth to end zones, the forced fumble by Kevin Howe to end the game, and students rushing the field. After the CMU game, my outlook on intrastate games changed. While traveling back on the bus, I saw how stoked the seniors were. Years of struggling against CMU and WMU finally ended victoriously for them. This was the beginning of my appreciation for beating our interstate rivals.
In my years to follow, we beat CMU in two of the next three meetings — all games being won less than seven points. As for Western, we beat them one more time. Since the inaugural year of the Michigan MAC trophy, EMU has retained it four times, two times out-right. I had the privilege of beating them both in 2007.
Prior to my freshman year — before the trophy, EMU failed to compete with the interstate schools. I believe that the 2004 wins started a new era for EMU and the importance of interstate games. We broke the tradition of being the worst MAC school in Michigan and being the school that Western and Central crapped on every year. Outside the goals of being bowl eligible and playing at Ford Field for the MAC Championship, we vowed to make sure that we beat CMU and WMU. We carried the attitude of the Michigan and Ohio State rivalry, “Never lose to those guys”. Those games were now being circled with great emphasis. The Michigan MAC trophy added extra incentive for us — something to bring home after the victory and then protect.
When I see that trophy, every memory of those games during my years is brought to vision. I remember the big plays, the enjoyment of winning. I remember the hard fought battles in the trenches. I remember bringing it back on the bus after our win in Mount Pleasant in 2007. This is why winning the Michigan MAC trophy is relevant. It’s more than a just a glass trophy to the players, coaches, and all involved with the program. The trophy holds memories. Everyone one involved can share the same experience. It represents success and symbolizes accomplishment.
Yes, I would love to see EMU go to a bowl game or MAC Championship and win it. Eagle Nation is trying to break the old stigmas, and keeping the Michigan MAC trophy in Ypsilanti is the start.