Editor's note: Catching Up With is a periodic series in which WolverineNation will interview past Michigan players about their playing days and what they're up to now. This installment features former running back Butch Woolfolk.
Butch Woolfolk (1978-81) was Michigan's all-time leading rusher (3,861 yards) when he finished school. During the 1980 season, Woolfolk, then a junior, helped lead Michigan to Bo Schembechler's first Rose Bowl victory. Woolfolk was named the MVP of the game after rushing for 182 yards and a touchdown.
In his final year, he helped the Wolverines finish 8-3 before winning the BlueBonnet Bowl and being named MVP. He also was named the MVP of the 1981 team -- a group that had five All-Americans (Woolfolk, Kurt Becker, Ed Muransky, William "Bubba" Paris and Anthony Carter).
Following graduation, Woolfolk was drafted by the New York Giants in the first round of the NFL draft. He played seven years in the NFL and moved from New York to Houston to Detroit.
Woolfolk lives outside of Houston with his wife, Regina. They have two sons, Jarrel and Troy. Troy is a senior cornerback for the Wolverines.
Q: What have you been up to since you graduated from the University of Michigan?
BW: I played seven years in the NFL and then I retired because of a career ending injury in my knee. I got into entrepreneurial opportunities, and I own several businesses. I've just been living in the Houston area where both my boys were born and raised. I've been married 28 years to my wife, Regina, and we're empty nesters now. Living life wonderfully as empty nesters.
Q: And how is life as an empty nester?
BW: It's great, the whole house is quiet. We don't even go upstairs, that's where the
boys were. Our bedroom is downstairs so the house is just extremely quiet, and we love it.
Q: How is life in Houston?
BW: I got traded from the New York Giants to the Houston Oilers in 1985, and then I kind of made this my home since 1985 because my boys were born here. So it just kind of became home.
Q: Were you excited at the prospect of little football players when you had two boys?
BW: Yeah, I thought I was gonna have a football player, but I wasn't so sure that I wanted him to play football. People kind of gravitate to certain sports, and I started pushing my oldest son, (Tarrel), into football, but I did not do that with Troy.
Q: How did your sons' football in Texas differ from your childhood football in New Jersey?
BW: Well, it was very different. The most obvious thing is they had spring ball in Texas, and they start practicing around May. They do four or five weeks of practice. In New Jersey, when I was growing up, it was, 'Football season ends, and I'll see you in July when football season starts up again.' There was no offseason practice. Now they have spring football in Texas and they have 7-on-7 which follows that, so it's almost year-round. It's so intense down here in Texas, there's so much talent everywhere. It's just amazing. New Jersey was a good school in terms of a lot of talent and ability, but nothing like Texas.
Q: Are you still in touch with any of your teammates from Michigan?
BW: Yes, I stay up with Stan Edwards, Braylon Edwards' dad. He and I were in the backfield together. I stay with him when I come to some of the games up there.
Q: Do people ever recognize you in Ann Arbor?
BW: Not at all, not at all. If I go into that stadium with 100,000 people I would say probably 85 percent of those people were not born when I played there. So, they don't know me. I had one kid, about two years ago, he says,'Mr. Woolfolk, Mr. Woolfolk, can you come here for a second?' I turned around and he says, 'Can you get me Troy's autograph?' I was like, 'Shoot, it's all about Troy now. I'm a has-been, I'm a name that they've probably read somewhere in the program, but I'm just Troy's dad.'
Q: What's your best memory from your time in Ann Arbor?
BW: That's an easy one. Winning Bo Schembechler's first Rose Bowl. I think he was on the record for losing several Rose Bowls out there, and the pressure was on him really badly. And we went out there with a dynamite team and beat Washington, and I was the Rose Bowl MVP. At the time, Bryant Gumbel was working with the "Today" show. So they woke us up at like 4 in the morning to drive to Burbank studios in a limo to be interviewed by Bryant Gumbel on the "Today" show, and I was in the back of the limo with Bo and he was smoking on a cigar, very much enjoying his victory. That to me is the most memorable thing, to have been there with Bo and to help him win his first Rose Bowl. I think we wound up No. 3 or 4 in the country that year.
Q: What was the greatest lesson Bo left you with?
BW: Just integrity. When you're with a coach that does the right thing all the time and would never sway away from doing the right thing, you think at that time, that a lot of people are like that, that the world is like that. Then you get away from someone who has been so influential in your life and you realize that it's such a rare breed, that the world is full of liars and cheaters and manipulators. But with my four years at Michigan, I was there with an honorable guy, a good guy, an honest guy, a guy full of integrity, and you miss that in life. I wish there were more people around like that. He didn't always do that right thing, but his intentions were always right. He was such a good guy.
Q: Stepping away from the fact Troy is on the team this year, what are your expectations for this 2011 squad?
BW: I'm very biased, I have to qualify that. I think with grandiose ideas, we've got 12 games, I don't know why we can't go 10-2. I don't see why we cannot win 10 games this year. Again, qualified by saying that I'm very optimistic, I believe in Michigan football, and I believe that they're gonna be a top 10 team, and they're gonna win 10 games. I believe in our coaching staff, I believe in Coach [Brady] Hoke. I believe this is Michigan football, the return to Michigan football, and that we'll win games that we probably should not have won because they believe they're going to. In the past, they didn't believe it.
Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.