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The Man Behind the Mask
AUSTIN MURPHY
November 20, 2006
As he leads No. 2 Michigan into its showdown with No. 1 Ohio State, coach Lloyd Carr remains a private man who's loyal, literate and, would you believe, funny?
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November 20, 2006

The Man Behind The Mask

As he leads No. 2 Michigan into its showdown with No. 1 Ohio State, coach Lloyd Carr remains a private man who's loyal, literate and, would you believe, funny?

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"He's got a kind heart," adds Chris Graham, a junior linebacker.

"The guy you see on the sideline--that's not what you're getting, day to day," says Ball State coach Brady Hoke, for seven years a Michigan assistant under Carr.

"People ask me all the time if Coach Carr ever smiles," says Woodley. Deep down, the Wolverines insist, their coach is very funny.

Examples, please.

"There's the M&M story," says Jeff Backus, a former Wolverines offensive lineman who played his last snap for the Wolverines in 2000. About six years ago an unknown Michigan player poured a large bowl of M&Ms into the soft-ice-cream dispenser at the team's cafeteria.

The result, alas, was not ice cream with M&Ms but a broken machine and an irate coach. Carr's demand that the culprit turn himself in was met with silence.

So the coach became a kind of Inspector Javert, obsessively pursuing the perpetrator. "For years afterward," says Backus, now a tackle for the Detroit Lions, "even after I left, he would stop meetings and start interrogating people. He'd swear he was going to find out who did it, and when he did, he was gonna bust their ass. It always cracked people up."

Carr didn't care about the ice cream. Well, maybe he cared a little. Maybe having a small swirl cone in the evening after two-a-days provided a tiny grace note for his day. The point is, he saw the comic potential of the situation, and mined it.

Then there is the Lone Ranger incident. During two-a-days before the 2004 season, Carr treated the squad to several clips from the old TV series, after which a man dressed as the Lone Ranger strode into the room. "He had it all going on," recalls former All-America wideout Braylon Edwards, "the cowboy hat, the black mask, the badge, the silver Smith & Wesson." After noting the great chemistry between the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Carr handed out silver bullets to the players, then left the stage. All the time he was in costume, says Edwards, now with the Cleveland Browns, "he never broke character. He played that role to a T."

So, the mysterious contents of Fort Schembechler include, apparently, a chest in which Carr stores his many costumes. Perhaps it resides near the dictionary outside his office. Before entering Carr's quarters, players are strongly encouraged to look up a new word and jot down its definition on one of the index cards provided for that purpose. Once inside, they discuss the word with Carr and, if possible, use it in a sentence. On a day he was tardy for a meeting, Hart looked up punctual, then sought to defuse the coach's anger by discussing the importance of punctuality.

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