That Time A Young Matt Leinart Passed Out At Rick's -- And Then Almost Went To Michigan

“It was really close for Michigan," Leinart said.

Will Burchfield
May 07, 2020 - 11:41 am
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You're Matt Leinart, you're 17 years old and you're 'wasted' at Rick's. You pass out on a table. A bunch of football players pick you up and carry you home. 

The next day, you land a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan. 

Not bad, huh. 

That's the Cliff Notes version of Leinart's trip to Michigan's football camp back in 2000. At the time, the Califonia kid and future Heisman winner wasn't so sure about USC. The Trojans were a .500 team and their coaching staff was soon to be fired. Carson Palmer was already entrenched at QB, Pete Carroll hadn't yet arrived. 

So Leinart was considering other schools, like Michigan and Oklahoma. He crossed the Sooners off the list almost as soon as he visited Norman. Then he visited Ann Arbor for Michigan's recruiting camp, and college football history was nearly altered forever. 

"Michigan was recruiting me really hard at the time, and they would only offer me a scholarship if they saw me throw in person," Leinart said on a recent episode of the Ryen Russillo podcast. "They had a week-long camp they did every summer and they treated me pretty well there."

So did some of the guys on the team. That included the older brother of Leinart's best friend, who lived in an off-campus house with future NFL'ers like Dave Terrell, Bennie Joppru and Dave Petruziello. So while most of the campers stayed in the dorms, Leinart stayed with the boys. 

"Just bunch of good dudes, like eight dudes in a house," Leinart said. "“We got wasted every day -- and I was 17 years old. I remember going to the camp two days in a row hungover and I’m like, ‘Dude, what am I doing? I’m gonna piss away this opportunity.’

"One night we went to Rick’s Cafe. Any Michigan alum will know what I’m talking about. It was just their bar, their on-campus, off-campus bar. All the football guys ran that place. And I'll never forget, I got so wasted. I was at a table, I passed out right there, this 17-year-old kid, this big-time recruit trying to get a scholarship. They had to carry me out of Rick's Café.”

The next day -- or maybe the day after that, it's all a little blurry -- Leinart had to throw in front of Lloyd Carr and the Michigan coaching staff. John Navarre, who was coming off his redshirt season, threw alongside him. 

"In the Big House, which was pretty sick, with some of the top receivers at that camp. And I threw pretty well," Leinart said. "Lloyd Carr brought me up to his office and ended up offering me a scholarship that day.

"But man, I’ll tell you what, that’s still to this day the most fun I had. The Michigan trip was a lot more fun than the Oklahoma trip, just because I knew guys there as well."

Leinart left Ann Arbor with the sense he might return for four years. 

“It was really close for Michigan," he said. "I don’t think, now, looking back, I would have ever left home. I just couldn’t do it. But I remember having a conversation with my mom and telling her, 'I really love Michigan. It would fit me.’

"And I’ll never forget, she just broke down in tears. She was like, ‘You’ll never make it there.’ I almost gave her a heart attack, she just did not want me to leave. A lot of it was because I was her baby, and a lot of was she just knew I couldn’t last."

Yeah, sounds like Rick's would have gotten the best of him. 

Instead, Leinart and USC got the best of Michigan in the 2003 Rose Bowl, with Leinart being named MVP. He finished with a record of 37-2 record over three years as the starter, then went 10th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft.