Michael Dwumfour’s mentions blew up.
It was expected. After all, the three-star defensive tackle announced his decommitment from Penn State and commitment to Michigan within a matter of hours, and it was just more than a week away from National Signing Day.
He had strangers tell him that he didn’t belong at Penn State. Others told him that he would go to Michigan for two years, ride the bench and transfer to a junior college. The De Paul Catholic (NJ) prospect got tweets that he was only a pawn for Michigan to get to his childhood friend and No. 1 recruit Rashan Gary.
Dwumfour saw the ugly faces of an intra-division recruiting battle. It would be natural if it bothered the high school senior.
“Nah, man. I love it,” Dwumfour said. “I’ve been the underdog my whole life so it’s nothing new to me. I’m used to proving people wrong.”
Dwumfour likened the criticism to that of a professional athlete. Above all else, it’s fuel. In fact, he put his favorite hate tweet as his Twitter background:
— ILove State (@muffley10) January 25, 2016
It’s those words that will stick with Dwumfour when he gets on campus this summer. The path to reuniting with Gary in Ann Arbor and playing for one of the most high-profile programs in the country wasn’t a straight one.
Michigan was where Dwumfour always hoped he would end up. It just took a little longer than expected for that to become a possibility.
“Why [the Michigan offer] came after the season, I can’t really answer that,” Dwumfour said. “When I knew that they were going to offer me and knowing that was my dream school, I told my head coach that I was most likely going to flip to Michigan.”
Still, he waited until he took his official visits to both schools to finalize that decision. Dwumfour had been committed to Penn State since June and he didn’t want to make a switch until he went to State College one more time.
The Penn State coaching staff knew the competition it was up against. According to Dwumfour, the Lions poked fun at Jim Harbaugh’s recruiting techniques.
That didn’t sit well.
“When I was at Penn State, I heard jokes about Harbaugh and stuff like that,” Dwumfour said. “In the back of my head, I’m thinking ‘What he’s doing is working, obviously. Instead of criticizing him, you might want to take some of his techniques to try and help yourself out and get some recruits.’”
Harbaugh’s first of several recruiting sleepovers was at the house of then-Penn State commit and No. 1 kicker Quinn Nordin. He, of course, also flipped to Michigan.
James Franklin said on National Signing Day that Penn State wanted to be “creative, not creepy,” which was considered by many as a shot at Harbaugh’s tactics.
But none of those tactics were going to make the difference in Gary’s recruitment. Dwumfour had a front-row seat to all of that. The two grew up together and played alongside one another their first two years on the defensive line at Scotch-Plains Fanwood High School. That is, until Dwumfour quit football.
As a junior, Dwumfour picked the sport back up, but he and Gary both transferred to different schools. Dwumfour went to De Paul Catholic and Gary went to Paramus Catholic, though they still lived minutes apart and stayed in touch.
Dwumfour knew that Michigan was Gary’s top choice throughout the process. A late push from the national-runner up, however, put their eighth-grade dream of playing together in jeopardy.
“When he went to Clemson, I was a little scared,” Dwumfour said. “The day after he came back, he told me that Clemson was going to be in his final decision. I was a little hesitant.
“But when he pulled the hat out and I saw the ‘M’ I was just really, really excited.”
What was the determining factor in Gary choosing Michigan? The New Jersey connection, Dwumfour believes.
With Gary’s commitment, Michigan got its sixth New Jersey recruit in the 2016 class alone. It’s no secret that Jim Harbaugh’s staff dominated the Garden State.
Michigan linebackers coach Chris Partridge has been the driving force behind the New Jersey movement. Before joining Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan, the 2016 Scout National Recruiter of the Year was the head coach at Paramus Catholic, which produced both Gary and five-star sensation Jabrill Peppers.
The idea of following Peppers — who Dwumfour said New Jersey kids consider the best high school player ever in the state — and Partridge to Michigan made for the perfect storm.
On top of that, there’s the Harbaugh factor.
Michigan’s “Signing of the Stars” event yielded varying opinions. Some weren’t fans of the spectacle, which featured the likes of Tom Brady, Derek Jeter and Lou Holtz. Michigan’s incoming class certainly enjoyed it.
Dwumfour couldn’t be in attendance for the signing day fun, but Michigan early enrollee and De Paul Catholic teammate Kareem Walker got the full experience. He FaceTimed Dwumfour afterwards and told him about all the celebrities he got to meet.
Does stuff like that impact recruits?
Absolutely, Dwumfour said.
“You can criticize the man all you want,” he said of Harbaugh, “but to do what he’s done so far, he gets the job done.”
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That’ll be Dwumfour’s focus when he gets to Ann Arbor this summer. He knows he’s not one of the four- or five-star true freshmen that will surround him. He’s inspired by guys like Willie Henry, who was also a three-star defensive tackle recruit when he arrived at Michigan. He turned out to be the only Wolverine to leave early for the NFL in 2016.
His spot figures to be filled by Gary. If Dwumfour has it his way, it won’t be long before he and his reunited partner in crime will be dominating B1G offensive lines.
And if everyone in Ann Arbor has it their way, it won’t be long before the New Jersey movement helps the Wolverines get back on top.
“Michigan is the place to be right now,” Dwumfour said. “I think we’re going to win a national championship very soon. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”