About an hour before Michigan opened up the season against Appalachian State on Saturday, Michigan announced that wide receiver Devin Funchess had decided to change his number to No. 1 after wearing No. 87 last season. Although this number change represents his third number change in three years at Michigan, Funchess stated that while he was honored to have worn the number 87, he now wanted the follow the path of the great receivers before him.
“It was an incredible honor to be selected to wear the number 87 Legends Jersey in honor of Ron Kramer.” said Funchess. “I spoke with his son, Kurt, and many of my teammates before I decided to change my number and they were all unbelievably supportive. Ron Kramer was the best tight end in Michigan history, and I think his number should be worn by someone playing that position. Moving strictly to wide receiver, I watched a lot of Michigan greats over the off-season and kept seeing receivers wearing number 1 making plays, from Anthony Carter to Derrick Alexander, David Terrell and Braylon Edwards, and I wanted to carry on another Michigan tradition this season.”
According to head coach Brady Hoke, Funchess has earned the right to wear the legendary No. 1 jersey.
“The young man asked me about it, and I said that’s fine,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke in his post-game press conference on Saturday. “I said call a member of the Kramer family, ask them, and that’s what he did. Ron Kramer may have been the best player ever to play here, best athlete ever to play here.
“So he talked to Kurt, his son, and Devin being more of a wide receiver, obviously, he thought that’s what he wanted to do. And believe me I asked him who has worn No. 1, and he started with Anthony Carter and went down the list, so I think that he earned it.”
Even though the Wolverines are only one game into the season, I think it is safe to say that Funchess lived up to the expectations that comes with wearing the iconic jersey at Michigan. Finishing the game with seven receptions for 95 yards and three touchdowns, Funchess became first receiver in Michigan history to have three touchdown receptions in a season opener, while he and quarterback Devin Gardner put on a lofty show that basically shut down the visiting Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Now, don’t get me wrong because I know one great game against a mediocre team doesn’t officially make Funchess worthy of wearing the No. 1 jersey because as you know wearing the iconic No. 1 jersey at Michigan comes with great responsibility and expectations.
However that doesn’t change the fact that Funchess is on the right course to achieving greatness like the former Michigan legends, Derrick Alexander, Anthony Carter and Braylon Edwards did before him. If you think I am exaggerating, keep in mind that Gardner made an even bolder and confident statement about his fellow teammate during Monday’s media presser.
“[Funchess] can probably be the best receiver to ever play here,” Gardner said at his media presser.
One reporter replied, “That’s a pretty big statement,” to which the quarterback asserted, “Yeah, it is.” while grinning.
I don’t know about you but I’m inclined to agree with Gardner. At 6-foot-5 and 236-pounds, Funchess already has great size and when you combine that with his great athletic ability, soft hands and under the radar speed and strength, the sky is the limit for this young man.
One of the things, I like most about Funchess, is the fact that he isn’t a one trick pony. Sometimes when you see players with Funchess’s height, size and skill set, they become known as a one trick pony, who is known for either being only red-zone threat or the player you just throw the ball up to and allow to go up and go get it.
While Funchess certainly does represent those two identities, he doesn’t allow those two things to be the only identities that represents him. In fact, I think the best way to identify Funchess is as a pure play-maker. If you go back to his film against Appalachian State, you will see that Funchess makes play all over the field, showing and proving that he knows how to score in a number of ways.
When it comes to being a red-zone threat or being the guy you throw it up to, there is no doubt that Funchess has the athleticism and hands to make the big plays in the air while also being bracketed in double coverage. That much was made clear, during his third touchdown in Michigan’s win over Appalachian State, when he made an amazing catch in the back of the end-zone while being covered by two Mountaineer defenders.
Then on the flip side, Funchess also showed that he can create after the catch and even score the touchdown without already being in the end-zone. During his second touchdown of the game, Funchess did a great job creating separation and ultimately getting open in the middle of field. However, what was even more impressive was the fact that he stiff-armed a defender in the open field to get in the endzone, once again proving that he can create after the catch and get in the endzone.
Then if that’s not enough, throughout the game, Funchess was constantly helping the Wolverines to move the chains. Once again showing that he didn’t need to be in end-zone or thirty yards down the field to make a play and that he is more than capable of making the short catch and making plays with his amazing athleticism and speed while still helping his team to succeed.
Plus you have to remember, that Funchess doesn’t only have the size, hands, athleticism, speed and power that already make him a force to be reckoned with but he also has the versatility to play the wide receiver or tight end position. I know he may be playing receiver this season, but for those who don’t remember Funchess also played tight end for his first two years with the Wolverines. If you ask me, he is more than capable of making playing either position when he gets to the next level, once again making him that much more lethal.
It’s because of those great qualities above that coach Hoke stated that Funchess had “earned” the right to wear the No. 1 jersey and why Gardner made the bold statement that Funchess “can probably be the best receiver to ever play” at Michigan.
As I said before, wearing the iconic No. 1 jersey at Michigan comes with great responsibility and expectations. Although Funchess has plenty to learn and plenty accomplish before joining the list of team legends such as Derrick Alexander, Anthony Carter and Braylon Edwards who also wore the No. 1 jersey. I still firmly believe Funchess is on the right course to becoming something special and possibly the best receiver to play at Michigan so far.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
For more of L-Beasley’s (Lauren Beasley) sports news and in-depth sports content, click here.