ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan wide receiver Darryl Stonum is glad coach Rich Rodriguez didn't give up on him after he was sentenced for drunken driving and spent three days in jail in June for violating terms of his probation.
The 21st-ranked Wolverines are thankful he's making the most of his opportunity.
As Michigan prepares for Saturday's game at home against Bowling Green, Stonum leads the team with 12 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns and is its top kickoff returner.
"It was a rough journey, but we all learn from our mistakes," he said. "I thank coach Rod, he stayed with me, didn't give up on me and gave me a chance to prove that I matured and grew up."
Rodriguez said Stonum is flourishing on the field because his choices have improved away from it.
"I certainly think it's related," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes when a guy messes up, everybody wants to throw him out to the wolves. I understand it sometimes because you get frustrated when guys mess up.
"But it's pleasing I'm sure to our fans, it is certainly for the coaches, when you see a guy grow and mature. I'm dealing with guys 17 or 18 that sometimes make bad decisions. Sometimes they grow up and they just get it. I think Darryl, hopefully, gets it."
Michigan will be looking for improvement on defense after a lackluster performance last week against Massachusetts, giving up 217 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and 222 yards and two touchdowns through the air in a 42-37 win.
The Wolverines (3-0) might have a chance to gain confidence when Bowling Green (1-2) has the ball. Aaron Pankratz or Trent Hurley will be a first-time starter in place of quarterback Matt Schilz, who left last week's win against Marshall with a shoulder injury.
Falcons coach Dave Clawson is trying to convince his players that they can compete.
"We're going to take the approach that it's a once-a-year shot on a very, very big stage in front of a lot of people," Clawson said. "We need to make the most of the opportunity."
Bryan Wright is taking advantage of a chance to kick field goals for Bowling Green, where he is in graduate school after being used as a kickoff specialist last season at Michigan. He's looking forward to being back at the Big House — for the first time as a visitor.
"It's going to be very exciting and very emotional," Wright said.
For Stonum, it's been a been a climb to success.
He was a freshman when he was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and driving with a suspended license on Sept. 28, 2008. Rodriguez suspended him for one game for violating team rules and didn't start him in the next game.
He was sentenced in April 2009 to a year of probation for driving while impaired. He ended up in the Washtenaw County jail from June 4-7 because he didn't provide random preliminary breath tests, failed to complete a 10-day work program and didn't report to his probation officer.
"It's a dark moment in my life," Stonum said. "I want to get rid of it, get past it and look ahead to the future."
Stonum, who is from Stafford, Texas, keeps pieces from his past with him every day. He wears maize and blue LiveStrong-like wristbands on both arms he earned for attending offseason workouts, and a red, ponytail holder he hasn't taken off his wrist since it was given to him in the ninth grade.
Silly Bandz, though, aren't part of his fashion statement.
"Those break too easily," Stonum said.