Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh recaps Peach Bowl after the 41-15 loss to Florida on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Atlanta.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
When Michigan football was wrapping up spring practice overseas in 2017, the best skill player on a young offense was one of the youngest on the roster.
Tarik Black, a 6-foot-3 underrated receiver from Connecticut soared through the air, caught everything, routinely ran himself open and looked as close to a sure-fire thing as the Wolverines had at the time.
A lot can happen in two years.
And for Black, who suffered a broken bone in each foot over the past two seasons, the struggle has been beyond challenging.
“These past two years have been a tough ride,” Black said Saturday in Atlanta, standing near his locker after U-M’s disappointing loss in the Peach Bowl. “But I still thank God every day, allowing me to play the game again, man. It’s been fun. I love these boys, I love playing with these boys. As a team, we’ve just got to get better.
“We’ve just got to make the plays we’re supposed to make.”
And in the next breath, unprompted, Black spoke like a man who knows it’s time to make the most of every opportunity ahead.
“I can tell you, this ain’t happening again, man,” he said.
“This losing stuff,” he replied. “It ain’t happening again.”
Black, who stood between talented fellow talented receivers Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones, was asked if that meant he and his fellow pass-catchers were set to take over as leaders inside this program. His answer came quickly once again.
“Yes sir,” he said.
This was supposed to be his bounce-back season after his first broken foot injury robbed him of the final 10 games in 2017. But another injury, to the opposite foot, roughly a week before the start of the season brought all that to a halt.
Just days before the second injury, Black could barely contain his excitement during a conversation with reporters about how excited he was to get back on the field.
That was taken away, too.
Black talked Saturday about how all of this has given him a better perspective on football, how fleeting it is. And how important every opportunity becomes.
“I’ve just been working on not taking this for granted,” he said Saturday. “It’s been taken away from me (twice). I love it every time I get the chance to play.
“That’s what it is.”
None of this has been easy. And Saturday wasn’t either.
U-M was careful with Black’s reps when he ultimately returned to the lineup in the Penn State game at the start of November. Jim Harbaugh said the staff was limiting the type of routes Black was asked to run to be careful with his foot, taking all precautions to avoid a third setback.
He was limited again in the Peach Bowl on Saturday, as he finished with two receptions for 15 yards. He appeared to have a touchdown catch in the second half, but it was ultimately overturned.
Moving forward, if Black’s healthy, Michigan should have one of the most talented wide receiver trios in America next season – Black, Collins and Peoples-Jones will all be juniors. And they’ll all have the ability to make plays.
So long as U-M’s offensive staff allows for it.
“We know what type of playmaker he is,” assistant head coach Pep Hamilton said of Black earlier in the week.
Back in Italy in 2017, Black took time after a workout to explain the meaning of a tattoo he sported across his left forearm.
The ink depicted King Tutankhamun: The young king.
Free Press sports writer Nick Baumgardner breaks down what happened in Michigan football’s 41-15 loss to Florida in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 29, 2018.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
Black had aspirations of making a splash back then. Situations beyond his control severely limited those opportunities.
He is about to be an upperclassman now, though, and he knows he has to squeeze every drop out of what’s left in front of him.
“I feel good enough to play, ready to go out there,” Black said after the Peach Bowl. “The cards I was dealt wasn’t really that good of a hand. But you have to play the cards you’re given.
“So, you just come back next year and make sure that all this stuff we failed on we become successful at.”
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Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NickBaumgardner. Download our Wolverines Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!