Isaiah Gash never got recruited as heavily as some thought he should have during a standout football career at Bay Port.
He’s not being overlooked anymore.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound running back has spent the past three years as a walk-on for one of the best programs in the nation at the University of Michigan.
All his hard work paid off in another big way Monday morning, when Gash was informed by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh that he had earned a scholarship.
Harbaugh said plenty of nice things about Gash throughout the season, giving his pupil hope this moment could be on its way at some point.
The veteran coach had Gash come to his office for a meeting. He told him how much he loves the way he plays before giving him the good news.
“I mean, there is no greater feeling in the world,” Gash said. “I think my dad (former NFL player Sam Gash) kind of said in his tweet earlier, saying, ‘It feels like my dream is coming true.’”
After battling injuries his first two seasons with the Wolverines, Gash proved he can play at the highest level of college football as part of a star-studded running back room that includes All-American Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards.
Both Corum and Edwards rushed for more than 1,000 yards, but Gash made the most of his opportunities.
He rushed 19 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns this season, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
Gash’s first TD of his Michigan career was a big one against Hawaii in the second game of the season, when he busted through the line and found his way into the end zone for a 38-yard score despite a defender attempting to drag him down.
He finished that game with a career-high 48 yards. He scored another TD against Rutgers on Nov. 5 and added a career-high 24 receiving yards on three receptions against Illinois two weeks later while being named Michigan’s co-offensive player of the week.
Perhaps this was the way it always was supposed to be for Gash, who is Bay Port’s all-time leading rusher with 4,434 yards. He averaged 8 yards per carry with the Pirates, scored 75 rushing TDs and had a dominant senior season in which he rushed for 1,916 yards and 30 scores.
Despite the prodigious numbers, there weren’t many college programs that showed interest. Gash had some NCAA Division II offers, but his only DI opportunities were preferred walk-on offers from Michigan and Michigan State.
More than anything he wanted to prove he belonged. He never has been one to be content watching from the sideline.
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The success Gash enjoyed this season was even more gratifying after plenty of adversity early in his career.
He missed six months his freshman year after having surgery for a torn meniscus and then sustained a hamstring injury during his sophomore camp season and was out six weeks.
It took Gash a while to get acclimated to the speed of the game when he did get healthy. Players he faced at Bay Port weren’t quite as fast as the ones in the Big Ten.
But in the first week back from his pulled hamstring he was named scout player of the week on special teams for his role in helping Michigan prepare for Northern Illinois.
“I thought, ‘If I keep this up, hopefully, sometime soon I will get actual player of the week,'” Gash said. “Later in the season I started to realize that I’m starting to make some plays, starting to get the guys’ respect on the team.
“I still wasn’t 100% confident in my game, but once I came back this year and camp rolled around, I was like, ‘I’m giving my 100% everything.’ I started making more plays and making more plays and gaining confidence until I felt like I could compete with anyone.”
Before turning his attention full time to football, Gash explored other interests at Michigan.
After last season he was part of the club team for boxing from January through May, a sport he first got into as a senior at Bay Port.
Gash knocked down his opponent twice in the first 49 seconds of his debut in February, the second a knockout that earned him his first win. Gash went 6-0, although his collegiate boxing career is over now that he will be turning his entire focus to the gridiron.
There is still plenty for him to accomplish.
One of his big goals is to make the NFL like his father. Sam Gash spent 12 seasons playing fullback for the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens. He won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2000 and made the Pro Bowl two times.
Of course, that’s still a few years away.
Gash’s focus when he arrived at Michigan wasn’t even about a scholarship. He simply wanted to be the best player he could be and win a national championship, especially after losing in the WIAA Division 1 state title game in his final prep season in 2019.
The Wolverines have fallen painfully short the past two seasons, going 25-3 and winning two Big Ten championships but losing in the College Football Playoff national semifinals both times.
It includes a 51-45 loss to TCU on New Year’s Eve.
“I mean, I don’t think I will ever get over it, really,” Gash said. “I am always going to use it as fire to keep me hungry and keep me fueled for just wanting to do it again next year and not fall short again.”
The big question is whether Gash will be playing for Harbaugh or a different coach in 2023.
Harbaugh appeared close to being hired by the Minnesota Vikings last year before returning to Michigan, and there is interest again from NFL teams this offseason.
He is expected to interview with the Denver Broncos. Other teams such as the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts could be interested.
“At the end of the day, Coach Harbaugh is the one who brought me in,” Gash said. “I’ve never respected a head football coach more in my life. I think he’s a great guy, a great football coach. The same with the running back coach, Coach (Mike) Hart.
“I obviously really appreciate them. But at the end of the day, I understand if they want to leave. I don’t want them to leave, but if they do, I’m just going to keep working hard and keep playing my game.”