ATLANTA, GA. — For five Michigan fans – four of them freshmen in Ann Arbor – the road to the Final Four in Atlanta has definitely been the road less traveled.
The crew headed out around 3:30 a.m. Saturday from Ann Arbor.
It was smooth sailing until they got near Loudon, Tennessee on Interstate 75.
“All of a sudden a car swerves, brakes squeal, hits us,” Jesse Kelley says. “Next thing we know, we’re going in the ditch.”
A hit-and-run – more than 500 miles from home and almost 200 from Atlanta.
Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but the dreams of seeing Michigan play for a shot at a national title were seemingly crushed.
“I’m thinking, ‘Man, we’re not gonna make it to the Final Four,” Dylan Koschtial says. “There goes the best opportunity we’ve had in a long time.'”
The teens stood on the side of the road, dressed in Michigan garb, hoping for a miracle.
That’s when Rick Dzurnak and Ken McHenry – two good Wolverine Samaritans – saw their school colors off in the distance.
“We’re going through Tennessee and the traffic slows down,” McHenry says. “We’re driving by, the cop car has the lights going, and we see maize and blue coming up the road, off the embankment.”
“We’re standing there in our maize and blue shirts,” Logan Hansen says, “and here comes this RV with the window rolled down and they’re like, ‘You need a ride?'”
“We weren’t gonna turn it down,” Kelley says, “and the sheriff’s like, ‘Do you know these guys?'”
“The only thing we said was, ‘They’re wearing blue and maize, so we trust them.'”
“I saw the U of M colors. I pulled over,” Rick Dzurnak says. “Threw all their stuff in there, so we have a full boat here with seven people. We can hold eight, so if anyone else needs a ride back, come on over!”
You’d have to wait for that ride back until Tuesday.
“We were not planning on staying,” Hansen says, “but here we are.”
Michigan plays Louisville around 9:35 p.m. EST Monday for the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.