Bay Area native turned Michigan Wolverine enjoys homecoming

- The Michigan football team gets a break from school, but they're still working. 

It's not how most student athletes envision their spring break, but the Wolverines are on a business trip, away from the freezing temperatures back home in Ann Arbor.

"You can't beat this weather," said offensive lineman Mason Cole. "It's 75 degrees, it's a little cloudy today, but 75 degrees and sunny, you can't beat that."

For Cole, an East Lake High School alum, this is much more than business trip. It's a homecoming.

"Yeah, it's great to be close to home and everything," said Cole. "It's just exciting to be down here, to have the whole team down here."

"It feels like home even though I'm a hour and a half or whatever it is away from home. Yeah, I'm excited about this whole experience and excited about... I think [East Lake] Coach [Bob] Hudson is coming tomorrow, so it will be good," he added.

"He was excited to go back home just like when we went down to play at the Citrus Bowl," said Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno. "He's proud to be from the state of Florida and he should be. This is a very nice place. He's a good teammate, he really is."

For the Wolverines, it's starting where it all ended last year -- in Florida.

Michigan was in Orlando for the Citrus Bowl in January. Now they're in Bradenton to kick off the 2016 season. It's where Michigan hopes to start the journey to a championship season.

"I think it's great," said Cole. "I think just being down here and we're rooming with six guys a piece so just mixing people and being all down here together as a team... It's something that no other team in the country is doing. It just makes us that much better and that much closer to winning a Big 10 championship and a national championship."

Jim Harbaugh is going into his second season as the Wolverines head man. While the idea of spending part of their spring practice away from Ann Arbor has some peers frustrated, players like Cole say this trip is about building a program.

"One thing he wants is us to get closer as a team. That's what we've been doing, just activities together and staying close with each other," Cole said. "Just being down here and leaving off where we left off in January and just going from there. You can only go up and who knows what the limit is. Just keep going from there and seeing where it takes us."

Right now, it takes the Wolverines to Bradenton. This beginning could lead them to back to Tampa when the city hosts the College Football Playoff National Championship next January.

For fans interested in seeing the Wolverines, Michigan is holding an open practice Friday, March 4 from 5 to 9 p.m.

Parking for Michigan practice Friday opens at 3 p.m. and gates to IMG Academy Field open at 4 p.m.

Officials ask fans not to bring: firearms, knives or other sharp objects, weapons, explosives, drugs, alcohol, tobacco products, grills, open flames, and noisemakers. They are all prohibited at Friday's open practice.

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