ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- As Michigan was being beaten soundly against Alabama on Saturday night, one of the players who might have been able to help the most could do nothing but stare at the television screen.
Michigan redshirt junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint said he became emotional watching his team against the Crimson Tide from afar, put in that position because he was suspended for the first game Friday following a drunken driving arrest on July 21.
He pleaded guilty to Operating While Visibly Impaired on Aug. 28.
“I definitely was emotional,” Toussaint said in his first public comments since the arrest. “It was tough. I let my team down and I wish I was out there to play with them.”
Instead, he watched the game from the home of Michigan assistant basketball coach Bacari Alexander, who had invited the running back over as a sign of support after Michigan football coach Brady Hoke suspended him for the season opener.
Hoke told Toussaint earlier that week he wouldn’t be making the trip. The Youngstown, Ohio, native had figured that might happen.
“It was tough,” Toussaint said. “I respect the coaches’ decision but I feel like I let my team down and taking things day by day to improve on that.”
Toussaint blew a .12 blood alcohol level after being pulled over on July 21 on South Forest in Ann Arbor. He was arrested that night and suspended indefinitely the following week. Hoke also held Toussaint, who gained 1,041 yards last season, out of the first week of practice.
The player pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of Operating While Visibly Impaired the Tuesday leading up to the Alabama game. The second he was arrested, though, he knew what he had done.
“I made a bad decision,” Toussaint said. “I let my team down. I wasn’t accountable and I wasn’t trustworthy.”
What meant the most, Toussaint said, was the support he received from his teammates. He singled out senior quarterback and captain Denard Robinson as someone whom he leaned on the most. Robinson, he said, would check in on him often and along with captain Jordan Kovacs go to his house.
Now, though, Toussaint is back, although his role as a starter is still in question. On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Al Borges wouldn’t commit to his best running back from last season being his starting running back on Saturday against Air Force.
“We’re going to see how they do. We don’t want to just put him in there and you’re the starter,” Borges said. “I don’t think that’s fair to the other guys. So we’ll go this week and see how it works out and make a decision. I’m not sure.”
Without Toussaint, Michigan rushed for 69 yards on 29 carries against Alabama.
While Toussaint is happy to be back on the field, he also knows he made a mistake. That’s what he took from the entire incident.
“It was definitely an educational experience,” Toussaint said. “Guys like me, they feel like they know everything up until they get in trouble.
“That day brought a lot of things to me and showed me a lot about my character.”