Fairfield grad playing big role for Wolverines

Fairfield High School football coach Jason Krause isn’t surprised to see that former player Erick All is finding a bigger role in the University of Michigan’s passing game.

The junior tight end who graduated from Fairfield in 2019 is the Wolverines’ second-leading receiving in his first season starting full-time after beginning his career in more of a special teams and blocking role. He was Krause’s top receiver as a senior in 2018, as the Indians made the playoffs for a fourth straight year.

As a growing piece of Michigan’s offense, All could be front and center this weekend in the biggest game of the regular season. Michigan (10-1, 7-1 Big Ten) hosts Ohio State (10-1, 8-0 Big Ten) on Saturday, seeing its first win against its rivals since 2011. The Wolverines can capture a share of the East Division title with a victory and reach the conference championship game for the first time.

“He’s one of the hardest working kids I ever coached,” Krause said. “He brings that same intensity to what he’s done at Michigan. He started his career as a guy that was a great blocker, but he’s been involved now in different sets, backfield, in-line… They use him in a lot of different ways, but now he’s more of a threat in the passing game and obviously has the ability to catch, so it’s good to see him finding bigger roles and to see him doing well.”

All has come a long way since his time at Fairfield, where he began his career as a wide receiver. He was a first-team All-Greater Miami Conference pick as a junior in 2017, recording 336 yards and three touchdowns on 26 catches, and made the switch to tight end that offseason.

He ranked as the 22nd best tight end prospect in the nation, according to 247Sports.com, at the time he committed to Michigan going into his senior season. He lived up to the hype. All finished with 30 catches for 465 yards and four touchdowns in 2018 to earn another All-GMC nod.

After graduating early to get a head start at Michigan, he contributed right away as a freshman, though mainly on special teams. He played in all 11 games in 2019, including limited time at tight end in eight of those. Last year, in the pandemic-shortened season, he played in all six games with two starts and caught 12 passes for 82 yards but struggled at times with drops.

This season, All has become a sure-fire target, catching 31 passes for 324 yards and one touchdown, and no other player besides wide receiver Cornelius Johnson has more than 20 receptions.

“He’s got a great skill set for that position,” Krause said. “First thing that stands out is his physicality. He’s always been physical. He was 220 pounds for us, but to play the trenches in the Big Ten, you’ve got to get down and dirty, blocking those defensive ends and grappling inside linebackers in the Big Ten.”

All notched his first career touchdown reception for Michigan on Nov. 13. It was a big one. Despite entering the day unsure if he would even play because of an ankle injury that sidelined him against Indiana, All reeled in the game-winning touchdown to lift the Wolverines past Penn State, 21-17, and keep them in the hunt for a Big Ten championship.

All caught a pass at the line of scrimmage and took it to the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown with 3:29 left to play. He had injured his ankle in the Oct. 30 game against Michigan State when he had a career-high 98 yards on 10 catches.

“He tweaked his ankle against Michigan State, then came back against Penn State, and I don’t know if he was 100 percent but he showed his toughness and played in that game and had a huge catch for the game-winner with about three-and-a-half minutes left,” Krause said. “He plays through whatever he has to and that’s not going to keep him from helping his team when they need him.”

Krause said he and All regularly keep in touch, usually talking a few times a week. All was on the sidelines for Fairfield’s win over Lakota East on Oct. 15 when Michigan had a bye.

The 11-year Fairfield coach tries to keep up with all of his former players still in the game. Krause said he has never really been a fan of any particular college team, though most prep coaches in Ohio follow the Buckeyes to some extent. He just enjoys watching his former players and whatever games are on TV.

“On Saturday, I’m going to be a Michigan fan,” Krause said. “I would love to see Erick All and his teammates playing in the Big Ten championship game the following weekend.”