I wonder if this kid would have been recruited in the last 40 years at UM? I'm guessing not. Of course, Chris Henry and Pacman Jones did play for Rich Rod at WVA.
When Michigan sophomore receiver Justin Feagin was kicked off the team in July, coach Rich Rodriguez said only it was “for a violation of team rules.”
But the Free Press has learned that there is much more to the story.
Feagin’s downfall started with a cocaine deal, detailed in U-M Department of Public Safety police reports. The coke deal ended with a U-M dorm room on fire, a fellow student headed for jail and Feagin back home in Florida.
Feagin came to Michigan as part of Rodriguez’s first recruiting class. He has admitted to dealing drugs and being arrested twice (for battery and trespass) when he was in high school, according to police reports.
Feagin arrived in Ann Arbor hoping to earn the starting quarterback job. Instead, he floundered on the field and struggled off of it.
After one year on campus, Feagin ended up getting kicked off the team, apparently for his role in the cocaine deal. ESPN has reported that he plans to transfer to a school known mostly for its 2007 upset of U-M: Appalachian State.
And the tale begins...
Justin Feagin was no stranger to drugs, or to run-ins with the law.
“I have admitted to people I know that I used to sell drugs in Florida,” Feagin told investigators, according to police reports the Free Press obtained under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.
Feagin told police that he also had been arrested for battery and trespass “on two different occasions” in Florida and that “nothing ever came of either situation,” according to U-M Department of Public Safety police records the Free Press obtained. He also told police that he “had a problem with some guys at Studio 4 (in Ann Arbor) over some girls. There was a fight and the police were called.”
Feagin said he had not sold drugs in Michigan. But fellow student T.J. Burke, who had met Feagin through Michigan walk-on receiver Ricky Reyes, told police “it was common knowledge that Feagin sold marijuana” and that Feagin “hung out at our house lots of times smoking pot.”
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Feagin, a 20-year-old from Deerfield Beach, Fla., had arrived on campus in the summer of 2008, hoping to compete for Michigan’s starting quarterback job.
In Feagin’s first semester on campus, he and Burke hatched a plan for a cocaine deal.
“I was talking to him one day about how broke I was and somehow this idea came forward,” Burke told police. “I had heard about Feagin possibly making deals for people but never witnessed anything firsthand.”
Feagin told investigators that “when I first started going to (Burke’s) house he had three big jars of weed up in his room. … One day T.J. was talking to me about some illegal stuff. He was under a lot of pressure because of his financial problems.
“I told him that I knew someone who could get him some cocaine. A few days later he asked me if I had talked to the person yet. I called right then and set up a deal.”
Feagin arranged to send $600 to a friend in Florida, whom he identified only as “Tragic.” In exchange, “Tragic” would send an ounce of cocaine to Ann Arbor.
Reached on his cell phone Sunday, Feagin told the Free Press, “I have no comment.” Burke declined to comment in person last week and could not be reached Sunday.
But as Feagin and Burke described the deal to police, Burke provided Feagin with the money and would give him another $600 to send to Florida after the cocaine arrived.
But the coke never made it to Ann Arbor. And as time passed, Burke got angrier and angrier at Feagin, until he finally decided to do something about it.
Struggles on the field
Justin Feagin told police the original cocaine deal had happened “sometime before Thanksgiving 2008.” That was right around the end of a disappointing freshman season for Feagin.
He was one of the last players to join Rich Rodriguez’s first recruiting class. His statistics at American Heritage High were outstanding. He had rushed for 1,313 yards on 160 carries and scored 25 touchdowns, completed 91 of 151 passes for 1,420 yards, 19 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He finished third in Florida’s Mr. Football voting, and Florida is annually one of the most talent-rich states in the country.
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Yet according to Rivals.com, Feagin had taken only two official visits by late January 2008: to Rutgers and Syracuse.
Rodriguez swooped in late and recruited Feagin. U-M’s presumptive 2008 starter, Ryan Mallett, had transferred to Arkansas, and the remaining quarterbacks were not considered ideal fits for Rodriguez’s spread-option offense.
Feagin visited the Ann Arbor campus on Feb. 1 and signed with the Wolverines on National Signing Day five days later. The coaching staff and U-M fans hoped Feagin would come in and compete for the starting quarterback job.
But when Feagin arrived for fall practice, he injured his shoulder and struggled to grasp the playbook. He did not play in a game until Nov. 1, then only on special teams. He was used in special running quarterback situations the last month of the season. For most of the year, Feagin moved back and forth between slot receiver and quarterback.
In a statement Sunday, Rodriguez said: “I dismissed Justin Feagin the moment that I was provided information contrary to our team policies.”
Practice for the new season starts Monday.
A time to take action
“I wasn’t going to become a drug dealer,” T.J. Burke told investigators. “I just needed to make some cash to get by. I was hoping to make a few hundred dollars.”
Burke, a 26-year-old from Macomb Township, was desperate. He told police he had “been in trouble a few times” — after getting caught with marijuana in high school and for driving under the influence when he was in the Navy. He told police he had helped a housemate start a mushroom-growing operation in their off-campus house, but he did not make any money off of it. One housemate had called the cops after Burke threatened to beat him up. His housemates had accused him of stealing a ring and a watch.
“I don’t have any close friends,” Burke told police.
Burke hoped his cocaine deal with Feagin would change his financial outlook. Instead, he was out 600 bucks. Burke told police that he made threats toward Feagin, that he “called him lots of times and sent him text messages.”
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“Feagin and his cousin then made threats toward me,” Burke said.
Police said Feagin told them “Tragic” was “like a cousin.”
On the night of March 25, Burke told police, he got drunk, filled a plastic bottle with gas and “planned on starting a little fire near his door in order to scare him.”
The fire, set in the vicinity of Feagin’s dorm room in West Quad’s Adams House on March 26, was extinguished by sprinklers. It did not result in any injuries or extensive damage.
But the fire did trigger a campus crime alert and prompted a four-month search for the arsonist.
Burke’s housemates suspected him almost immediately. They were sure he was the man in surveillance photos distributed by police.
Ricky Reyes — who was Burke’s housemate, a walk-on receiver for U-M and the man who introduced Burke to Feagin — told police he “immediately recognized the photo as T.J. Burke.” But Reyes said he did not tell police, even after they came to his door with a flyer, “because we are friends and I did not want to get him in trouble.”
Reyes also said, “I know the problem between T.J. and Feagin was about money. I don’t want to talk about what the money was for.”
On July 21, another of Burke’s housemates, Austin Schaff, called police to say the man in the photo looked like Burke. In an interview that day, Schaff told police about the failed drug deal between Burke and Feagin.
Two days later, police went to Schembechler Hall at approximately 4:40 p.m. to interview Feagin. He was taken to U-M’s Department of Public Safety, where he described the cocaine deal.
That evening, Rodriguez kicked Feagin off the Michigan football team.
Last Wednesday, in Ann Arbor District Court, T.J. Burke pleaded guilty to a felony arson charge and agreed to pay U-M $14,213. He will be sentenced Sept.?16 and faces up to 10 years in prison.
By the time Burke pleaded guilty, Justin Feagin was already back in Florida, a former Wolverine.
Sports writer Mark Snyder contributed to this report. Contact M.L. ELRICK: 313-222-6582 or firstname.lastname@example.org
. Contact MICHAEL ROSENBERG: 313-222-6052 or email@example.com
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