Football has evolved into a game where celebrations are symbolic, honoring the hard work of athletes with personal sideline props within the football program. Some programs refer to the props as turnover chains. A turnover chain is given to a player that makes an effort leading to a turnover or huge play on defense. Once the player returns to the sideline, his teammates will celebrate their hard work with a personal prop within the program. The symbolic tokens have become a trend across the college football world, as more and more teams have introduced their unique props.
The University of Miami pioneered one of the fastest growing college traditions in 2017 with the introduction of the famous “Turnover Chain” in 2017.
Since 2017, other college football programs have institutionalized their own version of a “Turnover Chain.” Oregon State’s chainsaw, Tennessee’s trash can, and Ball State’s belt have all been established since the debut of the Miami tradition in 2017.
But what about Eastern Michigan? No chains? No crowns? Not even a belt? Nope. The Eagles have the “Wrench.”
But Eastern Michigan wants to make one thing very clear: the Wrench is NOT a turnover chain.
The Wrench can be seen on the shoulder of the leading player to run out of the tunnel on game days. It can also be spotted on the sidelines. The Wrench’s symbolization is greater than a simple "turnover chain."
Coach Creighton first arrived in Ypsilanti, Michigan as the new Head Coach of the Eastern Michigan football team in 2013. During that time, Rynearson Stadium was renovated as “The Factory” featured with gray turf and a new identity.
The renovation revolved around the blue-collar history of Ypsilanti and the program's desire to translate the tough culture at Rynearson Stadium. The essence of “The Factory” carried over into the establishment of a new symbol for the team: a 51-pound pipe-wrench.
“Long before there was ever a turnover chain, we had the wrench. It is the symbol of our program,” Creighton said.
The Wrench was manufactured by Rigid Tools, an industrial-equipment manufacturing company located in Strongsville, Ohio. In 2013, former Graduate-Assistant offensive-line coach, Tony Neymier, went to the company himself and asked about creating a personalized wrench for Coach Creighton and the Eastern Michigan football program. Neymier was directed to the owner of the company, who then provided a tour of the company while the creation of The Wrench took place.
“The President gave us the 51-pound pipe wrench once the tour was over,” Creighton said.
The Wrench represents the hard-working, blue collar mentality. The idea stemmed from Coach Creighton realization of not only the team’s identity, but Ypsilanti, Michigan’s identity.
“There’s a toughness that comes with blue collar people,” Creighton said.
Michigan has a deep history in the manufacturing industry which is responsible for the blue collar environment throughout Southeast Michigan. The program’s desire to symbolize that toughness surrounding Rynearson Stadium resulted in a gray field, ‘The Factory’ nickname, and 51-pound pipe wrench.
The second aspect of the Wrench is constant improvement to “close the gap.”
The team's mission the first year with Creighton at the helm was to “close the gap.” The gap refers to the distance between where you are at and where you can be, your potential. The deep meaning relates to the two vices on the pipe-wrench that you can gradually close as you push, symbolizing that “close the gap” mission.
The final aspect of the Wrench responds to adversity.
Every year, Creighton sets the tone for the program's culture with a scene from Good Will Hunting. In the scene, Matt Damon discusses his abusive father and poor living conditions his character was raised in. He describes three items his father would make him chooses from, a wrench, stick, and a belt. Damon’s character says, “Give me the wrench.” The decision of enduring more pain than taking the easy way out, encapsulates Head Coach Creighton's toughness and rigidness he plans to instill within the program.
“In this program we know that there’s going to be adversity and we’re not going to run away from it. We are going to face it, fight it, and defeat it and say “give me the wrench,” Creighton said.
Every game-day the team runs out of the tunnel led by a player wielding the Wrench onto the field. The player who carries out the Wrench differs every week, but the overall message of grit is always the same.
“It may be somebody who’s going through adversity, has overcome adversity, or it may be someone who needs encouragement,” Creighton said.
The Wrench has brought Eastern Michigan’s football program back to where it once was and that’s winning. A 51-pound pipe wrench: the heart and soul of this football program.