How Michigan’s Mimi Bolden-Morris went from Muck City water girl to graduate assistant coach
At the edge of the Florida Everglades, the black soil of Muck City is known for producing two things: football players and sugar cane.
The small communities of Pahokee and Belle Glade have a reputation for producing more NFL players per capita than any other region in the country. The place has inspired books, documentaries and the dreams of countless kids trying to be Muck City’s next All-American.
In that fertile soil, a seed took root. It started on Saturdays as parents gathered to watch Muck City’s next generation of football stars play youth league football. The coach, a former offensive lineman at Florida State, had a son on the team. The field was full of promising young players, but the real show happened at halftime, when the kid passing out water picked up a football and stepped onto the field.
As the crowd looked on in amazement, the kid started firing passes to the coach: 10 yards at first, then 20, all the way out to 50 or 60. Even as the ball stung his hands, the coach knew that, unlike his son and the other boys on the team, this player wouldn’t have the chance to become a football star. There would be no Friday night lights and no football offers, and one day he’d have to explain why.
The player was his daughter.
“At that time, there were no girls allowed,” Mike Morris Sr. said. “You could have been on a team as a kicker, but for a young lady to play quarterback, it was never heard of. I didn’t want her to have to go through that kind of stress.”
One day last month, Mimi Bolden-Morris slid behind a desk inside Schembechler Hall, pausing for a few moments before her next staff meeting. She’s come a long way since those Saturdays on the youth league fields of Muck City. Though she never played a snap in high school or college, her football career is just taking off.
When she started at Michigan, Bolden-Morris told the players they could call her Mimi, the nickname she’s had since she was a kid. Her mother prefers Milan, her given name. Around Schembechler Hall, she goes by something else.
“I don’t mind them calling me Mimi,” she said. “To me, it’s personable. Their response is always, ‘No, you’re my coach, so I’m going to call you coach.’”
As a first-year graduate assistant, Bolden-Morris is believed to be the first woman to hold that position in the Big Ten and the second at a Power 5 football program, following in the footsteps of Georgia Tech’s Carol White. Her parents, Mike Sr. and Melanie Bolden-Morris, have the rare privilege of rooting for a son and a daughter on the same college football team: Milan as a GA, Mike Jr. as a starting defensive end for the No. 3 Wolverines.