Amid a series of standard questions and scripted responses on Tuesday afternoon at Schembechler Hall, fullback Ben Mason paused and looked up.
After a brief moment of confusion, he turned around to see his quarterback, Shea Patterson, distracting him from a balcony above. The normally stoic Mason cracked a laugh as he shouted back, ?sup, Shea!?
Naturally, a reporter asked about his relationship with his new quarterback.
?You just saw it,? Mason said. ?He?s a funny guy, everyone on the team likes him.?
Minutes later, as Patterson worked through his own media availability, Mason returned the favor, raining heckles down on Patterson.
In mere seconds of interaction, the bond between Patterson and his teammates is clear. It?s also clear when Patterson interacts with them off camera, or on campus, when he walks ? or mopeds ? around Ann Arbor with colleagues.
All of that is normal.
Except that it?s not ? not for a kid who was living on the other side of the country a year ago, playing for a different coaching staff, and attending a different school.
Watching Patterson?s natural charisma, it?s easy to forget that he?s in the early stages of just his second semester at Michigan. Even Patterson himself sometimes forgets it.
Tight end Zach Gentry quickly became one of Patterson?s best friends, helping ease the transition last winter. Wide receiver Grant Perry helped him adjust to Michigan as the only teammate in Patterson?s first class. He even gained a rapport with kicker Quinn Nordin, whom he shared a locker with in the spring.
?Really, everybody was pretty welcoming and encouraging to me,? Patterson said.
?All those guys are really good dudes and comfortable to be around.?
There are reminders that he hasn?t exactly been here forever. The home opener at Michigan Stadium brought back memories of tailgates as a child rather than of donning the maize and blue last season. He?s still never played a competitive down with some of his teammates, namely Tarik Black. And Saturday?s matchup with Nebraska will be his first ever Big Ten game.
But in the locker room, you wouldn?t be able to tell.
?(My teammates) have done a really good job of making me feel comfortable right when I came here,? Patterson said. ?So I?ve been able to get pretty close with a lot of the guys. It?s truly a brotherhood that I?m proud to be a part of.?
Perhaps most importantly, especially for a quarterback, that comfort manifests itself on the field. It gives Patterson the trust he needs to find Zach Gentry on a seam as he?s being speared into the turf, or to throw a contested fade to Donovan Peoples-Jones in the end zone.
?I think as a whole offense,? Patterson said, ?we?ve just come together and learned how to really trust each other and have faith in each other. And just play together.?
And it shows in the results. Through three weeks, Harbaugh has reiterated his pleasure with a lack of offensive penalties, a sign of solid chemistry and communication within the unit.
While the defense has been mistake-ridden at times, Patterson?s offense has just one delay of game and one false start.
It?s a reversal of roles for a defense that was anticipated to be among the nation?s best and an offense that teetered over the edge of unwatchable far too often a year ago. For that, it has Patterson ? and his speedy adaptation to Michigan ? to thank.
?As far as comfort level, I?ve never been this comfortable in a system as with this team and these coaches.?
Yes, those are the words of a kid who lived in Oxford, Mississippi nine months ago. Even if it?s easy to forget.