September 5, 2012

'I Love You Denard' Viral Video Creator Has Michigan Lacrosse Background

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

College students across the country returned to campuses in the last week or two — for those not on the quarter system — which means fall lacrosse is right around the corner. But it also means college football is upon us, and there was no shortage of exciting games on the opening weekend slate. (The Labor Day holiday came at a perfect time, didn't it?)

The most anticipated matchup of Week 1? The showdown in Big D, where No. 2 Alabama and No. 8 Michigan kicked off at Cowboys Stadium. The outcome was a bit of a letdown, as the reigning national champions rolled over the maize and blue, 41-14.

But that didn't make the buildup to Saturday any less exciting, thanks in part to former Michigan club lacrosse player Pat Stansik's hilarious "I Love You Denard" music video that went viral last week — it was the talk of the college football landscape.

Stansik, a 2011 Michigan alum who played on the Wolverines' club team after transferring from Bucknell, where he played two seasons, said he had a "crazy" week that included a story in USA Today and interview on ESPNU. Lacrosse Magazine also caught up with him.

Stansik — tough to type his last name without thinking 'Stanwick' — has an assortment of other popular, comedic sketches and music videos on YouTube. Connect with Stansik on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Where did you get the idea for the song?

The first clip in the video where Denard takes off against Notre Dame as a sophomore, that game gave me the idea to do the song. I started writing it then. I knew what I wanted the sound to be, and I had a couple lines written so I knew what I wanted the chorus to be, but there wasn't enough material. Denard's whole career has fallen at this really weird time in Michigan football history. The Lloyd Carr era was pretty much the same thing every year — we would literally get a 4- or 5-star quarterback every year, and they would start for a couple years each, and then the next one would come in. It was a factory. But then came Rich Rodriguez and now Brady Hoke, which gave me more to work with. So after Denard's junior year and before this season, I had maybe three-quarters of the song written. I sat down and knocked it out. Then I got together with this band one of my roommates is in, Mind's Eyes, and I had them record the audio. We released the song on Valentine's Day. It took off from there, at least locally. It has about 70,000 views with the audio alone on YouTube. Right away I thought we needed to make a music video with it. I thought, 'This could really take off with visuals.' I started filming it in late July, and it was a two-day shoot. I started editing gradually, as I was working on a few other projects. I really started finalizing it the last couple weeks. I decided to release it on Monday night of game week.

My whole mindset then was, 'I have to have Denard in it, or else I'm not going to make it.' When I drew up the idea for it, I didn't think it would work without him. Denard basically ended up not being able to do it. But it ended up for the best, because it makes the whole stalker-creepy vibe better — the character I'm playing is so much weirder. But it's a very catchy song; I wanted to write something people could sing along to. I was glad I could put together a video that did the song justice.

Did you think it would be this big?

With this one especially, that was the goal. It has done well. The storyline for the video can appeal to anyone, because it's the over-the-top fan who's way too emotionally invested in his favorite player. From a story perspective, it's funny, and it just needed to be acted out visually. But in terms of expectations, I was really hoping it would take off and go viral.

It's weird, because I wanted to make it to pay homage to Denard. But it's also geared toward Michigan fans, so there are a lot of things that the general college football fan or non-sports fans might not get. There are certain cameos by people Michigan fans recognize, but others wouldn't. There's the guy who's shaking his head and pointing his finger at the camera — he's nicknamed 'Face Palm Guy,' because during the Notre Dame under-the-lights game, the camera focused on him and he made the same motion and now everyone recognizes him. There's a popular Michigan football blog called MGoBlog.com, and a lot of the video's choices targeted that audience, including those nuggets. Overall, I really wanted to make something for Michigan fans.

When I transferred to Michigan, I didn't factor in the school's alumni base at all. People from Michigan have helped spread the word of my videos, and it's amazing because there are so many Michigan fans. I didn't realize that when I first transferred, but now as a Michigan alum, people associate that with me, which is unreal. That has been huge. The University of Michigan has posted this on their Facebook page, which has almost 500,000 likes. I never thought that would happen. Between the things I learned from the other videos I made, and how I released them, and with such a great, huge fanbase, I had an idea it could take off, but it is definitely doing really well.

How different has your life been since the video released?

Pat Stansik, creator of the "I Love Denard" video that made YouTube rounds last week, is a former Michigan club team player who also played for two seasons at Bucknell.
Image courtesy of Pat Stansik

It's definitely been one of the craziest weeks of my life. It came out Monday night, and right away I got an interview request from the ESPNU night show called 'UNITE,' which was awesome. That was my first TV interview I've ever done. It's gotten gradually bigger. Honestly, it's kind of gone how I envisioned it going, but in the best possible way. It was featured in USA Today, but it's also on sites like totalfratmove.com, so it has hit a lot of demographics. I went out the other night with a bunch of my friends, since it was my buddy's birthday. People would recognize me when I was out in Ann Arbor from time to time, because of my other videos. But the other night, all sorts of people were coming up to me and telling me they liked the video. It's just cool to be recognized. I still don't think I'll ever get used to that.

How did you get into making videos?

The internet came along at a great time for me — it's almost perfect for what I'm trying to do. Before I knew how to make movies, I wrote a lot of articles. I wrote a lot for collegehumor.com, but nothing ever really took off. I did that as a release from lacrosse. I would wake up at 5 a.m. for a 6 a.m. lift and be doing stuff all day, and instead of studying for class at night like I was supposed to I would write an article. I also had a blog with my friends from Michigan, and it was how we would keep in touch. I got really, really into it. I became a business major during my sophomore year at Bucknell — looking back, I couldn't even begin to tell you how that happened. I had to take economics and accounting, and I absolutely hated it. It was the worst time of my life. I was failing all of my classes, and lacrosse was not going well, so my only release was trying to make all of my friends laugh. On this blog that eight of us read and no one else knew about. That was where my interest in humor took off, and from there it was just a matter of learning the technical process of learning how to write scripts and turn them into videos.

When I first transferred to Michigan, I took entry-level film classes on editing and started putting stuff on YouTube. I joined the staff of an Onion-like parody satirical newspaper on campus called 'The Every Three Weekly' at Michigan, and I started making videos with them. Those were the first comedy videos I made. That's how I learned a lot about making videos, what works and what doesn't.

Tell me about your background in lacrosse.

I started playing in eighth grade. My brother played, and I looked up to him. I was a big football and hockey player, so right away I loved the physicality of lacrosse. I had no stick skills whatsoever. I never had a left hand, even at the end of college. A clean, open-field lacrosse check — to me, there's nothing better than that. That was what hooked me on the game. I started for three years on varsity at Pioneer High in Ann Arbor. I really wanted to go to Bucknell — that was my goal — mostly because my brother played there. I made an All-Star team at one of the last camps I went to, and that's kind of what got coach [Frank] Fedorjaka interested in me. My senior year, I visited and loved it. I committed in the fall of my senior year, which sounds crazy nowadays with how early most kids are committing.

At Bucknell, I had a really great freshman year. I came in and was blown away by how good everyone was. I kind of got by on natural talent in high school, and was shocked at Bucknell. I really had to work hard to be competitive. By the end of my freshman year I had lost a ton of weight and gotten in really good shape, and I started getting into all the aspects of being a good lacrosse player. My sophomore year didn't go according to plan, and that was really frustrating. I put a lot of time into training; I was one of the hardest workers, but when I look back now it's obvious I wasn't focusing on the right things. I definitely wasn't the hardest worker on the right stuff at the right time. I was on the man-down unit, and then I lost my spot, and I got stuck behind some younger kids. By the end of the fall of my junior year, I wasn't sure I wanted to be the guy who just cheered and didn't play. Around that same time, my interest in making videos and doing other stuff was really starting to pique.

So you transferred to Michigan?

I transferred to Michigan as a last resort. I was at Bucknell, and I was stuck down on the depth chart and I wasn't playing much, and really late in my college career I realized, 'Oh man, I have to graduate.' I always knew I wanted to make videos and music and tell stories, from the end of high school; I just didn't know how people did it. Toward the end of college, it was the fall of my junior year at Bucknell — the last possible time you can transfer — I thought, 'I can't really graduate from here and not know how to make videos.' But I also didn't want to go to grad school for it. So I decided to transfer to Michigan because it was the only choice for me. I'm from Ann Arbor, my friends went there, I liked the football team. It was a completely different school than Bucknell, which is a small, liberal arts school in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania.

You ended up playing for Michigan's club lacrosse team?

It was funny because I left Bucknell thinking I would never play lacrosse again. I wanted to focus on my career, and I didn't think I needed to play a sport. But I decided to train for a marathon during my first year at Michigan, and at the end of the race, all I could think about was, 'I need to start playing lacrosse again. I need to play next year.' I missed being on a team with a bunch of guys. Making videos is great — it's an awesome feeling to start with nothing but a basic idea and turn that into something tangible that people from all over the world can watch. But at the same time, being on a team with everyone working together toward a common goal is a whole different feeling. I missed everything that wasn't lacrosse, more than the game itself. That was a twist for me. I needed that team-bonding, and I had a blast. Playing for coach [John] Paul was amazing. It was great for me; it was the last year of Michigan being a club team, so we were basically treated like a Division I varsity program, and we got all the hook-ups and were treated nicely, but we were still a club team, so the commitment wasn't as great. I was still able to devote a lot of time to videos and enjoying my last year of college. At Bucknell, instead of doing my work, I would write funny stuff to get away from it all. At Michigan, I actually had balance — playing sports but also being able to do other stuff.

One of the coolest things I got to do at Michigan: I blogged for Inside Lacrosse, and I did video blogs too. It was awesome. Basically I just made them for the team. It ended up being something I put a lot of time into, and I wanted to make them as good as I could. I shot it on a FlipCam in between drills at practice and brought it everywhere I went for the off-the-field stuff. I had a lot of fun making those.

And you still follow lacrosse closely today?

After graduation, in terms of the sport, I've gone to the Vail Lacrosse Shootout the past two years. I played last year, but I broke my ankle playing pick-up basketball at my gym, so I went to Vail but didn't play this year. I still follow Michigan lacrosse pretty heavily; I follow Bucknell a lot too. I love watching the sport. The way I grew up — sports were always my first love. I loved competing. I loved being able to see progress. Which is a lot different than writing, because a lot of times you're working really hard on an idea and it just doesn't work. It's really hard to get amped up about sitting in front of a computer and knowing that you have to turn a blank text document into a video. It's a lot more technical and cerebral.

What would Denard Robinson be like on a lacrosse field?

He's recognized more around Ann Arbor after his videos earned him a certain amount of celebrity, but Stansik is still trying to find a more stable job.
Image courtesy of Pat Stansik

Scary. I would not want to guard him, I can tell you that much. Back in high school, you would always hear people saying, 'Oh yeah, so and so had offers to play Division I football somewhere.' But you never really knew if it was a scholarship offer, or just an offer to be a preferred walk-on. But more and more kids are turning down legitimate Division I football offers to play lacrosse. The caliber and quality of athletes playing the game is ridiculous, and it's only going to continue to improve. If guys like Denard start playing, it would be that much more exciting to watch. But it would be bad for defensemen. Denard would probably be an attackman. He would be pretty deadly dodging from X. I'm not sure how the whole not-tying-his-shoelaces thing would work for lacrosse, though.

Do you have an interest in doing lacrosse videos in the future?

I've always wanted to. I really like comedy, and that's my focus right now, but one of my favorite shows is 'Friday Night Lights,' and I've always wanted to do a show like that but for lacrosse. I feel like there's a lot of misrepresentation in the sport of lacrosse right now. The perception outside the sport has people looking at the game a certain way, and I'd like an opportunity to clarify those perceptions. Being able to do that through a show would be awesome. The funniest, most awesome, most genuine people I've met over the years have usually been lacrosse players. I've met some great personalities. Obviously it would be fictional in nature, but I'm a big fan of the game, so I'd like to give people that insight. I'd like to help grow the game as much as I could.

When you introduce yourself, what do you say? What do you do?

I say I'm a writer/director, but I'm still freelancing. I don't have a writing staff job, but that's hopefully the next step. It's weird, because people will see that I have these videos, and they'll see these view counts. They'll be like, 'Wow, you're famous, man.' And I'm like, 'No, I'm really not. I'm just a regular guy who likes making stuff.' But I always say I'm a writer/director because that's what I eventually want to do. That's how I want to make my career. Right now, my whole goal is just to make stuff that me and my friends would enjoy. Whenever I come up with an idea I usually say, 'What's going to make my buddies laugh?' It's funny because some of my videos have gotten a lot of views but at the core of everything I do, I'm still just trying to entertain the same small group of friends who used to read my blog posts.

Are you making a career of it now? Is it profitable?

I'm freelancing right now so I can support my own creative projects. I went on tour with a musician, Hoodie Allen — a rapper and hip-hop artist who hit No. 1 on iTunes with his last album — and made webisodes for him, editing and directing them while touring across the country. I got some money for that, and I put it back into the Denard video. I shot some commercials locally, and that's helped fund some more projects. It's not the most comfortable lifestyle right now, and I'm trying to find a more stable job — hopefully something where I'm writing and making videos. I'm just hoping that it hits a tipping point soon where a website who's looking for people to make content wants to hire me. That would be great. I think I would thrive in an environment like that. I'm also a YouTube partner so I make money off of my videos, and selling shirts is another source of income for me.

A lot of people want to become YouTube celebrities, but the main reason I make YouTube videos is because I want to get a job doing this. Down the line, a lot of my stuff has been posted on funnyordie.com, and that's a place I would love to work. That would be my dream job, at least right now. That's what I'm working toward currently. Way down the line, something like 'Saturday Night Live' or writing for a comedy TV show or movies, that would be great. That's the ultimate goal. But it's hard. It's a lot like lacrosse — you can lose your spot at any moment, very easily, if you start to get complacent. Right now I'm getting in my car and driving to a studio to finish recording my next song which I'll be shooting a music video for over the next couple of weeks; I'm working on that while promoting 'I Love You Denard,' because I don't want to lose the momentum I've built.


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