The Wolverine

October 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Tough Road Jordan Kovacs Steps To The Fore In Michigan���s Defense T By John Borton he situation grew desperate, like a man in quicksand, chained to an anvil. Notre Dame led Michigan, 14-0, cutting through the Wolverines��� defense like a Ginsu knife through warm butter, and the Irish were on the move again. This wasn���t just any game. This was the game, the first night game in the 85-year history of Michigan Stadium. These bright lights featured parachutists, plaudits for a Wolverine Hall of Famer and a pounding sense of expectation from the largest crowd in the history of NCAA football. Despite all of that, the Wolverines looked ready to get run out of their own stadium. The Big House appeared to be playing host to the big embarrassment. Somebody needed to do something, and something big. Michigan���s defense faked a blitz, getting Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees to roll to his right and unleash a sideline throw intended for star wideout Michael Floyd. Somebody else got there first. That somebody came to Michigan without a scholarship. That somebody couldn���t get Hillsdale College, or the University of Toledo, to fund his schooling in exchange for his football efforts. That somebody desperately wanted to wear a winged helmet, even if it meant never seeing the field. But in this moment, Jordan Kovacs saw the football very clearly. His pedigree didn���t matter when he broke sharply on the ball, sliced in front of Floyd and intercepted the pass at the Notre Dame 45. Two plays later, Michigan celebrated a touchdown and new life. Two quarters later, the Wolverines celebrated one of the most thrilling victories The Big House has ever known. ���I���ve never been a part of any game like this,��� Kovacs admitted. ���I���m having the time of my life right now, and I���ll take it and run with it.��� After four games in 2011, Kovacs ranked third on the Wolverines in tackles with 28, and he had notched two sacks and a forced fumble. Photo by Lon Horwedel He���s been running with his athletic ability for a long time, from the playgrounds of Curtice, Ohio, to Michigan Stadium with his dad, Lou Kovacs, a walk-on for Bo Schembechler in the early 1980s. To see those paths converge on this stage, in this fashion, goes beyond what anyone could have imagined. ���We just sit back in the living room sometimes and say it���s amazing, isn���t it, what he���s doing?��� Lou Kovacs said. ���It���s just an example of when you give a kid a break. It���s a good example in life. Give a kid a break and see what he can do with it.��� The elder Kovacs learned plenty from Schembechler ��� discipline, toughness, and how to be a man among them. ���I���m in my 50s now, and there were a lot of things he taught me as a young man,��� Lou Kovacs recalled. ���A lot of those qualities I���ve carried with me throughout my life. I���m a better person because of that experience with Bo.��� The senior Kovacs never lived out the storybook starter status of his son, but he is one up in an important area. When the Wolverines wrapped up the 1982 Big Ten title, it represented one of his rare appearances in a game. ���We clinched the Big Ten championship when I was on the field,��� he said. ���I remember that. It was the second to last game of the year. We played Ohio State at the end, but we���d already clinched. Ohio State ended up beating us in the last game, but we went to the Rose Bowl.��� Lou and wife Susan, of course, were cemented as Michigan fans forever. When Lloyd Carr made his debut as Michigan���s head coach against Virginia in 1995, 5-year-old Jordan Kovacs made his debut in the stands. ���We sat in the north end zone ��� Section 37,��� Kovacs noted. ���I went to countless games. I don���t even remember it, but I was there for the Mercury Hayes catch.��� He was also there nearly a decade later, when Braylon Edwards soared above Michigan State���s defensive backs in a triple-overtime thriller that served as a warm-up night game. Kovacs saw Mario Manningham���s last-second touchdown catch against Penn State in 2005 that shattered the Nittany Lions��� national championship dreams and nearly brought down The Big House. Kovacs appeared destined to enjoy Michigan heroics for many years ��� from the stands. Sure, he was a very solid athlete, All-Ohio special mention as a senior, out of Clay High School in Toledo. But he didn���t run a 4.3 40-yard dash, and his vertical leap certainly didn���t make any recruiters bound into action. Lou Kovacs saw something there, but that was dad talking. He���d play all-time QB during the backyard football battles between Jordan and his older brother, Aaron. Competitiveness surfaced early on. ���We were always playing tackle football with each other, and my dad was always the quarterback,��� Kovacs recalled. ���Every game nearly ended in a fight. Eventually, he had to say every game was a tie. Those are my best memories of football.��� For a while, Kovacs might have wondered if they���d be among his few football memories. But he���d stepped up to compete well at Clay and certainly harbored hopes beyond high school. He just couldn���t get anyone as excited about him as he was about pursuing his dream. The recruiting nadir hit when Kovacs visited Hillsdale College, an NCAA Division II school carved out of a hilly respite from miles of flat October 2011��� ������ the wolverine��� 25

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