The Wolverine

October 2011

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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nior in high school, and became ��� in his view ��� a little too forthcoming about it when the medical staffers started prodding. Ultimately, they gave him the thumbs down. ���I was crushed,��� he recalled. ���I���m not ashamed to tell you that I cried. I remember leaving here and calling my mom, calling my dad, and telling them that they weren���t going to give me a shot.��� ���That was a low point,��� Lou Kovacs admitted. ���When you have the rug pulled out from under your kid, it���s a helpless feeling.��� Needless to say, Michigan���s deficit against Notre Dame wasn���t Kovacs��� first experience in refusing to quit. He underwent knee surgery in October, lived the life of a regular Michigan freshman student into the spring of 2009 and tried out again in March, 2009. He made the team ��� again ��� but that was only the beginning. He was the lowest of the low, without scholarship, without status, and barely noticed by a coaching staff that knew little more than his number. ���I had a nice hit in spring ball my first time here,��� Kovacs recalled. ���They messed up my name. They were always mixing up Matt Cavanaugh and I. But they finally started knowing my name, and they didn���t forget it, I guess.��� In fall camp, Kovacs found himself running with the third and fourth strings, but made enough plays to get bumped to second string, going into the season. Or so he said. ���I thought, I can���t believe this,��� Lou Kovacs said. ���I didn���t tell him this, but I���m thinking in the back of my mind, he thinks he���s second string, but he can���t be. He���s finishing his first two-adays, and all the talent Michigan has. How can he be second string?��� A couple of weeks later, when starter Mike Williams went down in the Notre Dame game, Kovacs wasn���t second string. He was on the field, at the center of one of college football���s most storied rivalries. ���I was very nervous,��� Lou Kovacs admitted. ���Very excited, but very nervous for him. There was some pretty elite competition on the field that day ��� Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Clausen. There are guys that are in the NFL that he was competing against, and he did all right. He played pretty well.��� Kovacs played well, but he���d perhaps already faced his biggest test. He made it onto the field in the opener, the week before Notre Dame, without incident. ���It���s surreal,��� he recalled with a smile. ���Just running out of that tunnel. I���ve watched I don���t know how many guys running out of that tunnel growing up. That banner is not as high as you���d think. Michigan football player,��� U-M defensive coordinator Greg Mattison assessed. ���That hit [on Carder], when he came on one of the pressures, you guys all saw the picture. ���It was what you tell them and what you coach ��� put your face right through his chest, wrap him up, eyes up. He put his helmet right through the football. ���The thing that people didn���t see on that, he was in the end zone almost at the same time as Herron, af- Two years ago, Kovacs was second on the team with 75 tackles. Last season, he finished second in the Big Ten with 116 stops, earning all-conference honorable mention. Photo by Lon Horwedel ���My first time jumping, I thought I was going to have to jump real high. You get that adrenaline going. I nearly clotheslined myself.��� He soon began clotheslining others, winding up second on the team with 75 tackles. Last season, he finished second in the Big Ten with 116 stops, earning all-conference honorable mention. Some still eyed him skeptically, until his early-season heroics for yet another new Michigan staff. Kovacs nearly broke Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder in half on a blitz in Michigan���s opener, separating him from the ball and setting up Brandon Herron���s touchdown return. Then came the interception against the Irish and a dreamlike turnaround under the lights. This much is certain ��� his coaches don���t need any more convincing that he belongs on the field. ���He���s a football player. He���s a ter he had caused the fumble and made the hit. That���s what Michigan defense is about.��� ���He���s smart,��� head coach Brady Hoke assured. ���He���s a smart football player. He understands the game. He can dissect the game. He studies the game. And he approaches it in what I would call a championship manner, as to how he wants to play. He studies it well.��� He also remembers history, to his advantage. ���That walk-on chip on my shoulder is something I���ll always carry with me,��� Kovacs admitted. ���A few years ago, we had a lot of walk-ons, and they started this thing we call the Walk-On Nation. I tell them I just try to represent it every week. We joke about that. ���I���m proud of being a walk-on. It���s nothing I regret, nothing I���m disappointed in. I like being a walk-on. I like playing out there. It���s special.��� ��� October 2011��� ������ the wolverine��� 27

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