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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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Clay graduate Jordan Kovacs was supposed to be in Ann Arbor, Mich., this weekend to walk down the aisle for his college graduation.

He will, however, be somewhere else that day – at the Miami Dolphins’ three-day rookie camp.

“My last two exams are Wednesday,” Kovacs said Tuesday night. “I’ll be down in Miami (during graduation), but it’s a fair tradoff. I’m heading down to Miami now and I’m excited about it.”

KovacsIowa
University of Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs #11. (Press file
photo by Scott Grau)

Kovacs, a fifth-year senior who played strong safety at the University of Michigan, was not taken by any teams in last week’s NFL draft. He was, however, chosen as one of the Dolphins’ 16 rookie free agents and was scheduled to fly to Miami on Thursday morning.

“The majority of rookie camp is Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” Kovacs said. “I’ll fly back Sunday and play it by ear and see what happens next.”

Kovacs, who has never been to Miami but says he “used to vacation down in Daytona,” said he began receiving several phone calls from prospective teams at the end of the sixth round of the draft last Saturday.

“Miami was pretty up front with me and I wasn’t anticipating them drafting me,” Kovacs said. “The owner (Steve Ross) called me from Miami. He went to Michigan. He called me at the end of round seven. He said, ‘I hope you get drafted, but if not, I want you on the roster. I want a Michigan man.’ I talked to a bunch of other teams. Steve called me back, with the GM (Jeff Ireland) and the defensive coordinator, and I finished things up.”

Kovacs, who turns 23 next month, was the Bo Schembechler MVP Award winner and a second-team All-Big Ten (coaches) selection following the 2012 season. Originally a walk-on at UM, Kovacs became well known around the Big Ten following his redshirt freshman year, when he earned a starting job in the Wolverines’ starting defensive backfield in 2009.

Kovacs played in 50 games at Michigan, starting 46 at safety, and ranks 12th on UM’s all-time tackles list (331). He is just the 15th player in Michigan history to record 300-plus career tackles.

And yet, no NFL team deemed him worthy of picking him in the draft. The Dolphins picked nine players during the three-day draft, including strong safety Don Jones from Arkansas State. Kovacs said he was drafted as a safety, and the Dolphins said they plan to move Jones to cornerback.

“We knew if we were drafted, I would be a day-three pick, sixth or seventh round,” Kovacs said. “I’ve watched enough drafts to know that nothing is guaranteed. At end of the day, I knew I would have an opportunity to play football. That’s all I could ask for. I wasn’t really expecting anything. I know the draft is kind of a crapshoot. It worked out.”

Former Clay head football coach Mike Donnelly, who coached Kovacs for one season (Kovacs played safety and receiver, earning first-team All-City League honors at both positions), said he isn’t surprised his former pupil is getting a shot to play in the NFL.

“Nothing Jordan accomplishes is surprising,” Donnelly said. “His incredible work ethic and refusal to take no for an answer has served him well in high school and college. Jordan is a better athlete than most people give him credit for. What makes him special is that he maximizes the talent he possesses and combines that with his intelligence. It’s one thing to have athletic ability but no awareness. Jordan has been blessed with ability and a high football IQ.”

Donnelly said he’s only had two players during his coaching career who share the identical athletic ability, high football IQ and work ethic traits: former Ohio State and Chicago Bears receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and Kovacs. Sanzenbacher led Central Catholic to the Division II state title in 2005.

“There’s a reason both players were captains and MVPs of their respective teams in college,” Donnelly said.

Kovacs said he was home in Oregon watching the draft with his family when he got a call from the Dolphins.

“It was a long day,” he said. “Probably one of the longest days of my life. Miami called at the beginning of the seventh round. They said if I fall through the draft, they were interested.”

Kovacs said he met with one of the Dolphins’ scouts at Michigan’s pro day on March 14, but the two just had a casual conversation. Things are sure to get more intense in Miami this weekend.

“I’m just going to go and compete,” Kovacs said. “It’s like walking onto the Michigan football team again. That’s the same mindset I have.”

Kovacs, who grew up a Detroit Lions fan, said it still doesn’t seem real.

“I’ll believe it when I’m down in Miami,” he said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

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