Miami is a long way from Oregon, and it’s even farther from Ann Arbor, Mich.
Kovacs, a Clay grad who went on to become an All-Big Ten safety at the University of Michigan, is now living his dream with the Miami Dolphins.
This week marked his fifth week on the Dolphins’ 53-man roster.
“It’s exciting,” Kovacs said. “I’ve approached (playing in the NFL) one step at a time. I just want to enjoy it. It’s really cool.”
|Miami Dolphins rookie Jordan Kovacs.
(Clay/Michigan). (Photo courtesy of
Kovacs, 23, has come a long way from playing in the Big House to playing in the Big Time. The former walk-on was the Bo Schembechler MVP Award winner and a second-team All-Big Ten selection following the 2012 season at UM.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Kovacs went undrafted in the NFL draft last spring but was later chosen as one of the Dolphins’ 16 rookie free agents. He began this season on the Dolphins’ practice squad and finally got “bumped up” to the active roster the week of Miami’s home game against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 6.
“More than anything I just missed playing on Sundays,” Kovacs said. “I missed playing in any competitive environment. Baltimore was my first game and I played on all of our special teams. We go four deep (on the roster) at safety. We have two starters and one guy who would roll in if anything would happen at safety. Then, I’m next in line.”
Kovacs has been credited with one tackle (solo) this season, against Baltimore on the Dolphins’ kickoff coverage. He was on the field with three different special teams units last Sunday in the Dolphins’ 27-17 loss at New England. Miami, which won its first three games, fell to 3-4 with its fourth straight loss heading into Thursday night’s game against the Bengals.
Kovacs said he took his opportunity to make the Dolphins’ roster one day at a time.
“Every day you saw new faces, and you didn’t know when your last day was going to be,” he said. “You just take it week by week and day by day. They started (training camp) with 90 guys. They had to whittle those guys down to 53 active guys, and eight more on the practice squad.”
The Dolphins placed Kovacs on their practice squad, and he then cleared waivers. Around that time, he tweaked a previous hamstring injury in a preseason game against Houston.
“Finally, it healed up and in week five I was called up and made my NFL debut,” Kovacs said. “I was on all four special teams. I was the right wing on the punt team, on kickoff I was a contain player, on kickoff return I was the left tackle and punt return I was the rusher.”
On his first NFL play, a Miami punt, Kovacs found himself lined up opposite the Ravens’ Courtney Upshaw, a 6-2, 272-pound second-year linebacker from Alabama.
“The first thing that went through my head was, who do I have to block,” Kovacs recalled. “This guy was wearing No. 91 and it was Courtney Upshaw, who weighs probably 280. I was like, ‘you have to be kidding me.’ He ran at me as hard as he could. I knew it would be tough getting off his block. That was my rookie moment, my ‘welcome to the NFL’ moment.”
Kovacs played on three different special teams units last week against the Patriots, so he got to watch quarterback Tom Brady up close. He said its “pretty surreal” facing NFL players he grew up watching on TV.
“We played Brady pretty tough,” Kovacs said. “When we played in New Orleans, we played Drew Bees and what was really eye-opening was how slim the margin of error is when you play against a quarterback of that caliber. Our defensive backs looked like they were in perfect coverage, and he was putting it where only his guy could catch it. It’s a unique experience to see that first hand from the sideline.”
Kovacs said playing in the NFL has been an eye-opening experience.
“Every player on that field is just a super athlete,” he said. “They were the studs at their respective colleges. You watch TV and see them and you say, ‘I can do that.’ No, you can’t. Could Alabama or the best team in college football beat, say Jacksonville? Not a chance. It’s just a whole other ballgame. I’m blocking guys I’ve never heard of, and they’re unreal athletes.”
Kovacs said it appears one of the best ways to stay in Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin’s good graces is to make himself as versatile as possible.
“I’ve realized that very few guys aren’t expendable,” Kovacs said. “The best way to make yourself more secure in the NFL, which is what we all want, is to play safety, special teams … You have to be able to do it all, so when it comes to the chopping board they can’t say, ‘We can get rid of this guy.’ I feel very comfortable. I’m a competitor. I expected to be able to compete with these guys.”
Miami Dolphins rookie Jordan Kovacs (Clay/Michigan). (Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins)