It still feels like a dream for Jordan Kovacs.
Last fall, the 2008 Clay graduate made the University of Michigan football roster as a walk-on. But, Kovacs' surgically repaired left knee which had been operated on in high school didn't make the grade with the UM medical staff.
"During my physical they found out I'd had knee surgery and they asked me a few questions about it," Kovacs said. "I guess I revealed a little too much information. They were still concerned about it. I had it checked out again and they ended up finding I had a torn meniscus."
Kovacs had arthroscopic surgery in Toledo last October, which forced him to sit out the entire 2008 season. He tried out for the team again as a walk-on last spring and made the '09 roster as a safety.
"I took it one day at a time and tried out again," Kovacs said. "I didn't know if they were going to give me a fair look. They did give me a good look and they obviously let me on the team, and things have worked out since."
UM assistant coach Tony Gibson, who coaches the secondary, said the Wolverines' staff liked Kovacs almost immediately.
"Just the way he moved, we thought he had good feet and good speed and good skills," Gibson said. "All the things you look for in a DB. We liked him and wanted to keep him…He worked his tail off in the summer and in spring ball. He's a physical kid. When we got to fall camp, he kept getting better every day. He got his opportunity and when he got in, he did everything right. He started making some plays…He was always flying around, making a hit, making an interception."
Gibson said the fact that Kovacs could play both free safety and strong safety helped his cause.
Kovacs (6-0, 194) played on the Wolverines' kickoff return and kickoff coverage special teams in UM's 31-7 season-opening win against Western Michigan.
"My job is to blow up the wedge," he said. "I was credited with one tackle."
Kovacs earned first-team All-City League honors as a defensive back during his junior and senior years at Clay. He was also a first-team all-league selection as a wide receiver his senior year, but he still wasn't being recruited very heavily.
"I had an offer to become a preferred walk-on at Toledo, and I had some Division II schools looking at me," Kovacs said. "I was never interested in going anywhere else than the University of Michigan. My dad (Lou) walked on here and played under Bo (Schembechler). You could say I grew up in the Big House and went to a lot of games here. I really didn't have a (tough) decision."
Lou Kovacs was a defensive back at Michigan in the early 1980s, and he earned a varsity letter in 1982.
"Obviously he had a big influence on my liking Michigan at a young age," Jordan said. "He couldn't have cared less where I went. He told me to go wherever my heart took me, and I'm at the University of Michigan right now."
Last Saturday against Notre Dame, Kovacs saw his first extensive action on defense when he entered the game at free safety near the end of the third quarter. The Wolverines had a 31-20 lead when starting free safety Mike Williams had to leave the field.
"He got really bad cramps and they had to take him into the locker room and hook him up to an IV," Kovacs said. "Coach (Jahmile) Addae kept telling me to get ready because I might be going in. I was blowing him off, thinking I wasn't going to get in, but I was prepared. They told me to go in the game, and I run out on the field and I'm ready to go. The adrenaline was going."
Kovacs said Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson grabbed him before he went on the field to calm him down.
"I think he was more nervous than me," Kovacs said. "I was comfortable. He said, 'You know what defenses we're running.' I said, 'coach, I'm fine.' He was making sure I was all right. I think I was more calm than he was.
"I get out on the field and all of the players were expecting me to be wide-eyed. I think they were surprised I was so comfortable out there. I wasn't even on the team last year and I crept my way up the depth chart. Now here I am against Notre Dame on national TV, in crunch time."
Kovacs finished with three tackles against the Irish, and he was on the field to make a tackle when Notre Dame's offense was trying to milk a 34-31 lead late in the fourth quarter. He also pressured quarterback Jimmy Clausen on a failed Irish two-point conversion pass.
"It was real special for that kid to get an opportunity to play, especially against the No. 18 team in the country," Gibson said of Kovacs. "He played 31 snaps and graded out 84 percent. He actually pressured (Clausen) on the two-point conversion that Stevie Brown picked off. On the last third-and-10 and they were throwing, we blitzed (Clausen) and he forced the ball out quick and the Notre Dame kid couldn't make a play on it. He made Clausen get rid of it."
The Wolverines won the game, 38-34, when freshman quarterback Tate Forcier threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Greg Mathews with 11 seconds left.
"The locker room was ecstatic," Kovacs said. "Everybody was so happy. It was a really neat atmosphere. It really still hasn't sunk in yet. I remember sitting at my locker trying to absorb everything and soak in the moment."
Kovacs had several family members at the game--his father and mother, Sue; younger sister, Morgan; older brother, Aaron; uncles Mike and Tommy Csizek; and his cousin, Anthony.
Kovacs said he is listed on the UM depth chart as the second-team free safety for this Saturday's game against Eastern Michigan.
"Hopefully I'll be getting some time on special teams," said Kovacs, who is enrolled in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.
"Right now I'm kind of feeling my way through classes and seeing where it takes me, kind of like with football," he said. "I believe everything works itself out."