TAMPA — The past decade of Jordan Kovacs’ life has been produced like a Hollywood movie.
The Clay graduate enrolled at Michigan as a student, made the team after walk-on tryouts, excelled for four seasons, and was named captain as a senior. After going undrafted, Kovacs spent parts of four seasons in the NFL.
The dream didn’t end once his NFL light bulb burned out. Now Kovacs is back at his alma mater, charting his course in the coaching profession.
“I find myself every now and then having to pinch myself,” said Kovacs, who’s working as an intern for the Wolverines this season. “I’m certainly fortunate. I’ve worked hard, but you have to be lucky as well. Good things have happened. I’m just trying to ride it as long as I can.”
The 27-year-old Kovacs will receive a promotion after the New Year, with an upgrade to graduate assistant. The Curtice native is seeking a master’s degree in sport management, a three-year program that in all likelihood will include a three-season coaching stint for the maize and blue.
“I grew up watching him,” junior safety Tyree Kinnel said. “It’s great having him in the building and around. I always feel comfortable talking to him.”
In a way, Kovacs is joining the family business. His father, Louis, played for Michigan under Bo Schembechler in the 1980s before also coaching at UM as a graduate assistant.
The younger Kovacs returned to Ann Arbor in March, undertaking an amalgam of responsibilities. He works with Chris Partridge on special teams and Greg Mattison on the defensive line, breaks down film, and helps with practices.
“I get to peek into meetings a lot, which is pretty valuable for me,” Kovacs said. “It’s been great, a smooth transition. Sometimes in the coaching world, things can be hectic. Being able to start in Ann Arbor was like picking up right where I left off. Working under coach Partridge and the defensive staff has made it easy. They’ve embraced me.”
The deeds have earned praise from Jim Harbaugh, who called Kovacs “outstanding.” Kovacs takes a more analytical approach and files mental notes on how Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Don Brown conduct meetings and how Partridge implements a game plan.
“He's going to be tremendous coach. He’s already good,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been able to take his playing experience, ability as a leader to be a good learner to understand the ways of coaching and the ways of our team. He’s already become an asset.”
During Kovacs’ junior year at Michigan, he realized there was a deep passion inside of him for the sport of football. It was a gradual pull that eventually compelled Kovacs to pursue a future in the game.
He witnessed firsthand the impact his coaches at Michigan — Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke — had on teammates’ lives, which in turn struck Kovacs.
“I thought that was a pretty cool opportunity and something I wanted to pursue,” he said. “Throughout my whole NFL career, I knew I wanted to end up back at Michigan, especially with coach Harbaugh being back here. What a great opportunity to start under a guy like coach Harbaugh.”
When Kovacs entered the league, with a future coaching career in mind, he made sure to observe and pick nuggets from each regime he played under — Joe Philbin in Miami, Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, Andy Reid in Kansas City, and Jeff Fisher in Los Angeles.
“I found myself bouncing around and using it as a learning opportunity, seeing the different cultures and different coaching styles,” Kovacs said. “I wanted to learn as much as I could from those coaches and those organizations.”
College football is the current avenue, but Kovacs wouldn’t shut out future endeavors in the NFL. He sees the college game as better for offering guidance, but it’s also a larger time commitment and family disruption because of the 24/7 nature of recruiting. One certainty is he wants to be a head coach.
“No doubt about it,” Kovacs said. “I wouldn’t say I’m tied or married to college, but I love college coaching. I think it’s an opportunity to mold young men. It’s the best opportunity you have to influence young guys’ lives, and I think that’s important. The NFL is a little different because it’s more of a player-run league. But I also see great opportunity in coaching in the NFL as well.”
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