Like he did at Michigan, Kovacs aims to prove himself again in NFL

Former walk-on, two others from area get chance in the pros


Jordan Kovacs likened the final day of the NFL draft to the longest day of his life. The former University of Michigan safety did everything but watch the draft on television last Saturday, and when he realized an NFL team wasn’t going to draft him, Kovacs had to make a decision.

By the end of the day, the Clay graduate had some clarity regarding his future in professional football.

Kovacs agreed to join the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent, becoming one of three Toledo-area football players from the Big Ten Conference to join NFL teams for rookie minicamps, which begin this weekend. The Green Bay Packers drafted Fostoria graduate Micah Hyde in the fifth round, while Wauseon graduate Elliott Mealer will join the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent.

“I had talked to so many teams and at one point in the day, I thought, I can’t watch the draft anymore,” Kovacs said. “The process has been long, but it’s been fun. To train with Denard [Robinson] and [Michigan strength coach] Aaron Wellman, and in working with my agent, Vinnie Porter, I got to know different teams and see the process.”

Kovacs said he spoke with representatives of almost all of the 32 NFL teams from January to the week of the draft, but at one point he received a phone call from Dolphins owner Stephen Ross — a Michigan graduate.

“He said to me, ‘I want a Michigan man on the roster,’ ” said Kovacs, who plans to sign a free-agent contract in Florida.

Kovacs took his last final exam Wednesday at Michigan and cleaned out his Ann Arbor apartment that night, before he left Thursday morning for Florida. The Dolphins open their three-day rookie minicamp today, which includes both 2013 draftees and undrafted free agents.

“I look at it the same way I approach what I did at Michigan,” said Kovacs, who went from a walk-on to being a Wolverines co-captain in 2012. “I’m going to go in, work hard, and hopefully make the most of my opportunity.”

Mealer, an offensive lineman, leaves Thursday for New Orleans, which opens its rookie minicamp May 10, and said he spoke with 12 teams in regard to his future in professional football. That process, he said, began in January after he participated in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and included workouts with team representatives in Ann Arbor.

“It was a very interesting process, pretty similar to getting recruited in college,” said Mealer, who played last season at center. “Maybe teams weren’t quite as personal. They’re recruiting you in college, trying to get you to choose them, but it was more like a job interview with the pro teams.”

Mealer worked out for the San Francisco 49ers the week of the NFL draft, along with Kovacs and offensive lineman Patrick Omameh, and flew to New Orleans last month to meet with the Saints’ front office — the only team, he said, who brought him to their facilities.

“When you go to the pros, it’s a matter of numbers and having the ability to prove you’re worthy of being on that team,” Mealer said. “I’m just excited to go down to New Orleans and give it my best shot, and to have the confidence I will make the team.”

Hyde, who was a cornerback at Iowa, will join the Packers’ rookie minicamp Thursday and is part of a 11-player 2013 Packers draft class that includes former Alabama running back Eddie Lacy.

“I talked to a secondary coach with the Packers who told me what he would expect from me,” said Hyde, who was named the 2012 Big Ten defensive back of the year and who finished his four years at Iowa with 240 tackles and eight interceptions. “I haven’t had an in-depth conversation with anyone with the Packers, but my agent [Jack Bechta] has told me what to expect, and [as well as] my old teammates.”

Hyde plans to begin his NFL career as part of the Packers’ special teams, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that the Packers plan to put Hyde at cornerback.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” Hyde said. “It’s like going in and competing for a job. I’m not thinking just financially, but it’s football. I’m looking forward to it being a career, but right now, I’m focusing on the opportunity I have next week.”