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Kevin Koger returns to NW Ohio as a coach

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    Kevin Koger, right, starred at Whitmer High School. Koger is in his third season as an assistant coach at Eastern Kentucky, which will visit Bowling Green this weekend.

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    Kevin Koger, right, starred at Whitmer High School. Koger is in his third season as an assistant coach at Eastern Kentucky, which will visit Bowling Green this weekend.

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    Kevin Koger, who played at Michigan, also earned his start in coaching at UM.

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    Whitmer's Kevin Koger plays against Fremont in a 2007 game.

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    Whitmer's Kevin Koger in 2007.

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BOWLING GREEN — When Kevin Koger’s time under the bright lights of the Big House came to an end, he was not sure exactly where life would take him.

The Whitmer High School grad and former Michigan tight end was pretty sure of one thing: Being a football coach was not for him.

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Kevin Koger, who played at Michigan, also earned his start in coaching at UM.

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Playing was great. But coaching? Koger just couldn’t see himself doing it.

“I remember talking to my position coach, Calvin Magee, as a player, and I was like, ‘Coach, how do you do it? I could never explain something to somebody the way that I see it.’ ” Koger said.

Well, a funny thing happened to Koger.

On an invitation from a former coach, Koger agreed to help a high school team for one season — and loved it so much that he made it a career.

“Here I am 10 years later, doing what I said I couldn’t,” Koger said.

Now in his third season as a full-time assistant at Eastern Kentucky, Koger will make his return to northwestern Ohio this weekend as the Colonels play a Saturday game at Bowling Green.

Koger started his coaching career on the recommendation of former Whitmer coach Joe Palka, who had been his coach in high school. Palka accepted the same position at Saline (Mich.) High School, and asked Koger if he wanted to help out during the 2012 football season.

To his own surprise, Koger said he ended up “loving every second of it.”

Luckily for him, a door opened immediately in Ann Arbor. Koger’s foray into college coaching started with a graduate assistant role at Michigan for the next two seasons, followed by a quality control position at Tennessee in 2015.

He hasn’t turned back. Now 29 years old, Koger is already on his way to becoming a veteran of the coaching world.

Bowling Green's 2018 football schedule

“There’s a lot of people who would love to be a GA at Michigan,” he said. “I was fortunate to be there as young as I was, and then Tennessee the year after. I’ve been lucky, so hopefully that luck continues.”

Eastern Kentucky coach Mark Elder, also in his third season at EKU, hired Koger as part of his first coaching staff at the school. Koger coaches the wide receivers and manages the special teams for the Colonels, a FCS team who has started this season 1-1.

Though Koger wasn’t expecting to be a college coach, Elder said Koger has been a valuable member of the staff.

“He does a great job for us and we’re certainly very, very fortunate to have him on staff,” Elder said. “I think he’s tough on the guys. He demands a lot, but he loves on them a bunch. I think his players really enjoy playing for him.”

Coaching is a unpredictable profession, but Koger adapted to life on the other side of the whistle. Ultimately, Koger said he would love to return to his alma mater one day.

“At the end of the day, I would love to go back to Michigan being the head coach,” Koger said. “That’s years and years down the road. That’s something I aspire to work toward.”

For the time being, Koger is working long hours in Richmond, Ky., breaking down film, chasing recruits, and making sure his young crop of receivers performs the way he thinks it can.

“For now, all I’m trying to be is the best special teams coordinator and wide receiver coach for EKU,” Koger said. “All the other stuff will take care of itself.”

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at npiotrowicz@theblade.com, 419-724-6110 or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz

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