Jordan Kovacs + Greatest walk-on college football players

Submitted by Rather be on BA on March 25th, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Jordan Kovacs is on my mind after reading a previous thread and some other U of M football news.  It got me thinking about where he may rank in terms of the all time great walk-on college football players.  It seems to me like walk-ons are the epitomy of what makes college football great, and why for me at least, it is so much better than it's professional counterpart.  Walk-ons have to pay their way through (at least part of) school, didn't join the team with money on their minds, and really do everything for the love of the game, epitomizing that cliche. 

I came across this very interesting article while researching other great walk-ons.

Kovacs does not have the same pro potential as many of those players (he is just not athletic enough, sadly), but depending on how well he performs this year, I think his college career could put him on that level.  What do you guys think?

Do you know of any other walk-ons who had major success on the collegiate and/or professional levels not mentioned in that article?   /Discuss.



March 25th, 2012 at 6:46 PM ^

Perhaps you should refrain from posting "all time great" stuff until you study history a bit more.

Seriously, I love the guy, but there is no way Kovac is one of the greatest walk-ons of all time. I doubt he would even make top 100 since he has almost no chance of making to NFL and there are a ton of walk-ons who eventually made it to NFL over the years.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:12 PM ^

Griese never dressed in Michigan Stadium as a walkon, he was given a scholarship during fall camp his freshman year.

Also, Gameboy, how would someone who has been All-Big Ten Honorable Mention for 2/3 years that he's played not be a top-100 walkon? He's going to be on all the preseason lists for All-Big Ten SS, and three teams in four years is damn impressive. There's also a reason the OP said "college football players"; by your logic Denard is a mediocre college player because he's likely to be taken in the middle rounds if he enters as a QB. That's insane.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:22 PM ^

There are 120 Div 1 football programs. If you average that there is about 1 walk-on who is better than Kovac (remember, that is through their entire history of the program), then you already have more than 100 players who are better.

I don' think it is too much to assume 1 better player per program when Michigan alone probably has at least 5 to 10 more accomplished walk-ons throughout its history.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:37 PM ^

I took 2 seconds to do a search and here is what I found:

6 All American walk-ons from Nebraska alone. Even if you discount the punter and the kicker, I think All-American trumps honorable Big-Ten mentions.

That is just from a single school. I don't think it is hard to imagine that there are 100 walk-on players with more accolades than Kovac.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:52 PM ^

Fine, say other schools produce 1/3 as much. That still means over 100.

I have found 4 former All American walk-ons outside of Nebraska's 6 from just a few minutes of search.

Kovacs is great and I love him. And if he gets All-American honors we can safely talk about him being the greatest. Why don't we hold off until then?


March 25th, 2012 at 8:05 PM ^

Nobody said Kovacs was "the greatest."  We all know Muhammad Ali is the greatest, so obviously Kovacs isn't.

Kovacs might be among the 100 greatest though, whether or not he makes all-american.  

Note: are you including academic all-americans in your argument?  If so, then I don't necessarily agree that being named all-american "trumps" being all-conference if what we are discussing is football ability.  


March 25th, 2012 at 7:27 PM ^

Western Kentucky, FIU, Kent State, Idaho and UTEP all have had walkons more accomplished in college than Jordan Kovacs? 120 is a meaningless number, 67 is much more applicable here (B1G, BXII, Pac, SEC, BE, ACC). 

Out of those schools, I like Kovacs chances against a big majority of their players, absolutely.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:34 PM ^

Are you doing it on purpose, now? It's pretty funny coming from a guy who basically told another user to shut up before he learned every detail of every walkon in NCAA history.

Let's whittle it down further. If Kovacs is first or second team All-Big Ten next season (a reasonable goal, I think), how many other former walkons can claim three Big Ten conference honors in four years? I highly doubt the Big Ten has produced ten.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:33 PM ^

Probably not.  There are a few schools known for churning out walk-ons who play and contribute regularly, such as Nebraska.  But at most programs--including Michigan--it is rare that a walk-on even sees the field, let alone starts, let alone gets named to an all-conference team.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:21 PM ^

Griese was technically a preferred walk-on, but it's not like he was an unknown guy who had to make the team through student-body tryouts like Kovacs.  

What happened is that Michigan had already accepted a full recruiting class by the time Griese (who at the time had re-written the Florida high school passing record books and had an obvious NFL pedigree) decided he wanted to play for Michigan.  So, the coaches told Griese he should come to UM as a walk-on and said something to the effect of "a scholarship is likely to become available by the fall."  Sure enough, Griese received a scholarship due to attrition before his first season started.  


Mr Miggle

March 25th, 2012 at 8:07 PM ^

That was Griese's situation, but that's not what "preferred walk-on" means. It means the player doesn't have to try out for the team. He's promised a spot on the roster. By contrasf, Kovacs earned his place on the team during student body tryouts, on his second attempt.


March 25th, 2012 at 8:18 PM ^

You just saved me the trouble of asking the difference between "walkon" and "preferred walkon". Our walkons that we have picked up had me wondering what technicalities were involved. Muchas Gracias.

Also, to finish up - would a greyshirt be when the player comes as a walkon and pays his tuition with the understanding that when a scholarship becomes available he will get it ?


March 25th, 2012 at 8:20 PM ^

Yeah, thanks for clearing that up--I didn't word my comment very well.  The point I was basically trying to make is that Griese was a player who probably would have had a scholarship from the get-go, had it not been for the timing and whatnot unique to his situation.  I was trying to differentiate him from the classic walk-on situation, where the coaches initially do not consider the player worthy of a scholarship.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:03 PM ^

The guy made a thread in the hope of encouraging discussion, and possibly learning something. No need to jump down his throat.

The fact that you do not think highly of Kovacs' NFL prospects does not in any way lessen his collegiate career. There is no reason to think that he will not compare favorably with other safeties to play at Michigan when all is said and done.

Perhaps you should refrain from flaming about "all time great" stuff until you are capable of reading the topic and responding in a more mature and respectful manner to what would appear to be a sincere attempt at intelligent discourse. Or at least until you can successfully copy the name of the player in question. I am sure Mr. "Kovac" would appreciate that as much as I would.

EDIT: above was to Gameboy, not Joeyb, who posted right as I was.

To Joeyb, I have wondered the same thing, not just about Griese, but some other financially prosperous students as well. Might be possible. But Griese did have offers, some of them good. Purdue, I believe was an offer. He just preferred Michigan and could afford to pay.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:08 PM ^

He didn't even know that the QB who won the last National Championship for the Michigan was a walk on. How could you have an educated conversation on this topic when you don't even know the very basic fact like that?

Seriously, can you talk about the "Best book ever" or "Greatest song ever" if you only know about songs or books within last 15 years?

The correct way to start this discussion without that knowledge would be to "How does Kovacs rank among all time great Michigan walk-ons?". That is not the question he asked. He just assumed he would be one of the greats based on very small sample.

We have one of the most storied programs in all of college football. Learn it.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:16 PM ^

If I could afford a check for my kids tuition (and the kid was fine with it, of course) I would absolutely send them to the school they chose as a walkon, since it gives the coach one more of their most valuable resources.

Think how amazing it would be if one of our 2012 class had come from a wealthy family willing to pay tuition and we could have taken another needed player. You can't put a price on that.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:02 PM ^

And perhaps you should read the post more carefully before admonishing the OP for not being informed enough to post.

"depending on how well he performs this year, I think his college career could put him on that level.  What do you guys think?"

He never said Kovacs is one of the greatest walk-on's of all time.  He speculated on what a strong Senior year would mean to Kovacs legacy and asked for our opinion.

Post on on.

Edit: Great Minds thinking alike and all that whatnot.

Rather be on BA

March 25th, 2012 at 9:06 PM ^

Indeed.  Assuming a solid senior year he would have earned Big Ten honors all four years of his career, and been one of the leaders of a historic defensive overhaul under Mattison.  As I stated in my post, he clearly is not on the level of Darren Woodson, Santana Moss, or Clay Mathews, but I would argue that he has meant just as much if not more to this Michigan football team than those guys did to their own. 

rob f

March 25th, 2012 at 7:27 PM ^

since I don't have enough points yet to do so; I posted a similiar question yesterday in the comment section of Brian's article from 3/23 regarding the presser/ interviews of DRob, Roundtree and Kovac.  It more or less got buried in the thread, but not surprisingly since it was a day-and-a-half after the thread opened.…




March 25th, 2012 at 7:08 PM ^

Mathews only walked on as a favor to USC to save a scholarship. Announcers always mention it like he was not recruited by anyone or something. USC wanted him, he wanted USC and their staff talked the pretty wealthy Mathews family into paying their way to save a scholarship. So, you are right but its different.


March 25th, 2012 at 8:50 PM ^

According to the article linked in the OP

"Thought to be too small and too slow to play at the collegiate level, Matthews walked on at USC in 2004 largely because of who his father was. Matthews didn't earn a scholarship until 2006 and didn't start until his senior year, but he showed enough to warrant a first-round pick from the Green Bay Packers. The definition of a late bloomer, Matthews has 22.0 career sacks in just two NFL seasons."


March 26th, 2012 at 12:37 AM ^

they may have thought whatever they thought but no way would any school turn down a Mathews who was willing to pay his way their as opposed to taking the offers he did have. from clays own mouth he plays down the walkon thing. usc wanted him and he wanted usc. why usc wanted him can be debated but the kid wasnt ignored in recruiting due to his name alone.


March 25th, 2012 at 6:30 PM ^

Oklahoma's Dominique Whaley is quite an impressive walk-on:

The oldest of six kids in a military family, Whaley rushed for 627 yards, the most ever by an OU walk-on. Essentially in seven games. He ran for nine touchdowns. His season high was a 165-yard game against Kansas two weeks before the injury.

Read more:


March 25th, 2012 at 6:40 PM ^

comes to mind...I beleive he was also a captain.  Didn't become a multi-year starter, and was injured his senior year, but inspired the team..

Rocking Chair

March 25th, 2012 at 6:56 PM ^

Played for Bo 1968-70.  As defensive middle guard he had 13 tackles against Ohio in that great 1969 game.  He was chosen as co-captain and Most Valuable Player in 1970 and a first-team All-American that same year. 

Henry was 5'10" and weighed 200 pounds.  At Detroit's Martin Luther King High School he played tight end.


March 25th, 2012 at 7:25 PM ^

I don't know it it really happened this way, but the TV announcers used to say that Steve Fischer found him watching pick-up games at the IM building.  


March 25th, 2012 at 7:30 PM ^

That story is right from when I was in school, and it is at least partly correct. He did play for an IM team called "Freddy and the Seven Dwarves" before he joined the UM team. As far as Steve Fisher just finding him, I don't know. That was a popular story, but I always figured he just came to a campus tryout type of thing. Good story either way.