Michigan's Jordan Kovacs began his career against Notre Dame, still sees the game as extra special
ANN ARBOR -- When Jordan Kovacs first lined up at safety for Michigan in 2009, he wondered if things could get any better.
After joining the team as a walk-on and living a lifelong dream by just being issued a Michigan helmet in practice, Kovacs found himself on the field at Michigan Stadium, as part of the Wolverine defense with Notre Dame standing on the opposite side of the ball.
If Kovacs never played another snap from there, things would have been just fine by him.
"I didn't know what to think at that point," Kovacs laughed. "I remember thinking 'if that's it, that might be (Ok).'
"I don't know. I was just excited at that point."
Obviously that wasn't "it" for Kovacs, as his journey from walk-on to team captain has been well documented.
Three years later, Kovacs will line up against Notre Dame for the final time Saturday (7:30 p.m., NBC). It'll be the 37th start of his career, and if all goes well, he'll end the game inside the top 15 on Michigan's all-time career tackles list (he's five away from passing Andy Moeller for 15th).
Kovacs has had plenty of memorable moments throughout his soon-to-be storied Michigan career, but the Notre Dame game still holds a special place in his heart.
The Michigan-Notre Dame series might not be what it once was 30 years ago, and the extended future of the rivalry as an annual event is somewhat still in doubt. But Kovacs doesn't care.
He's loved this game for years.
"It's always a special game, it's such a tradition-rich rivalry," Kovacs said. "I grew up watching this game for years, for me, it's always special."
Kovacs, whose father, Lou, played at Michigan in the 1980s, said he recalls taking in a handful of Michigan-Notre Dame games from the Michigan Stadium stands as a child, including the Wolverines' 38-0 romp over the Fighting Irish in 2003 -- a year that ended with a Big Ten title.
When his playing career is over, Kovacs will likely still hold a special place in his heart for this rivalry -- whether he's watching from the stands, on the sidelines or in front of a television set.
But Saturday, for one final time, he gets to play in it.
And for Kovacs, that's truly a dream come true.
"You're always hungry in this game," Kovacs said. "It's always exciting to play Notre Dame."