A champion is someone who surpasses all rivals or fights for a cause on behalf of another. NFL Safety Jordan Kovacs, who is the poster boy for "Make your dreams come true" is an example of the former. His mother, Susan Csizek-Kovacs -- a schoolteacher, wife, and sports mom of four -- exemplifies the latter.
"I always told my children that they must give their best," says Susan Kovacs. "I expected perseverance and stressed education because I am a teacher." Her son Jordan, who credits his optimism and discipline to his mom's influence, apparently got the memo. After walking onto Michigan's football team and overcoming a knee injury, he started in 46 games and left Michigan ranked 12th on the Wolverine's all-time tackles list. He also became just the 15th player in the 135-year history of Michigan football to record over 300 career tackles. As a senior and captain, he started every game, won the Bo Schembechler MVP award, and was named Academic All-Big Ten. Plus, he graduated with a science degree. Curiously, Jordan was not one of the 21 safeties the NFL drafted that year.
"Whenever I was sent to my room for misbehaving, my stubbornness would take over and I'd stay up there past my punishment time," Jordan recalls with a chuckle. "She couldn't last 15 minutes before checking to make sure I was okay. She's a softy." That stubbornness paid off when Jordan headed into training camp undrafted, where the odds of making the final 53-man roster are only slightly better than getting Madonna to move back to Detroit.
"No one thought Jordan would make it to the NFL," says Susan. "I bit my lip, politely ignoring the doubters. I knew it wasn't true because Jordan is too stubborn to quit."
When asked about a football mom's sacrifices, Susan says, "All my children are athletes; the only sacrifice was choosing which games to miss. One summer there were 28 games in one week!"
"One of the hidden benefits of being Jordan's mom is being able to enjoy his sense of humor," says Susan. "We both enjoy pranks. One time I had my lady friends over for lunch by the pool. Jordan convinced his siblings and friends to climb onto the roof. Do you know how embarrassing it is for a schoolteacher to have her friends see children playing on her roof? Simply unforgivable."
She wasn't above playing a few tricks herself. When Jordan was little she told him that she was Miss America. Jordan told all of his friends before figuring out it was a rouse in the third grade -- which he finds simply unforgivable. Others say Jordan believed the hoax way beyond third grade. "I am not sure how long he believed that I was Miss America, but in his eyes, I know I was Miss America anyway," she says rapturously.
The Michigan Difference...
Susan and her husband Lou Kovacs, who also walked-on the Michigan football team, taught Jordan the Michigan Fight Song as soon as he could talk.
"Michigan Football was great, but the people were the best thing about Michigan. My teammates, coaches, faculty, students and alums were greater than I ever could have imagined," says Jordan. "The optimism and discipline that my mother instilled in me were certainly tested and subsequently enhanced at Michigan, giving me the tenacity I needed to make it to the NFL. This is why I am so excited about Jim Harbaugh coaching Michigan. He values education, toughness, hard work, discipline, selflessness and determination like my mom does. She instilled those principles in me and I live by them. I love football because it requires those characteristics to be successful," Jordan says.
Susan concurs. "Going to Michigan was great for Jordan because of the quality education, diverse cultural and socio economic exposure, and of course football," she says. "Anybody who can go to Michigan should -- especially if they want to play in the NFL -- now that Harbaugh is there. Sadly, the cost for out-of-state students is prohibitively expensive. Jordan left Michigan with a huge debt. I spent many sleepless nights worrying about how this would affect his life."
She went on to say, "When Jordan was young, I borrowed his beloved rock collection for my classroom. "He believed it was worth a million dollars and constantly reminded me it belonged to him. A few months back, thanks to Jordan's diligence, I received notice his loans, which I co-signed, were paid off. I brought his rock collection home and took a picture of it, and sent it to him with the message: 'Now that your student loans have been paid off, your million dollar rock collection has been returned.'
Jordan's College2ProDraft Analysis read: Good instincts, work habits... competes hard... too smart and tough not to be in training camp. Pro Day results proved he is athletic enough to be NFL-worthy. This makes Jordan a great athlete; the kind of son, sibling and teammate he is, in cohort with the many hours he donates to sick children, and charities for Miami's poor makes Jordan a champion; it is also the signature of Susan Kovacs' success as a mother, teacher, and human being.
Jordan says, "I think my mom would make one hell of an inside linebacker if she played football. She might be a bit undersized but she'd make up for it with her toughness and instincts." I say, Jordan's mom may not cure cancer, end hunger, or bring home Olympic gold, but it will be a mother like she is who sculpts the mind and molds the spirit of the person who does. Saluting you and all sports moms, Susan Csizek-Kovacs. Keep those champions coming and always... remain fabulous and phenomenal!
*Rights to use all images were either granted by Jordan Kovacs, Susan Csizek-Kovacs, or free usage from Google.