Nov. 7, 2002
Given Washington's struggles on the football field in 2002, there has been considerable talk by players, fans and the media about what it means to be a Husky, and the passion and commitment that run throughout the history of Husky football. One player who needs no reminder about commitment is senior offensive lineman Jonathan Kovis. While Kovis is not a household name among Husky football fans - indeed, the Pasco, Wash., native has never stepped on the field on game day - his dedication to the program is exceeded only by his understanding of the Husky football tradition. While captains Paul Arnold, Ben Mahdavi, Jafar Williams and Elliott Zajac will be provided the opportunity this Saturday to make a difference in their last game in Husky Stadium, Kovis likely will watch the final home game of his career from the sidelines. Kovis knows, however, that there is more to being a Husky than making plays on the field.
GoHuskies.com When did you walk on to the team ,and why?
Jonathan Kovis: "I walked on to the team in the winter of 2000, because I just wanted to see if I could do it. Having always been a fan, I just wanted to be apart of football here and play. That's pretty much it. I didn't really have any expectations; I had no real idea of what it was going to be like. Looking back, it was more of a commitment than I thought it would be. Every day there's something we have to do, but it's been three years for me now. I remember watching games on TV and imagining being there, and thinking, 'A million people are watching this on TV.' It's gotten a lot bigger than I ever thought it would be."
GH: Do you feel like you have been a part of this team, even though you have never played in a game?
Kovis: "Early on, not so much, because I was a younger guy and we had guys like Chad Ward and Marques Tuiasosopo - they were the stars. I knew I was part of the team, and I knew my role; I trekked through what I could that way. Each day I felt more a part of the team, though, and I'm good friends with a lot of guys on the team now."
GH: What were some of the difficulties of never making it on the field?
Kovis: "You always think that it would be great if you could do play, but I came in here expecting that I would probably never play. I'm not bitter or angry, nothing like that."
GH: So you have no regrets? Why would you put yourself through all of that?
Kovis: "No regrets. I've had a lot of fun. It's been hard at times with all the conditioning, lifting, and practice, but it's been rewarding. Going to bowl games, meeting new friends, it's definitely been worth it for me. I haven't even been injured seriously, so there are no negatives for me."
GH: What kind of positives do you think you can take from this experience?
Kovis: "Four or five really close friends that I can see being close with and in contact with down the road. Plus, knowing that I was a part of something greater, being on a team that went to the Rose Bowl and was ranked third in the country. That's pretty special - not everybody gets to be a part of something like that. I've been fortunate to do that. Having been able to do this for three years, I've come to expect more out of myself in other areas."
GH: What has been the most grueling aspect of the experience?
Kovis: "Physically, it would have to be mat drills. That is the most intense conditioning I've ever been through. Coming from not playing football my freshman year to that ... I can't even really describe it. It's so physically draining that mentally you have to keep yourself in the right frame of mind. You have to find a way to fight through it."
GH: What exactly are mat drills?
Kovis: "It's a bunch of different conditioning and agility drills. There are three different stations - you're always moving and your heart is always going. It's so intense, both mentally and physically. One of the stations is the mat station with Coach Gilbertson and Coach Hart. You work with two other people doing stuff like high-knees or bear crawls in different directions until Coach says it's good enough. If anybody messes up you have to start all over again. So there's the physical part where you have to be fast enough to do the movements, and the mental part - if someone screws up, you can't lose focus or get too angry because you're going to do the same thing in a little bit. No matter how good of an athlete you are, everybody is tired."
GH: On the flip side to the last questions, what has been your best moment as a Husky?
Kovis: "My best moment was going to the Rose Bowl. Everything was new; I'd never been to California. We were pretty much stars when we were down there. Then winning the Rose Bowl ... the whole history of it ... I remember watching the Rose Bowl, and to be even a small part of getting the Huskies back playing at a level like it was in the early 90's? Wow. The other great moment was in the spring after the Rose Bowl. In the spring game, I played quite a bit more than I thought I would. I played with the second-team because we had some depth issues. That was pretty much the closest I've been to the field; I really enjoyed that."
GH: Having been only as close to the field as the Spring Game, what inspires you to keep playing? Do you really love football that much?
Kovis: "My main reason for trying to the get on the team and doing what they do was because I grew up as a fan. My older brother Daniel was a fan and I remember every Saturday we watched the Huskies. Playing for the Huskies was always something, not that I expected to do, but that I always dreamed about from the first time I started playing."
GH: Where will you go after this season?
Kovis: "I don't know. I can't imagine not getting up at six and going to mat drills, spring practice, and summer conditioning. There have been some things I haven't been able to do, like study or travel abroad. I'm just going to get organized and see what is out there. These last couple years have been solely football, so I'd like to see what else opens up, but I don't really have a definite plan."
GH: Your last game home game is this Saturday. What will be going through your head as you walk out the tunnel for the last time?
Kovis: "I'm going to miss Saturdays in the fall. I've gotten used to waking up and saying, 'Allright, it's game day!' There's nothing like coming out of that tunnel and seeing all of those people - the excitement, the noise, and the whole environment. It's unreal. It's one of those things, that feeling you get running out of the tunnel. I'll also be thinking about the other guys on the team - my friends. The majority of the time I see them at football everyday, but I won't be seeing all the same faces once my schedule changes. I'll miss life without football."
GH: Would you ever trade being a Husky for the opportunity to play significantly at another school?
Kovis: "I thought about that, but the answer is, 'No way.' Even though I never got to play, my real goal was not necessarily to play. I wanted to be a part of Husky football, and to come out every Saturday to 70,000 people. I'd definitely rather be a Dawg. In my mind, it's a step above anywhere else."
GoHuskies.com correspondent Steve Hitchcock contributed to this report.