ANN ARBOR, Mich. — You can call it the feel good story of the fall, but that doesn’t accurately explain Michigan redshirt freshman walk-on wide receiver Jake McCurry getting his first career touchdown on Saturday against WMU.
If you’ve been reading these pages since the beginning (all the way back to June 2018), you’ve heard about McCurry, and how he’s a player that multiple sources had told WolverinesWire was standing out in spring ball and beyond. So, when he finally got his chance to shine in front of 110,000 plus, it was no surprise that the Solon (OH) native made the most of it.
When we wrote the story, it was quickly retweeted by former Wolverines such as Mike McCray and Khalid Hill, who both explained that fans didn’t even know the talent that the walk-on has. But, clearly, the team was well aware, as McCurry won co-offensive scout team player of the year at the annual football bust in 2017 (along with QB Dylan McCaffrey).
He wasn’t surprised in the summer when there was the outpouring of praise from those players, because he had become accustomed to making plays against them on the scout team for the entirety of the year, last year.
“I think the main thing – it was mainly most of the defensive guys – Mo and (Michael Dwumfour) and Mike (McCray),” McCurry said. “And that’s because I was on scout – I was playing scout receiver all last year. So I was like – usually we’re separate, so it’s the defense and scout offense and scout (defense and offense) over there. I was with defense most of the year, and I was making a lot of plays on the DBs last year, and I think that’s mostly how I got noticed by those guys.”
When McCurry scored his 18 yard touchdown, a pass from his fellow scout team award-winning quarterback, the moment wasn’t about him.
His first impulse was to seek out McCaffrey, as well as other scout team players from a year ago, such as Joel Honigford, Oliver Martin and Andrew Stueber, as they all were in those trenches together, facing the nation’s third-best defense every single day.
“Initially, I just wanted to see Dylan, because I’m pretty close with Dylan, and it was a special moment that he threw me the ball,” McCurry said. “That’s all I really remember thinking. ‘I want to see Dylan and give him a hug!’ I was just excited!”
Of course, cutting his teeth against that defense — and the nation’s top-rated pass defense from a year ago — has really aided McCurry’s development.
You try going up against the best of the best, players who were rated among the top in the nation by scouting website Pro Football Focus, and you’ll become determined to win a few of those battles.
So, the David Longs and Lavert Hills and the Josh Metelluses and Tyree Kinnels of the world are the players that McCurry was tasked with defeating every single day in practice. He knows what it takes to emerge victorious when he can, due to cutting his teeth with some All-Big Ten caliber talent trying to keep him from succeeding.
When he lined up against Western Michigan, having faced players of Michigan’s caliber on a daily basis, it became something of a natural deal for him to go out and make a play, because — well — he wasn’t facing Michigan’s ferocious defense this time around.
“It helps a ton,” McCurry said. “I’ve only ran – that’s basically the only route I’ve ever run against another team in the past – I don’t even know how long. A year and a half, whatever? It was a lot easier than running against our safeties, that’s for sure. That route would have been a lot more difficult to run against our safeties, so I think it helped a lot continuously going up against our DBs, especially our safeties and our corners. They make it really difficult on us. Practicing against them has helped me a lot.”
As far as looking back on his touchdown, McCurry didn’t keep the ball. He’s rewatched it a few times, albeit minimally.
When he thinks back upon it, he recalls more about how the play unfolded more than the glory of the moment — finding himself in the end zone with a sea of maize and blue clad well-wishers quickly getting to know his name (well, the ones that weren’t WolverinesWire readers).
In the end, the play ended up being quite a simple moment for McCurry, and one that he’ll certainly remember for a lifetime.
“I’m not really sure where I am in the progression,” McCurry said. “I’m pretty sure I’m one of the main routes. I just remember looking at the leverage the DB had, and it was a quick play. We got it right there and ran it. It was a quick play and I looked at the leverage that he had. I remember I had to get outside and try to stack him a little bit. That’s really all I thought when I was running the route and when I looked up there.”