HOUGHTON - Of the 31 players who signed National Letters of Intent to play Michigan Tech football this fall - 27 from Michigan and nine from the Upper Peninsula - two hail from the Copper Country: Cody Goldsworthy and Ross Michaels.
"We've had some great success stories with local kids and some locals have not done as well, but by and large the philosophy I have is that I'll give a local young person an opportunity," said Tech coach Tom Kearly, who enters his eighth year at the helm this fall.
Goldsworthy, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, earned his opportunity thanks to a stellar senior season for the L'Anse Purple Hornets, tallying 180 tackles, according to Tech's recruit release. He is penciled in at linebacker for Tech, but he also racked up 1,500 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns last fall. He could play any number of positions for Tech, including tight end, according to Goldsworthy.
Hancock running back Ross Michaels turns a corner during the Copper Bowl in October. Michaels signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at Michigan Tech last week, as did L’Anse’s Cody Goldsworthy. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"We saw physicality," said Kearly of the All-U.P. Class D linebacker and All-WestPAC running back. "We watched him play and felt that right now with the temperament and physicality he has, we'll start him here as a linebacker, but there's a lot of variables."
Goldsworthy had made up his mind after his junior season he wanted to play college football, and a rigorous offseason weight training program and several football camps helped him add 45 pounds and refine his sport-specific skills. Smaller schools had contacted him after seeing the highlight tapes he sent them, but it only took a few games into the fall season for Tech to take notice of his senior-year physical improvements.
"Three games in Tech called me, Coach Kearly did, he saw my highlight tape and games, then they started sending guys to look at me," recalls Goldsworthy. "I went to visit and really liked it. I was planning on signing then, then a week later Northern (Michigan) started calling. I already told them that I committed to Tech."
He made the decision official last Wednesday during National Signing Day, and he plans to major in kinesiology at Tech.
"I'm excited for it. It's what I've been working for. I've always wanted to go to Michigan Tech," Goldsworthy said. "It's close to friends and family, and I know I'll get a good education. I can't wait to get on another team and play my butt off."
In the meantime, he'll finish off his senior hockey season before working on adding even more explosiveness and speed during track and field.
He garnered All-U.P. honors as part of the 400- and 800-meter relays last year.
After track, he'll begin yet another summer of intense workouts, following the path of another L'Anse alum and current Tech linebacker Dan Perrault.
"I think in my opinion he's very comparable to Danny Perrault," said L'Anse head coach Mark Leaf, who has coached them both. "They were both fullback and linebacker, and they both have that will and desire to get better.
" We're very excited for Cody to get this opportunity to play college football. He's been a tremendous player for us the past two seasons. His senior year was one of the best overall seasons on both sides of the football I've seen."
Michaels, a 5-foot-7, 170-pounder for the Hancock Bulldogs, also had a successful senior season as a two-way player, and the Chassell native is slated to play running back at Tech. He garnered All-WestPAC honors at that position along with receiving special mention for the All-U.P. team by the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
"Ross is valedictorian of his class, a scholarship winner, he wants (biomedical engineering), and this is a great opportunity for him. We'll give him a chance to play running back, but he also played defense," said Kearly, whose son Tanner played quarterback for Hancock.
Michaels attends Chassell and he was the U.P. runner up in pole vault and qualifier in the 100-meter dash for the Panthers, but he played football at Hancock, and he is currently playing hockey for Jeffers.
"I had gotten a scholarship for academics, and was already planning on going (to Tech), so it was cool that football worked out, too," said Michaels, who is also considering kinesiology as a major. " I've always wanted to play. It's been a dream of mine. I've always wanted to play for the (Detroit) Lions. The Huskies are the first step."
His 5-foot-7 stature doesn't fit the mold of a prototypical tailback, but it's not a concern to Kearly, Michaels or Hancock coach Matt Walter. The Huskies - and Lions, for that matter - have plenty of examples of smaller backs succeeding.
"The thing you need at running back, first of all are his feet good enough to make someone miss?" Kearly said. "Second thing is speed: can he go? Third is vision: can he feel cuts, can he see seams? Fourth is power and size."
Phil Milbrath, who stood just 5-foot-9, is one example of a smaller back who had success at Tech, tallying more than 1,400 rushing yards his senior season, including a record-breaking 293-yard performance against No. 1 Grand Valley State.
"(Milbrath) was like my hero out there," said Michaels, who vividly recalls watching Tech games from the hill behind the south end zone at Sherman Field. "I don't really see (size) as a disadvantage. I'm low to the ground. My lateral movement is better than taller kids."
And according to Walter, what Michaels lacks in height, he makes up for in other areas.
"I've talked to many colleges about Ross, and you can't measure heart on height," Walter said. "He's probably the hardest worker I've ever seen. Offseason, in season, he has worked his tail off from his freshman year.
" It's a good pick-up for Tech, and a great school for Ross."
Goldsworthy and Michaels are among 16 offensive players and 15 defensive players Tech signed for this fall, in what Kearly said is Tech's most successful year in terms of number of scholarships offered to number of players accepting those scholarships.
"It was a real good year for us, and we're excited," Kearly said. "You never know how it's going to play out for years later but I thought we recruited a whole football team, every position on our team except for punter and kicker, which are not need areas."
For more on the fall 2013 class, including brief biographies on each recruit, visit michigantechhuskies.com.