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April 14, 2019 Happy Birthday John Kolesar

Posted on April 13, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to wish a Maize and Blue Happy Birthday to a Wolverine named John Kolesar.   According to the 1988 Michigan Football Media Guide, John Kolesar was born on this day in Ohio. He grew up to be an outstanding athlete (football, basketball, and track and field) at West Lake High School in West Lake, Ohio. His father, William, played for Bennie Oosterbaan from 1953 to 1955. Although he was a Buckeye by geography, John was a Wolverine at heart. John Kolesar knew that his college destiny would be fulfilled in Ann Arbor, not Columbus!

(Note – John Kolesar (#40) is pictured above with the 1988 Big Ten champion Michigan Wolverines. Kolesar is seated in the first row – second man from the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

John Kolesar Michigan Football 1988 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

John Kolesar still holds the career record for most yards per reception at 23.4 yards. He was a BIG PLAY guy! Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Part I. Wolverine of the Day: John Kolesar

John Kolesar arrived in Ann Arbor in 1985. Although, he was recruited as a tailback, he found his way into the starting lineup as a flanker. John started ten games as a freshman. He caught 12 passes in 1985 for 336-yards and 3 touchdowns. Michigan posted a record of 10-1-1 that season and finished second in the nation and in the Big Ten. It was a good season for Michigan and for John Kolesar.

A “Big Play” Receiver Right From the Start!

Kolesar’s biggest reception of the season (and longest of his career) was the game-clincher against Ohio State. Yes, you remember that 77-yard beauty that Jim Harbaugh laid out there for Kolesar to sprint under. The speedy Kolesar caught the ball and raced into the end zone, untouched, to secure a BIG win over the Buckeyes. Actually, I was at that game with my oldest son. We were seated in the corner of the east end zone, so it was great to see Harbaugh and Kolesar connect on that play. Of course, Jim Harbaugh never saw the play happen because he got drilled by a blitzing OSU safety, but he heard the roar of the crowd and knew that Kolesar caught the ball. It was one of the most exciting plays I have ever seen at the Big House!

In 1986, Kolesar came back ready to do more for the Wolverines. John started 8 more games at flanker in his second season. He caught 15 balls for 402-yards and 2 more touchdowns. He also saw a lot of action as a kickoff and punt returner that season. Michigan improved on their won-lost record in 1986 with 11 wins and 2 losses. The Wolverines posted a record of 7-1-0 in the conference and won a share of the Big Ten Championship.

Here is that famous play from the Wolverine Historian. Enjoy!

John Kolesar vs Ohio State in 1985 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

John Kolesar heading to the end zone in 1985 after his catch of a perfect Jim Harbaugh pass. Always fun to see a Buckeye make a BIG play against the Buckeyes! Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

More Big Catches and More Big Touchdowns

The 1987 season was another successful season for John Kolesar. He started in 7 more games, caught 16 more passes for 331-yards and 4 touchdowns. John continued to make big plays for Michigan. However, the Wolverines slipped to an overall record of 8-4-0 in 1987. They went 5-3-0 in the conference which dropped them to a fourth-place finish.

John Kolesar finished his Michigan football career STRONG in 1988. He had a career best 18-receptions for 356-yards and scored 3 more touchdowns. He helped his Maize and Blue teammates win 9 games lose 2 and tie 1 in 1988. The Wolverines posted a record of 7-0-1 which gave them another Big Ten Championship.

So, John Kolesar ended his Michigan career with his head held high. He finished his playing days  with 61-catches for 1,425 yards and 12 touchdowns. John averaged 23.4 yards per reception which is over four yards more than Anthony Carter averaged during his time at Michigan (19.1). He earned All-Big Ten honors in 1988. John’s great love for Michigan was recognized when he was awarded the Robert P. Ufer Award in 1988.

John Kolesar’s Michigan Football “Firsts”

Of course, John Kolesar would not be the topic of today’s blog if he was connected to some Michigan football “firsts.” Here are the best ones that connect Mike and Michigan Football:

  • John Kolesar was the first freshman receiver to record two 100-yard receiving games in a regular season in 1985. (Note-Anthony Carter did it in one regular season game and a bowl game in 1979.)
  • Kolesar is still the first, and only Michigan Man to average 23.4 yards per reception.
  • John Kolesar also played in the first ever games against Maryland in 1985 and Florida State, Hawaii, and Arizona State in 1986.
  • Kolesar also played in the first games against Long Beach State and Alabama in 1987.

So, today is a good day to remember the accomplishments of John Kolesar. He played a lot of winning football for Michigan and his name is still in the record book. John Kolesar is one more reason that Michigan football is the winningest program in college football. Happy Birthday John Kolesar and Go Blue!

For more information about John Kolesar, check out the links below.







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