Noah Furbush understands this rivalry better than most. After all, he’s been on both sides. 

A native of Kenton, Ohio, the redshirt junior linebacker has three family members who attended Ohio State. Naturally, a young Furbush grew up cheering for the Buckeyes.

Then the dominoes began falling.

His older brother attended the University of Michigan-Flint to study physical therapy. Then Michigan reached out to Furbush himself, who received its overtures with an open mind. Furbush liked the proximity of the school — he’s half an hour away from his brother, a doctor in Milford, and two hours away from his family. He liked the school itself, too. So he picked the Wolverines, and now the rivalry has become all the more interesting for him.

“It was kind of fun to transition,” Furbush said, “and be different than everyone else back home.”

But playing for Michigan isn’t the only thing that sets him apart from everyone else.

Furbush is finishing up a degree in aerospace engineering this fall. Next year, he’ll begin a master’s program in space engineering.

If that sounds far out there, that’s because it is.

“There’s a million different things that I could do,” Furbush said, “and to be honest, I’m kind of glad that I’m doing this extra year of space engineering. (It) gives me an extra year to figure it out.”

What are some of those things? To start, Furbush could become a pilot. He was introduced to flying and pilot training only one year ago, and said Tuesday that it “really had a huge impact” on him. He still carries a childhood fantasy of growing up to be a fighter pilot, flying in the military or even becoming an astronaut.

If flying doesn’t work out, Furbush has plenty of other options. SpaceX, the aerospace company started by Elon Musk that hopes to commercialize space travel and eventually colonize other planets, could be a landing spot. NASA, the more conventional leader in the field of space exploration, is another.

Furbush is open to non-space options, too. He spent the past summer in Costa Rica applying his engineering skills to sustainable farming. He visited a solar farm, a geothermal plant, hydroelectric dam and rocket company that specializes in building electric-propulsion engines.

He also spent time with a soil scientist who used spectral analysis with unmanned aerial vehicles to assess agricultural resource use — what Furbush dubbed ‘remote sensing.’

That’s where his background in aerospace engineering came in handy.

“What this guy is doing is he’s using these UAVs and he uses this multi-spectral camera to look down at these plots of land,” Furbush explained. “And with that, he can look at chlorophyll content in leaves, he can look at water dispersion along a plot of land. … It’s really kind of a growing field.”

Furbush admitted that from a personal standpoint, he’s “very interested” in sustainability and combating climate change. Part of that stems from his time abroad.

“I was really introduced to a lot of new things,” he said. “I’d always believe that this is important, but I had never experienced anything like that firsthand. We got to go around and got to see so many different, interesting, cool things.”

Furbush returned from Costa Rica with more to shoulder this fall. His schedule is heavier than it has been during past seasons. He sought the assistance of an advisor to make sure he was still on track to graduate on time.

The classroom isn’t the only place Furbush has taken on more responsibility, either. He has earned more time on the field as the third linebacker employed in Michigan’s 3-3-5 defense, tallying 26 tackles and two tackles for loss through 11 games played.

Furbush, though, doesn’t think any of this makes him special, saying that he just tries “really hard” at everything.

“I think it’s just all about mentality,” Furbush said. “I wouldn’t consider myself exponentially smarter than the next person.”

Most people would disagree.

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