TAMPA, Fla. — John O’Korn likely won’t start at quarterback for Michigan next week — a phrase he’s heard more than once before — but that hasn’t stopped him from finding the positives out of his up-and-down career.
O’Korn spoke with media after the Wolverines’ practice at Berkeley Preparatory High School in Tampa and discussed each of those ups and downs and what’s next for the fifth-year senior after the bowl game.
“I started as a skinny sophomore kid in Pennsylvania,” O’Korn said. “And my parents saw something in me and decided to move me to Florida closer to family at a great high school.”
He moved to attend St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, one of the most well-known football high schools in the nation, but the switch wasn’t as seamless as he would have hoped.
During his junior year, O’Korn still didn’t have any offers, was the third string quarterback and had little knowledge on how to progress. So he just continued to battle, and eventually he got some playing time.
Then the scholarships came, and O’Korn decided to start his college career at Houston. Once again, a new setting wasn’t the easiest adjustment for O’Korn.
“You’re walking into a locker room where most of the guys are already familiar with each other, and you’re the unfamiliar one,” O’Korn said. “They may have their guy. I remember when I moved to Florida in high school, I wasn’t as well received because there was a guy already there. Same thing in Houston.”
But a stroke of luck came for O’Korn when Houston’s starting quarterback went down with an injury just two weeks into the season. O’Korn was able to start 11 games as a true freshman and set multiple school records during his American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year season.
Then after getting benched the next year at Houston, transferring to Michigan, expecting to play, not playing and getting one more chance at the reigns this year, John O’Korn has now finally reached his last college game.
“You know, it’s just been a rollercoaster,” O’Korn said.
He said he will continue training after the Outback Bowl for his post-college football career. He’ll play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 20 in California, a game that features NFL draft-eligible players.
O’Korn said he’ll give everything he has to play and succeed at the next level, but also knows that the longevity of his football career isn’t a guarantee.
“It’ll be clear whenever it’s time to hang it up,” O’Korn said. “Whether that’s eight or nine months from now, or 15 to 20 years from now. You have got to continue to work until the writings on the wall to move on. I think it’ll be clear when it’s time.”
Regardless, O’Korn says the struggles of transferring and moving to new locations, which he did three times with Florida, Houston and Michigan, have taught him valuable lessons and helped him grow as a person.
“You have just got to be patient,” O’Korn said. “Put the time in, be seen and not heard…
“ … It’s definitely prepared me for what’s next. Whether that’s a long NFL career, a career in business or politics, whatever it ends up being, all those experiences will end up paying dividends in the long run.”
A quarterback to a politician would be quite the change.
But O’Korn has dealt with change time and time again. If his football endeavors don’t pan out after the bowl game, he is still confident he’s positioned himself well to succeed.