For all that Jake Moody has accomplished in his career, he’d never hit a game winning kick.
Not at Michigan. Not in high school. Not even in youth football.
So it was fitting that in the final seconds of his last game in the Big House — a stadium where he’s achieved so much — the fifth-year kicker had a chance to add one more first.
As Michigan trailed by one with 13 seconds remaining on the clock, Moody trotted out to attempt the game-winner — the chance at an undefeated season hanging on his right foot.
The stakes of this kick were higher than anything he had attempted before. But Moody never gets caught up in the moment, overthinking the implications of any one kick.
“Going out there I had all the confidence in the world that I was gonna make it,” Moody said. “Right off my foot I knew it was going in and looking up and seeing it fly right down the middle that was pretty surreal.”
There were zero nerves from Moody as he wound up and watched as the ball soared through the uprights, securing the 19-17 win. He had already knocked through two other fourth quarter field goals, keeping the Wolverines afloat as the offense failed to convert drives into touchdowns.
In an anxious situation, where a loss would derail everything that Michigan had worked for all season, Moody was calm.
And his teammates reciprocated.
“I don’t think there was a single player on that sideline who didn’t have confidence in our kicker,” junior defensive lineman Kris Jenkins said. “Moody is without a doubt one of the best kickers I’ve ever seen. Period. He’s that type of player. He’s able to make the big time plays in big time moments in big time games.”
Moody nailed the kick when the lights were brightest with 110,000 fans looking on. But that kick doesn’t come without the thousands of kicks Moody’s attempted before, practicing every day to perfect his craft.
Matt Ladach, Northville High School’s football coach, witnessed that dedication first hand for years.
“He’s always been confident and I really attribute his confidence to his work ethic,” Ladach told The Daily after Saturday’s game. “He’s not going to be outworked. I can guarantee you that there is not a kick or a situation that he and his teammates haven’t practiced or prepared for. I mean, I can guarantee you that. He has that drive to be the best that there is and nothing’s going to deter him.”
Ladach watched Moody nail kick after kick in high school, never worried that he would miss it. But on Saturday, cheering Moody on as a fan and not a coach, Ladach’s stomach was in knots.
Yet he knew Moody wouldn’t share those feelings. Nothing could rattle Moody. Not even the swirling wind that shook the goal posts and whipped the flags encircling the Big House all day long.
“The wind was tough,” Moody said. “But it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before.”
Much of football involves change. A defense shows different coverages throughout a game; wide receivers displaying variation in their routes; a game plan that gets tweaked with halftime adjustments.
But kicking is an art form rooted in repetition. That repetition, that attention to detail, allowed Moody to flourish.
In the moments following his kick, Moody was mobbed by his teammates. In the locker room celebration, teammates chanted his name. It was a legacy defining kick, one that will forever hold weight on Moody’s career and Michigan’s season.
With one swing of the leg, Moody ensured this game would be remembered on the right side of history.
In the postgame press conference, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh raved about Moody’s brilliance. He recalled his three fourth quarter kicks. He lauded Moody’s emotional control on the sidelines.
Then he made a declaration:
“I’m a pretty decent historian of Michigan football,” Harbaugh said. “I am nominating him for legendary status.”
A nomination well earned.