Injury gave Countess time to watch film and switch positions

Paul Sherman/Daily
Redshirt sophomore cornerback Blake Countess was injured in the first game of the season in 2012. He used the time off to text in-game help and learn the nickel. Buy this photo

By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Editor
Published September 18, 2013

Three interceptions in two games is an impressive feat for anyone. You could call it being a smart player or you could call it being lucky.

Or, in the case of the Michigan football team, you could call it the return of Blake Countess.

After sustaining a season-ending knee injury in the opening game of the Michigan football team’s 2012 campaign, the redshirt sophomore cornerback is back in full form for the Wolverines’ secondary.

“There’s some times where you see (Countess) just a lot tighter on a guy,” said defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. “That comes from having confidence. I mean, for Blake to come back from a whole year off and to do what he’s doing, I’m pleased with that.”

It’s a good thing Mattison feels that way considering Countess still doesn’t have his position solidified. He’s currently rotating between cornerback and nickel. It sounds more complicated than it is — Countess has no difficulty remembering to switch mindsets at a moment’s notice.

“I asked if I could learn the nickel position in the spring,” Countess said. “I always see the nickel as always around the ball because they have that freedom. That was one thing that I liked, and I pursued it and it just so happened that I fell into the starting role.”

If Countess’ injury gave him anything, it was time to decide that nickel was a position he wanted to try. In between his sometimes twice-weekly rehab sessions last year, Countess spent the remainder of his time studying film. He took notice of the aggression associated with the nickel position and decided that was a place he could see himself fitting in.

In between rehab and deciding to take on the nickel position, Countess found other ways to fill his time during his injury. With a handful of other injured Wolverines, Countess watched Michigan games from the comfort of his dorm room, where his teammates demanded he act as an extra set of eyes.

Former Michigan cornerback J.T. Floyd insisted that Countess text him throughout the course of the game with every little thing that he noticed.

“J.T. told me, ‘If you don’t text me at halftime, you’re going to hear from me and you’re not going to like what you hear,’” Countess said. “(He) took my advice with open arms.”

As far as the knee, Countess doesn’t even notice it anymore. Over the summer, redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner dared Countess to do some back flips, a little homage to Countess’s past as a gymnast.

Countess accepted Gardner’s bet, just to prove he could — as he says, he wanted to “push the limits.”

He successfully performed the back flips. And though Countess is hesitant to say his knee is back to where it was before the surgery, he acknowledges that it’s different, in a good way.

“Once you get out there and really start flying, (the knee is) the last thing I’m thinking about,” he said. “I haven’t thought about it in forever. Every so often I’ll go in and do some tune-up rehab but that’s just to stay on top of things.”