Jake Ryan didn’t look himself out there.
And with good reason. His defensive tenacity and signature locks remained intact, the redshirt sophomore linebacker had a new jersey number in Michigan’s 31-25 victory over Air Force in the home opener on Saturday.
The redshirt sophomore linebacker was selected by the Michigan coaching staff to don the No. 47 jersey in honor of former player and coach Bennie Oosterbaan — a newly minted ‘Michigan Football Legend.’
Ryan readily accepted the number change, switching from No. 90 to become the first Michigan player to wear the No. 47 jersey since Oosterbaan graduated in 1928. Only one player — Harlan Froemke (1924) — wore the number at Michigan before Oosterbaan, and Froemke never joined the varsity squad.
In keeping with the tenor of the recognition, Ryan led the Wolverines with 11 tackles, a tackle for loss and two pass breakups.
Some of that success, he admitted, could be chalked up to the charge of representing a Michigan great. To him, it’s a little more than just a number.
“It’s been an honor,” Ryan said. “This game was awesome for me, and just wearing it is amazing. I’m going to wear it with pride and represent (Oosterbaan) as well as I can.”
Ryan sat down this week to do research on his numbersake.
“I just feel like he was a really athletic, just Michigan Man,” Ryan said.
Just like the No. 47 before him, Ryan flashed his play-making ability when he was needed most. For Ryan, that moment came with Air Force trailing by just six points and driving downfield with 90 seconds remaining the game.
As Falcons quarterback Connor Dietz stepped back into the pocket on a second-and-long situation, Ryan read his eyes, lurched left and dove to bat the pass away receiver Dontae Strickland.
Two plays later, with Air Force eyeing a fourth-and-16, Ryan’s bounce step caught the right tackle off-guard and Ryan sped around the outside to swat the ball down just as it left Dietz’s hand.
The game was over, and fittingly, the last-second hero was wearing No. 47.
“(Ryan) is a great ballplayer,” Kovacs said. “He had a pretty big game today, so I told him I wanted to wear that jersey next week.”
Kovacs, though, will stick with his No. 32 for now, while Ryan will hold onto Oosterbaan’s legacy jersey for the next three seasons.
Oosterbaan’s family was recognized on field before the game and given a framed No. 47 jersey, complete with the legacy patch on the chest with Oosterbaan’s name on it.
Oosterbaan was a nine-time letterman at Michigan in football, basketball and baseball from 1925-28, and he received All-American recognition five times — three times for football, twice for basketball.
When Oosterbaan graduated in 1928, his number was taken out of circulation while he remained at Michgian as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball and football programs. After a nine-year stint as head basketball coach, he became head football coach in 1948 and compiled a 63-33-4 record in that role.
Though Michigan still has three other numbers to dole out this year — President Gerald Ford (48), Ron Kramer (87) and the Wistert brothers (11) — but Hoke felt the first was an easy choice.
“From a character standpoint and a standpoint of how he goes about his business everyday, there wasn’t a better (pick) than to have Jake represent Bennie,” Hoke said.
“It’s the right guy.”