Andrew Copp’s football career landed him in a hospital bed.
His hockey career, though, led him to the Czech Republic, where he and the United States National Team Development Program’s under-18 squad earned gold medals — a feat Copp describes as the greatest moment of his life.
It was no surprise that when pressed to choose one to play in college, Copp chose the latter. On May 8, Copp announced, via Twitter, his intentions to continue his hockey career at Michigan, becoming the newest member of coach Red Berenson’s incoming recruiting class. Copp said that the defection of then-junior forward Chris Brown to the Phoenix Coyotes’ organization opened up a spot for another forward.
“Earlier, in February, I got asked to wait a year and then come,” Copp said. “But after Chris Brown left, they had a spot for me this year and they wanted me to fill it.”
It was all that Copp — who had been hearing from the coaching staff at Michigan since he was 14 — had ever wanted. His father, Andy Sr., coached the Compuware teams that the younger Copp played on growing up. When the Michigan staff came to see him, they liked what they saw from Andrew and made sure his father knew it. Copp was thrilled.
“We’ve had season tickets (at Yost Ice Arena) ever since I was born,” he said. “It’s always been the dream to play there.”
Prior to Brown’s defection, it appeared Copp would have to make other plans for next year, while his friends and teammates prepared to don the maize and blue. The USNTDP under-18 roster already had a healthy dose of Michigan commits — goaltender Jared Rutledge, defensemen Connor Carrick and Jacob Trouba, as well as forward J.T. Compher. Copp relishes the opportunity to continue playing with those teammates-turned-“brothers.”
“I’ve developed a really good friendship with them,” Copp, who roomed with Compher at the world championships, said. “I’m looking forward to growing those in the next four years.”
Needing to kill a year before he could join the Wolverines, Copp prepared to enter the United States Hockey League. But it never seemed like a perfect fit, and Copp had bigger plans.
“I think I was just ready (for college hockey) — physically, academically, and my maturity,” Copp said. ”I know the year would’ve done me some good, playing in the USHL, getting a lot of games in, but at the same time if you’re ready to play at the next level, then I might as well start playing at the next level.”
Copp, an Ann Arbor native and a student at Skyline High School, generated interest with his gun-slinging abilities as a quarterback. In 2010, Copp averaged 270 passing yards per game, throwing for 23 touchdowns. Several division-I schools, mostly from the Mid-American Conference, began charting his progress as he recovered from a broken collarbone he suffered early last season. Eventually, Copp needed to tell the suitors that he’d be trading the cleats in for skates — permanently.
“I pretty much just told them I’m going to be playing hockey going forward,” Copp said. “If you’re going to go far in a sport, then you need to decide on one.”
But that’s hardly to say that his background as a quarterback won’t come in handy as he continues to develop as a hockey player. In fact, Copp easily sees the similarities between the two sports.
“Especially as a quarterback, you need to be able to know where everyone else is at — not just your team, but the other team (too),” Copp said. “It’s a fast game. Both are.”
With the addition of Copp to the incoming freshman class coming so late in the recruitment period, it’s fitting that he describes himself as a “two-way forward.” Berenson has a reputation for seeking out proficient backcheckers. In that regard, Copp will have a leg up when he begins competing for ice time.
“I have a lot of playmaking ability with my vision that I’ve also taken from football,” Copp said. “I’m tough to play against and I’m really good in my own zone, positioning-wise.”
Save for any further offseason departures, the 2012-13 Michigan roster currently consists of 15 forwards, nine defensemen and four goaltenders.