Last week was quite a week for junior center Adam Kraus. In a moment that he called “bittersweet,” Kraus got the starting nod in Saturday’s victory over Northern Illinois just days after Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown.

Michigan Football
In his first start for the Wolverines, center Adam Kraus blocks Northern Illinois safety Dustin Utschig to open the field for Michigan running back Kevin Grady.

Kraus is from New Orleans, and his house is just three blocks from the water. He now knows that his immediate family is safe — they evacuated to a small town outside of Jackson, Miss., last Sunday — but he still hasn’t heard about the conditions of his house and some extended family.

“We’re not really sure, but we’re staying optimistic,” Kraus said about his lakeside home.

His sister, Elizabeth, went to Tulane, and she is now enrolled at Michigan. On Saturday, the family went to the Big House to watch Michigan defeat Northern Illinois. They had been to plenty of Michigan football games before, but this time Kraus was the starting center.

At the beginning of the season, Kraus wasn’t sure if he was going to be starting for the Wolverines. He came to Michigan as a tight end, but, as he said, “I was a big tight end, and I knew coming in that (a move to offensive line) could have happened.”

He caught 38 receptions for 492 yards and two touchdowns in two years of playing tight end at Brother Martin High School. And he was rated as the No. 10 tight end prospect by rivals.com. When he got to Michigan he talked to coaches about making the switch to offensive line, but playing at center never crossed his mind.

Kraus, who is now 6-foot-6, 311 pounds, is certainly built like a lineman. But even when he made the change to the line after last year and switched his number from No. 83 to No. 57, he still was not guaranteed a starting job. Last year’s center David Baas had made the transition to the NFL, but Michigan coach Lloyd Carr gave the edge to senior Rueben Riley. Kraus and senior Mark Bihl were given the opportunity to compete for the starting job, so Kraus stayed optimistic. When Riley hurt his wrist at the start of spring practices and missed a lot of the spring, the coaches decided to move him to guard.

Kraus competed with Bihl for the starting spot all of spring practice, and he didn’t find out that he was starting against Northern Illinois until the night before the game.

“I don’t think (my parents) knew until today,” Kraus said on Saturday. “They’re obviously excited and happy for me. I don’t know if the rest of my family even knows that I played today.”

After the game, Kraus said that he “had a great time.” But during the week, the focus was on his family and the starting job. Kraus claimed that it wasn’t difficult to focus on football because he knew that his family was safe and because the coaches and staff were supportive of his situation. Still, the concentration that he showed all week impressed teammates such as fellow lineman Adam Stenavich, who called his focus on the practice field “amazing.”

“But when you forget about all that — your home is gone and all that has gone wrong — and just focus on football, it’s kind of weird because football doesn’t seem very important,” Stenavich said. “But he did a good job.”

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