When Michigan faces Florida State tonight at the College World Series, two athletes who were supposed to be football players will take the field for the Wolverines.
Sophomore Jordan Nwogu (above left) and junior Jordan Brewer (above right) have the size and abilities that Michigan coach Erik Bakich said is usually reserved for tackles and touchdowns. “You see guys with their physicality and their athleticism usually make their way onto the football field,” he said. “By circumstance and injuries they ended up focusing on baseball.”
Both Brewer and Nwogu had offers to play college football, but life had other plans, Bakich said. “Their paths are very similar,” the coach said. “They were football players in high school who both were going to play Division I football.”
The first batter of the 2019 CWS was Nwogu. The 6’3”, 235-pound sophomore scored in the first inning of Saturday’s game against Texas Tech, a 5–3 win for the Wolverines.
In high school, Nwogu played both baseball and football. When it came time for him to pick a sport for college, he gave up four offers to play D-I football so he could join the Wolverines’ baseball team as a walk-on.
The choice was easy for him. “Baseball has always been my passion,” he said.
Being a walk-on meant he didn’t get a baseball scholarship, and he didn’t have a guaranteed spot on the roster.
Nwogu said it was worth it to pursue his dream to play for Michigan. “When I came here I wasn’t expecting to play; I was just glad to be on the team,” he said. “I have wanted to play for Michigan my whole life.”
Nwogu worked hard with the coaches to improve. He encourages other walk-ons to follow his lead. “Once you’re on the team, everyone is the same,” he said. “You could have a 100 percent scholarship or zero scholarship; all that matters is how you play.”
Nwogu not only made the roster his freshman year, but he started in 35 games. This season the 20-year-old is a starter and the designated hitter. He has had 11 multi-RBI games and eight multi-hit games in 2019.
Even though he has impressive baseball stats, Nwogu said studying comes first. He is a computer science engineering major with an academic scholarship. In his free time he likes to code and play chess. “Academics is the biggest thing,” he said.
As a senior in high school in 2016, Jordan Brewer of St. Joseph, Michigan, had planned to play football for the Wolverines. “I was all set to walk on,” he said.
A dislocated shoulder during a football game his senior year at St. Joseph High ended that dream. Brewer recovered in time to play baseball his senior year and was asked to play the sport at Lincoln Trail College in Illinois.
During his two years in community college, he caught the eye of the Wolverines. He joined the Michigan baseball team as a junior for the 2019 season. He has had 24 multi-hit games and 12 multi-RBI games. Brewer was named Big Ten Player of the Year and drafted in the third round by the Houston Astros.
“I can see his best years ahead of him as he continues to improve,” Bakich said.
Even with all his success this year, Brewer never misses a moment to thank Michigan for bringing him on. When asked what his favorite stat is, he replied with a grin, “Being on the Michigan team is my favorite stat.”
Looking back, he said his high school shoulder injury was all part of the script for his life. Said Brewer, “There is a reason for everything that happens.”
Photograph by Joslyn Stamp