Kyle Kalis almost played football for Ohio State but in the end chose Michigan. He doesn’t regret that choice – in part because he got to play for Jim Harbaugh.
“It was definitely an eye-opening experience,” Kalis said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He is the most competitive man I’ve ever met in my life. I think from the second we first met him in that team room a couple of years ago when we first came in, he pretty much just said, ‘Expect to win. We’re going to practice to win, we’re going to play to win, we’re going to study film to win.’ Everything is about winning with that guy. To be a head coach at that level, that’s how it’s got to be. He’s fiery, nasty when he needs to be, but he’ll love you up and be buddy-buddy with you. Just a hell of a guy, hell of a coach. I’m super happy I had a chance to meet him and also play for him.”
Unfortunately for Kalis, he never got to experience beating Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won 11 of 12 in the series, including five straight.
“Anybody who’s ever been in a fight – a hand-to-hand fist-fighting type deal – that’s what that game is like,” Kalis said. “It’s back and forth, back and forth. It’s chippy. You’re talking trash the whole entire game, but while we’re still talking that trash, there’s still so much respect. You know you got to come out and give it everything you got because the other guys want it just as bad as you do. It’s a crazy feeling. It’s kind of the strongest survive. Whoever wants it the most is going to come out on top. That day, for whatever reason, the refs definitely weren’t on our side. That’s for sure. That’s documented and very clear. They played their asses off, we played our asses off – that’s just the way it went down.”
Kalis, of course, is referring to the first down that officials awarded J.T. Barrett in double overtime. Curtis Samuel scored on the very next play to give Ohio State a 30-27 win and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
“It definitely wasn’t the best spot I’ve ever seen,” Kalis said. “I honesty believe that (the refs were concerned for their safety). That’s the part of the game that’s kind of screwed up and it’s kind of jaded sometimes. Being fair isn’t always in a ref’s best (interest). It’s bad, but that’s also part of the game.”
Michigan then lost to Florida State, 33-32, in the Orange Bowl. That game, aside from the Rose Bowl, was perhaps the best of the bowl season.
“That game was unreal,” Kalis said. “Hats off to all the Florida State fans, all the Florida State players who played that day. In our opinion, I think that was the best team we faced all year. Their defense was incredible, they had some amazing offensive playmakers. And again, it was such an emotional game for us as players.”
Kalis, 23, is now preparing for the NFL. He’s a projected second- to fourth-round pick but would also like to become a professional wrestler.
“That’s the plan, yeah,” Kalis said. “I’ve talked to some agents that work kind of closely within the WWE industry. I probably couldn’t do anything for probably a year just because of how crazy this offseason is going to be and rookie camp and all that kind of stuff and the first rookie season. But after this year, I’m probably going to open up the ball game to see if we can get rolling.”