Thursday, February 21, 2013
Exit Interview: TE Mike Kwiatkowski
By Michael Rothstein
"Exit Interview" is a concept started at WolverineNation last year where we chat with players leaving Michigan about their experiences with the Wolverines and, in some cases, what's next.
Mike Kwiatkowski began his Michigan career like almost every other student. In the stands. As a spectator. But he eventually found his way on the team and for his final year, into the starting lineup for six games this season. He made four catches for 37 yards in his career.
WolverineNation caught up with Kwiatkowski as he prepares for a future in pharmacy.
Q: Your career was shorter than most because you walked on. When in the past year did you realize you might actually play a lot?
Mike Kwiatkowski: The first time that I realized I was going to play a significant role was last year during spring ball. I rotated with Brandon Moore the entire time and just then, I really realized I’m going to be a significant member of the team, more than just a scout team player.
Q: Was there a ‘Whoa’ moment for you? That spring? Fall camp? When Brandon gets hurt?
Kwiatkowski: During camp it really started to hit me. Last year during camp I was rotating in the two-deep but this year I was with the first string. I knew I was going to be playing, didn’t think I would end up playing as much as I did. Definitely hit me that I was going to be out there playing big-time football.
Q: What was that Alabama game like for you?
Kwiatkowski: It was weird, especially after not playing for four years, essentially, I never really got nervous before a game. Alabama was real different. When Brandon went down early in the game, I knew then it was my time to show that I can play and translate everything that I was able to show from practice. I was really excited to get out there and see some playing time for all the effort I put in the past couple of years.
Q: When you first walked on, what did you think would happen? Did you think you’d play or just do it and see what happens?
Kwiatkowski: Obviously I didn’t have very high expectations. Not very many walk-ons do. My goal was to become a special teams player, kick return, something like that, and if that was my contribution to the team and it ended there, I would have been happy. But as my career progressed and there weren’t very many tight ends ahead of me, I knew there was a chance I could get playing time. I wasn’t expecting very much at the beginning.
Q: What do you feel was the highest moment of your career and the lowest?
Kwiatkowski: I would definitely say my highest moment was not an exact second or anything, but becoming the starting tight end, week-in, week-out. Being able to not only prove to myself but to other people that you don’t have to be a five-star recruit to be productive. My lowest moment of my career was probably be my first year, [Rich Rodriguez'] last season, when I was playing scout team left guard. I had thought about if this decision was right for me. I wasn’t playing my position and going against Mike Martin all the time.
Q: Did going against Mike Martin actually help you this year in some way?
Kwiatkowski: I’m sure that it did. I guess it is weird how things work out. I feel like me going through the difficulty of blocking Mike Martin changed the way I looked at blocking people. I wasn’t blocking anybody as strong or talented or as gifted as he is, then it is an easier task. That changed my whole perspective of who is difficult to block.
Q: You are going to Michigan pharmacy school in the fall. Why pharmacy?
Kwiatkowski: I have a pharmacist in my family. One of my cousins in a pharmacist so that’s how I became interested in looking into a profession like that. Through college the classes I took led me to pharmacy and that’s another thing to look out for. I was always interested in the medical field and pharmacy always seemed like a really good fit for me.
Q: One final thing, when you look back at your career, how do you judge it?
Kwiatkowski: I think if you look back objectively, that I ended up overachieving. Any time you let a walk-on to the team, you never expect them to play significant snaps, really. It wasn’t the most successful career if you disregard the fact that I was a walk-on, if I was a scholarship tight end playing for my senior year wouldn’t have been successful. But considering my circumstances, I did a pretty good job, I guess.