Rivalry Week means one thing in college football – Ohio State vs. Michigan.
As Saturday’s game draws near, Westlakers will remember one of the all-time greats to come out of the Westlake High football program: John Kolesar.
Kolesar starred for the Demons in the early 80’s, helping Coach Vern Long’s teams to a pair of Southwestern Conference championships and a playoff appearance.
As a Michigan freshman in 1985, Kolesar was on the receiving end of quarterback Jim Harbaugh’s 77 yard bomb to lift the home Wolverines to a 27-17 victory over Ohio State. It was the beginning of a stellar career for Kolesar at Michigan. John’s dad, Bill, was a Wolverine. So even when John was playing for Westlake, his heart was headed to the that team up north.
“When I was a kid, I used to go into the bathroom and pray for Michigan during the game,” Kolesar told us many years ago.
John went on to beat Ohio State again in Columbus in 1988. His 59-yard kickoff return was followed by a 41-yard touchdown catch to lift Michigan to a 34-31 victory and Big Ten title his senior year. In one of college football’s most incredible touchdown drives ever, Kolesar accounted for all 100 yards in just two plays.
After graduation, John was a fourth round pick by the Buffalo Bills, but his professional career was cut short by a knee injury.
Football traditions run deep in the West Shore area. The year Westlake lost to Brecksville on the frozen tundra of Finnie Field at Baldwin-Wallace, future NFLer Tom Tupa was quarterback for the Bees. The icy conditions neutralized Westlake’s speed that game, ending the season with thoughts of ‘what might have been’ on a better weather night.
Here’s a YouTube highlight reel of Westlake’s best football player ever, John Kolesar, in action at Michigan: