One of former Wisconsin-Whitewater wide receiver Jake Kumerow's warmer memories as a Warhawk was a game that almost ended his career. A game that could have dismissed the notion of a sixth NCAA Division III national championship in eight years for the illustrious Warhawks program.
Down 33-16 to Wartburg College at home in the Division III quarterfinal entering the fourth quarter, then-head coach Lance Leipold pulled the offensive players together, telling them to take a knee. Some players weren't used to being down by so many points so late in the game.
"He made everyone get right in his face, and he said, 'Look, this game is going to go our way real soon," Kumerow said.
"Things are going to happen good for us right now. We just have to keep playing, keeping fighting like we're winning this game. Things are going to go our way."
After that speech, the Warhawks scored 21 unanswered points to finish their largest comeback since 2007 -- Leipold's first year as UW-Whitewater head coach -- winning 37-33. Kumerow had six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown again Wartburg, and two games later, became a two-time national champion.
The 43-34 victory over rival Mount Union (Ohio) in the 2014 Stagg Bowl XLII capped an unprecedented eight-year run for UW-Whitewater and a three-year span for Kumerow with the Warhawks. The wideout finished his storied career in style with 143 catches and 33 touchdown receptions in his final two seasons. Pursuing a dream within reach, Kumerow hopes to make an impact in the NFL..
Kumerow is training at Bommarito's Performance Systems in preparation for Wisconsin's pro day on March 11. He works out twice a day -- usually starting at 8 a.m. in the morning. The Bartlett, Ill., native noted the workouts were more specific to drills one would see at the NFL Combine.
Trainers and coaches modify players' schedules daily. A variation of skill work and form running also combines with speed training and weight lifting, as he hopes to increase not only his speed, but his strength in his 6'5, 205-pound frame during the next 5-to-6 weeks before Pro Day. Throw in a massage or chiropractor appointment, and Kumerow has nothing but good things to say about the experience so far.
"It's all different every single day, but it's all good work," Kumerow said.
The first-team All-American also accepted an invite to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January. The experience was "phenomenal" for Kumerow, as he was able to work with and gather feedback from a variety of coaches, general managers, scouts and players.
His mentors during the week of bowl preparation reenforced learning route concepts and staying "low" on his routes, all advice Kumerow -- a former walk-on at Illinois before transferring to UW-Whitewater -- has taken with him.
"They really, really did a good job of that in preparing us for the next level," Kumerow said.
Kumerow has also received guidance on the transition to the professional level from his father, Eric, a former NFL linebacker who was a first-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 1988. Both of his parents have helped along the way, as Kumerow stated it as "definitely a blessing" to pick the brains of his father and have their support through this entire process.
Football is a way of life in his extended family as well. His uncle, John Bosa, played at Boston College and was a fellow first-round draft pick of the Dolphins a year earlier than Eric. You may have also heard of his cousin, Joey, the All-American defensive end for national champion Ohio State.
Kumerow actually stays with Bosa's mother during this training period, and he's enjoyed coming to a home-based atmosphere after training sessions.
UW-Whitewater had several players compete in the NFL, among them punter Matt Turk, wide receiver Derek Stanley, and most recently quarterback Matt Blanchard. Kumerow hopes to be the next in line to blast through the Division III ranks to make a name for himself at the professional level.
He'll stay at Bommaritos until March 8, then spend a day with family before heading up to Madison to perform at the pro day. The wide receiver with a decorated career is eager to show off his skills to NFL scouts and personnel in attendance.
"I can't wait," Kumerow said. "I'm really looking forward to that."