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Former walk-on lives the dream at Miami

Bo Brueck - Asst. Photo Editor
Bo Brueck - Asst. Photo Editor

Miami redshirt senior linebacker Brad Koenig has been called the undisputed best linebacker in the Mid-American Conference.

But Koenig is a former walk-on.

Five years after arriving at Miami with no college offers, Koenig has become the rock of the RedHawk defense.

Koenig came to Miami as an unknown prospect following an underwhelming high school senior season during which he collected just 21 total tackles.

The 6-foot-1-inch linebacker played under three different head coaches at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, making it difficult to get his name out to college recruiters.

"It's tough to get recruited when you have a new head coach who doesn't even know his players," Koenig said.

Nevertheless, Koenig found his way to Oxford after a former junior varsity coach sent Koenig's film to a Miami assistant coach.

Three days before the RedHawks opened fall camp in 2014, the Miami coaching staff gave Koenig a call and his college career began.

After being redshirted his first season on the team, Koenig worked his way up the defensive depth chart while playing both safety and linebacker.

"I think right when I got here, they could tell I was a good football player," Koenig said. "I just don't think they knew exactly where to put me."

That changed in October 2015 against Ohio University when one of Miami's starting linebackers was ejected, forcing Koenig into action at linebacker.

This moment, Koenig says, was the day he went from walk-on to contributor.

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Since then, Koenig has blossomed into a nationally recognized defender. Koenig has collected 90 total tackles with 10 of them coming for a loss on the play with two games left this season.

A monster performance at Akron this season propelled Koenig to one of the MAC's best linebackers. Heading into the fourth quarter, the RedHawks held just a seven point lead, but went on to roll to a 41-17 victory.

And Miami rolled because Koenig snagged two interceptions and recovered a fumble. Koenig said he and his teammates desperately needed a strong finish.

"I don't remember when we had a win that was that safe at the end," Koenig said.

Two weeks later, the RedHawks traveled to Army to face the triple-option attack of the Black Knights.

Koenig came up big, making 23 tackles while forcing a fumble in the RedHawks' double-overtime defeat.

"You're playing a tough military team," Koenig said. "You've got to be mentally tough."

As Koenig and the RedHawks finish up the final two games of the season, individual stats and recognitions can wait. In Koenig's mind, he plays the game humbly, thankful for the opportunity to compete at a high level.

"I'm not too flashy," Koenig said. "It just goes back to being a kid growing up. I grew up watching dudes at [the University of] Michigan [...] it's pretty cool being one of them."

As Koenig looks to take the next step in his career, he will, once again, face tall odds. Draft experts predict the linebacker to be undrafted come April.

Of course, walking on to a football team would be nothing new for Brad Koenig.