'Brilliant' Furbush sets sights skyward after Michigan

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan linebacker Noah Furbush

Ann Arbor — Players like Michigan linebacker Noah Furbush, who have the potential to play at the next level but choose a more selfless path, don’t come along often.

Furbush has a degree in aerospace engineering and is pursuing a Master of Engineering degree in space engineering. He also had an interception in last week’s win against Western Michigan.

“He’s a very dedicated player,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of Furbush this week. “He’s got all the attributes — size and speed, smart. I’ve watched him for a few years now, and I’ve always thought of Noah Furbush as a guy who could be an NFL player.

“It’s very interesting and compelling story that he’s very serious about football and it’s very important to him, but that’s not what he wants to do after college.”

Furbush, who earned his pilot’s license two years ago, plans to join the United States Marine Corps and wants to fly jets. His mother was a nurse in the Air Force and he has a grandfather who served in the U.S. Army.

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Furbush is thoughtful and reflective. He's not one to dwell on the past but looks to the future eyes wide open in awe and in anticipation of what’s yet to come.

While football is important to him, it was planes he drew in his notebooks when he was a kid, not X’s and O’s.

“I was obsessed with 'Star Wars,'” Furbush said. “I wanted to be Han Solo flying the Millennium Falcon, just like a lot of kids.”

A lot of kids also want to play in the NFL. That’s what they dream about.

Furbush’s mind has always been in the clouds, flying high above us all. Soon he will prepare to leave behind his Michigan football uniform and winged helmet for a military uniform and a pilot’s helmet, with the goal of serving the country.

“I think people have passions in life and my passion is flying,” Furbush said this week. “I know where I want to go and I want to join the military. I know it’s uncommon for most people, but it’s always been something I’ve looked at and always wanted to do.

“You know, it’s kinda like being a fan. You look up to Michigan football players. You see those jerseys, you see the coach, you see all those people you look up to, and that’s kinda the same way I see those fatigues. They just look sharp to me. I see people in uniform, and I look up to them and the sacrifices that they make for this country and really just all the amazing things they get to do and be a part of in that service.”

Michigan is hosting Military Appreciation Day on Saturday when it plays SMU at Michigan Stadium. Before and during the game, Michigan will recognize those who have served and are currently serving. Flags representing each military branch along with a POW/MIA flag will be flown around the stadium. After two large American flags are unfurled on the field during the national anthem, two F-35A Lightning II planes will conduct a flyover.

More than likely, Furbush will be envious when those planes roar above Michigan Stadium.

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There is something about piloting a plane that has always appealed to Furbush and even more now that he can fly.

“Funny thing I’ve always thought about, I don’t know if I could ever go skydiving,” Furbush said, smiling. “It scares the heck out of me because you lose that control. When you’re sitting in the cockpit, you have that control and you feel like you’re part of the plane. Kind of like playing baseball, you feel like the glove is kind of an extension of your hand, extension of your body.”

He’s open to flying anything but would love to fly an F-35, a fifth-generation fighter.

“I just want to get up there,” he said. “It’s a pretty sharp plane. I think that would be a pretty cool one to fly. They have custom helmets for each one of those planes that cost somewhere around 35 grand a pop. Super cool displays. You can look through these AR glasses and see things on the ground you couldn’t see otherwise. Unbelievable technology.”

Furbush has flown a Cessna 170 four-seater solo. He even flew to South Bend, Ind., to surprise his girlfriend, meeting her for dinner before flying back to Ann Arbor. Talk about an expensive date.

“Sure was,” he said, smiling.

Linebackers coach Al Washington was jokingly asked this week if he would fly with Furbush.

“Would I fly with Noah? It’s a good question,” Washington said. “I can say I would after a couple trial runs. Very accountable. He’s a brilliant kid. He’s far beyond anything I’ve been around as a football player. He’s just a driven kid. Unique. And very, very tough. Very excited about him and his passion to do that.”

So he’d sit back and watch Furbush fly before joining him?

“Watch the first trip, the second trip, and the third trip, then I’d go,” Washington said. “For sure.”

Furbush's military career will have to wait as the Wolverines ready for Week 3. After all, he is a logical guy, and he takes a logical approach about the season.

“We haven’t done anything yet,” Furbush said. “All our goals are ahead of us. There’s so much to be accomplished. Just got to keep looking forward, keep moving forward.”

And then, time for takeoff.



SMU at Michigan

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor

Records: SMU is 0-2; UM 1-1

TV/radio: BTN/950

Line: Michigan by 35