‘Converted’ Wolverine Furbush tackles space engineering

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Noah Furbush grew up in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. Back then, he wore scarlet and gray and cheered on the Buckeyes. Now, he wears the winged helmet as a Michigan linebacker.

Furbush grew up in Kenton, in west central Ohio. Three of his family members went to Ohio State.

“So I grew up a Buckeye fan,” Furbush said Tuesday night after practice.

He likes to say he “converted” when his older brother attended UM Flint to become a doctor of physical therapy.

“It was fun to transition and be different than anyone else back home,” Furbush said of being a Wolverine.

This is the week of “The Game” as Michigan prepares to face Ohio State in the regular-season finale on Saturday at Michigan Stadium. Ohio State has had the upper hand in the rivalry, winning the last five and 12 of the last 13.

Michigan is 8-3 overall (5-3 Big Ten) and desperately wants to win this important game.

“I don’t know about spoil their season, but we want this win and we want to win this rivalry,” said Furbush, who has 26 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries this season. “This means everything to us.

“It would make the season. This is what we play for — to beat Ohio State.”

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Furbush plans to be back next season and will have another shot at the Buckeyes after he decided in the summer to do a one-year aerospace engineering master’s program.

His options with that type of degree are numerous and fascinating.

“There’s a million different things I could do and to be honest, I’m kind of glad I’m doing this extra year of space engineering. It gives me an extra year to figure it out,” Furbush said, smiling. “I was lucky enough to get introduced to flying and pilot training a year ago and that really had a huge impact on me. I have this childhood fantasy of growing up to be a fighter pilot and flying in the military, maybe being an astronaut one day.

“I think that would be an amazing life. Also a serious commitment, one which I really have to think about a lot. This extra year is great for me. There are a million other different things. I could work for (different aerospace entities). Also, it doesn’t necessarily have to be space or aero-related. It could be something completely different.”

After Michigan’s trip to Rome in the spring, Furbush decided to participate in a three-week study abroad program in Costa Rica. There, his eyes were opened by a soil scientist for a way to combine his aerospace background and focus it toward agriculture, soil science and sustainability in general.


The scientist used drones to assess agricultural resource use, Furbush said, and tried to limit that as much as possible for areas that don’t have resources available.

“So that’s aerospace-related,” he said, adding remote sensing could be what he focuses on during his master’s year. “Basically that’s looking down at the earth or a planet from a satellite, and how do you do that? That’s remote sensing.

“He’s using these UAVs (drones) and he uses this multispectral camera to look down at these plots of land. With that, he can look at chlorophyll content in leaves, he can look at water dispersion on a plot of land. It’s really kind of a growing field, like, I guess, sustainable farming. I’d definitely like to get into that. From a personal standpoint, I’m very interested in sustainability combating climate change.”

His experience in Costa Rica introduced him to a new way of thinking about sustainability. The group visited a solar farm and a hydroelectric dam and went to visit a rocket company that makes an electric propulsion engine that is highly efficient. What that feeds into is sustainable transportation. Costa Rica, Furbush said, runs on 90-percent renewable energy but transportation is lacking, and this type of engine would support the country’s sustainability.

Juggling a demanding class schedule and football isn’t always easily. Furbush has had to take more classes this fall than he has his two previous seasons so he can graduate on time. He credited his advisor for helping him keep to that schedule.

“There’s guys like me running through his program all the time,” Furbush said. “It’s a testament to what kind of school this is. There’s guys in this program that want to be good football players, but they also want to be great students and great people outside of the football facility.”

Is there a common thread that connects football and aerospace engineering?

“I think it’s all a mentality,” Furbush said. “I wouldn’t consider myself exponentially smarter than the next person. I would just say that I try really hard. I try hard here (at football), and I try hard everywhere else I am. I try to use that to set myself apart from everyone else.”

Ohio State at Michigan

Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: Fox/950

Records: Ohio State 9-2, 7-1 Big Ten; Michigan 8-3, 5-3

Line: Ohio State by 11.5