John Kolesar's son determined to follow his own path

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Caden Kolesar

Caden Kolesar grew up a diehard Michigan fan and has gone to games every year since he was 3 years old.

The Kolesars are part of the Michigan football fabric. His grandfather, Bill, was a tackle (1953-55), and his father, John, was a receiver (1985-88).

Now, Caden Kolesar, from Westlake, Ohio, is about to enter his senior season at St. Edward High School, primarily as a safety and a returner, but he will also play some at receiver this fall, and he is making college visits and the college football camp rounds. He attended Michigan’s camp last week with his father, who played for the Wolverines with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Michigan is looking at him as a slot receiver.

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He also attended Northwestern’s camp and has offers from Akron, Army, Chicago, Holy Cross, Penn, Valparaiso, Indiana State and Robert Morris.

Still, Michigan is part of his bloodline.

“There is that legacy in the back of my mind,” Caden said. “In my room, I have a picture of my grandpa in his uniform. It was a big part of my dream going to Michigan. That dream is still there. It would be fun if I’m able to go there and carry on that legacy, that tradition.”

Caden Kolesar

Last season, Michigan was tied with Clemson in the Football Bowl Subdivision for the most sons on the roster whose fathers also played for the school. The Wolverines had nine “legacies” on the roster last year: Tyler Cochran (Brad is his father), Jack Dunaway (Craig), Joe Hewlett (Rich), Daniel Jokisch (Dan), Jon Runyan Jr. (Jon), Michael Sessa (Mike), Jack and Jared Wangler (John) and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (Tyrone).

John Kolesar is seared into the memories of Michigan fans for two critical performances in victories over Ohio State. He caught a 77-yard fourth-quarter pass from Harbaugh in the Wolverines’ 27-17 win over the Buckeyes in 1985, and in Michigan’s 34-31 victory over Ohio State in 1988, with less than two minutes left, Kolesar returned a kickoff 59 yards and then scored on a 41-yard pass.

He watched camp last week and came away impressed by the effort the coaches put into working the drills with high school players. He said it was “refreshing” and he liked that the players’ parents could get up close and watch the camp.

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Undoubtedly, it would be meaningful for John Kolesar to see his family’s football legacy at Michigan extended to a third generation.

“It’s a great storyline and it’s what college football should be about,” John Kolesar said.

But he has not pressured Caden, who is 5-foot-10, 195 pounds and rated three stars by 247Sports, about attending Michigan.

“He’s been great about it,” Caden said. “He’s made that clear to me, and it’s been nice knowing it’s my path and that I don’t have to feel I have to follow in his footsteps. It’s my journey and I can decide where I want to go. I’m a different person than he is  and will do what I want to do.”

John Kolesar escapes a USC tackler during Michigan's 22-14 win over the Trojans during the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2, 1989.

Kolesar’s hand-timed 40-yard dash in 4.45 and his electric timing was a 4.6. He hasn’t played receiver in high school but played at receiver in Michigan’s camp. It wasn’t a difficult transition.

“I grew up being a receiver and obviously my dad always told me it doesn’t matter what position you play because you can always be a receiver, because he taught me how,” Caden said.

He wants a complete college experience and he has discovered that is not only offered at Michigan, but also at Ivy League schools such as Penn, Harvard, Yale and Cornell.

“I’ve been looking at more academic-centric schools,” Caden said. “That’s my top priority, academics. I really fit in (to the Ivy schools) because they have that football culture that I grew up loving. I grew up really wanting that and (my dad) coached me about that throughout my life. He instilled that in me. I do want that great football culture.”

Caden visited Ohio State last year, and John was told his son likely could be a preferred walk-on.

“I’m not totally interested in that,” Caden said. “I’d rather go somewhere that really wants me and I could play.”

Father and son could be traveling to visit other schools, and sharing that time has been important to both of them. And the car trips have given father time to share some taller football tales with his son.

“I don’t think we’ve ever argued,” Caden said of their time together traveling for camps and visits. “He tells me stories about him in high school and college. It’s funny hearing what he tells me. It’s always like he was the best.”

Now, Caden Kolesar is looking forward to making his own football stories.