Big Ten Medal of Honor Q&A: Jon Jansen (1999)
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April 9, 2014

Big Ten Medal of Honor 100th Anniversary
Michigan's Big Ten Medal of Honor Recipients

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, the Michigan Athletic Department will be profiling some distinguished student-athlete alumni who received this prestigious academic and athletic honor.

A first-team All-America offensive tackle in 1998, Jon Jansen also earned Academic All-America honors that year. He set Michigan's school record by starting all 50 games during his four-year playing career at right tackle. He put his talents to good use in the classroom, receiving Michigan's Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1999 for his academic, athletic and community achievements. He was a two-time captain who led U-M to back-to-back conference championships (1997, 1998) and helped lead the Wolverines to the 1997 national title. Jansen earned Academic All-Big Ten honors twice (1997-98) and was named the 1998 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.

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Jon Jansen

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To be recognized for what you did on the field, for what you achieved in the classroom and in the community was special.
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Jon Jansen
Q
What was your best memory from your time at Michigan?
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It would have to be the 1997 team when we had a chance to go undefeated during the regular season and go out to the Rose Bowl and win a national championship. It's something that hadn't happened in 50 years at Michigan. To be able to put our stamp on a storied tradition, it's something that my teammates and I would remember and the community would remember forever. It was my fondest memory as a student-athlete.
 
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What did it mean to be a captain of that national championship team?
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Everyone has some hopes and dreams when you come to Michigan. To be elected by your teammates as the guy that they want to lead them throughout a football season, there's a lot that happens throughout a football season, and to be the guy that they look to for leadership and motivation for a lot of different things was a tremendous honor ... and probably the biggest honor that I've ever had bestowed on me.
 
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What was the best lesson that you learned at Michigan?
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That hard work pays off. I came in as a recruited player with a scholarship but when you walk on this campus the first thing you realize and understand is that there are a whole lot of other guys and girls that are very qualified to be here. You look around and say, "How can I possibly compete with these athletes." With hard work and determination, through great coaching and opportunities, you develop yourself physically, mentally and emotionally in a lot of different ways. All of that hard work does pay off in the end, whether it's on the field or in the classroom. When you graduate you have an opportunity to have a head start that most college graduates don't have because they all don't understand that the hard work you've put in on the field or in the classroom all is for something.

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What was the best academic lesson that you learned at Michigan?
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Time management. As a student-athlete you don't get a lot of time to just hang out and do things that other students do, but that was a choice that we made as a scholarship student-athlete. That is one of those sacrifices that you had to make. When you have that time you need to be disciplined and have the energy and rest that is needed to complete all of your tasks, whether it's for practice or team-related activities or for school work. Whatever time you have left you can do whatever you want with it, but you need to prioritize your responsibilities so you don't cram for a test or a game.
 
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What is the best lesson you learned from Lloyd Carr?
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To be fair. I saw a lot of things happen during my time here at Michigan. One of the things that I always admired about Coach Carr was that he was fair in every situation that came up and in how he handled the players, how he handled discipline, how he handled motivation. He always seemed to have the right answer for every situation and it was never, ever questioned by anyone.
 
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How did your Michigan experience prepare you for life after Michigan? Professional sports?
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I had a chance to play in the NFL. What I learned on the football field and the coaching that I received here helped with my NFL experience and career. Since I've retired, I have leaned more on my education than my athletic experience. I have opened up a business, a fitness business, and to be able to use what I learned here at Michigan, not just the X's and O's of football, how to train people, how to teach people, how to coach people, how to run a business and make sure that it's one that's profitable because that is why we all get into business. All of those things I have directly put into place in what I currently do and that all is a direct relation to what I learned at Michigan.
 
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What's the most common thought that goes through your mind when thinking about your experience at Michigan?
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This was the greatest four to five years of my life. The experiences that I had and the friendships that I gained, I met my wife here (she was a swimmer here), those years really have shaped and formed the rest of my life and will continue to shape my life. Every time that I come back to Ann Arbor it feels like I'm coming home because the great thing about Michigan is that they hire from within and they keep their people around so there's so many people that I know that helped my career. I know people in the administration or they've hired former teammates of mine. There's a sense of familiarity with everything that goes on within the University.
 
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What did it mean to receive the Big Ten Medal of Honor and do you remember that moment when you were announced as the winner?
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I absolutely remember that moment. As an offensive lineman you don't receive a lot of accolades so you remember all of them ... one of those was being named a team captain as we discussed earlier. Another one of those special moments was receiving the Big Ten Medal of Honor. To be recognized for what you did on the field, for what you achieved in the classroom and in the community was special. It makes up all of those things that we talk about as a Michigan Man or as a Wolverine. To be honored for those traits was a tremendous honor and one that I will never forget.
 
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Does the Big Ten Medal of Honor have a greater significance to you today?
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No question. As you get older you have a better understanding of the value of things that you don't as a young adult. Every year that goes by you look back and see the sacrifices you made, whether it was staying in to study or to watch film or go to practice or work out or whatever was necessary to be successful. You see a lot of the people who had similar opportunities and didn't utilize those opportunities and you see what they are doing now. You understand the sacrifices more now than when you were in school.

• Previous Q&A: Ryan Bertin


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