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Joey Klunder, National Champion but a blue devil at heart

Just three short years ago, Joey Klunder ’22 sported a #2 for the Blue Devils football team. Today, he wears #93 for the University of Michigan football team.

Klunder is a defensive end for the University of Michigan’s football team. He was a standout on South’s team and a nationally ranked 3-star recruit. But Klunder did not always see Michigan football in his future.

“My little brother got me into playing football,” Klunder said. “He was a big football fan growing up, but we were a hockey family so we never really played sports during the fall because of hockey. (My brother) was such a big football fan that eventually he convinced me and my parents to try it out.”

Klunder did not begin his football journey until well into middle school, not starting until he was in7th grade. While playing at South, he was pulled up to the varsity level during his sophomore year.

“I think my time playing at South prepared me very well to play at Michigan,” Klunder said. “Getting pulled up to Varsity as a sophomore really helped me get extra experience sooner; all of those great coaches played a good role in getting me ready (to play at Michigan).”

Coming out of high school, Klunder made the decision to try out for the Michigan team as a walk-on in hopes of hitting the Michigan Banner while running onto the field at The Big House. As a three3-star recruit, Klunder had the opportunity to play at many great schools but opted to walk on to Michigan’s team to fulfill his dream of playing at Michigan.

“I knew that I could play (at Michigan),” Klunder said. “I knew that I could do it, my family knew that I could do it. It was a bet on myself that we were willing to take; it has definitely paid off so far. Right now, I work on the scout team. I get the offense ready for the defense we are playing every single week, I learn a new defense every week.”

Michigan football had an undeniably incredible season finishing 15-0, Big Ten Champions, Rose Bowl Champions and, most notably, National Champions. Arguably their biggest competition was beating the University of Alabama in the Rose Bowl.

“Going into the Alabama game, the coaches told us to go into it like treat it as a nameless and faceless opponent,” Klunder said. “That’s something they talk a lot about on defense; it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, where you’re playing, what time you’re playing, what you’re playing for, just play the Michigan brand of football and everything will figure itself out.”

Going into the Rose Bowl against Alabama, everyone knew it was going to be an intense game. Michigan was undefeated, winning 14 games, and Alabama had a record of 12-1.

“During halftime at the Rose Bowl, the coaches said ‘30 minutes for the rest of your life, so if you finish out the last 30 minutes of the game you will forever be a Rose Bowl champion and likely a national champion,’” Klunder said. “Everybody knew that they had to leave it all out there or else they might regret it for 40, 50, 60 years, (even) 100 years. It was really just putting it all out on the field and if that’s all we got, that’s what we got, but it did end up being enough.”

Michigan was victorious against Alabama winning 27-20 in the 108th anniversary of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

“Walking out into the Rose Bowl on that amazing grass in that historic stadium had everyone feeling some type of way,” Klunder said. “Something so historic and something so cool to be a part of; everyone knew they had to give it their all that day.”

After the Rose Bowl, the Michigan team was swept away back to Ann Arbor on a red-eye flight, with only seven days to prepare for the National Championship against the University of Washington.

“We knew that if we had what it took to beat Alabama, we had what it took to beat Washington,” Klunder said. “I think the team was just excited for the opportunity and excited to make a name for themselves in the history books.”

The Michigan team pushed through to bring home the trophy back to Ann Arbor, winning 34-13.

“It was amazing, NRG Stadium in Houston was a little more than half full of Michigan fans,” Klunder said. “Even with it only being half full, it was still the loudest stadium I have ever stepped into in my life. Obviously the culmination of it all in the end with the confetti and the trophy, and all that great stuff was just unforgettable. There was nothing else you can really say about it, it was just awesome.”

On Jan. 13, a parade was held on Michigan’s campus to celebrate the win with the entire team paraded through campus, a day full of Michigan’s famous anthem “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers and of course the Michigan fight song “The Victors.”

“The parade was amazing, it was unbelievable how many people were there; Klunder said. “That was definitely the coolest part of the celebration for sure,. We had a bunch of trucks for it, and just had a good time. It was on a Saturday so we had the next day off so we all celebrated as a team. It was very sweet.”

As for next year, the Michigan football program will feel a deep shift with head coach Jim Harbaugh leaving and many of their key players declaring for the 2024 NFL Draft. But for Joey, next year is just another year to gain skills and experience.

“Next year I would like to win, obviously,” Klunder said. “I would like to play a bigger role on the defensive line in the big rotation that we have, it’s something I am excited to attack and possibly do. I’m trying to build up my presence on the defense as opposed to working on the scout team and just having more production on the field.”

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Julia Roeder '25
Julia Roeder '25, Supervising Web Editor
Whether it’s The Rolling Stone, Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, or Tyler the Creator, Julia Roeder ’25 is guaranteed to have seen them in concert. All eyes envy her as she walks into the journalism classroom wearing merchandise she bought from the concert the night before. When she’s not listening to her favorite artists, she spends most of her time jamming out on her own guitar, being your average aspiring popstar. Besides her still-amounting popstar career, Roeder is also the Supervising Web Editor of The Tower. This is Roeder’s second year on staff and she is looking forward to continuing her role and being involved in the community and school. “I love Tower because you’re informing the community of what’s going on and also getting to know people on staff,” Roeder said.

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