Today, I want to wish a very Happy Birthday to Michigan Man Jay Riemersma. Allen Jay “J.R.” Riemersma was born on this date in Evansville, Indiana. He grew up in Zeeland, Michigan where he became an outstanding athlete at Zeeland High School. Riemersma earned multiple letters in football, basketball and baseball at Zeeland. He even set scoring records in basketball, but football was the sport that he was destined to play in college.
Gary Moeller liked Riemersma’s size (6’ 5” and 220 pounds) and his athleticism so he offered him a scholarship to play quarterback at Michigan in 1991. Jay showed up in Ann Arbor in the fall of 1991, but Michigan had a guy named Grbac playing quarterback so Riemersma spent his first year as a red-shirt. He put in the time to learn Moeller’s offensive system and started getting stronger for life in the Big Ten.
Jay Riemersma played continued to be listed as a quarterback on the 1992 and 1993 Michigan Football Rosters. However, he was down on the depth charts behind guys like Todd Collins and then Scott Dreisbach. It looked like he was going to put in more time holding a clipboard on the sidelines that he was calling plays on the field. But then, it happened. Riemersma suffered a rotator cuff injury in 1994 which signaled the end to his quarterback career at Michigan. However, Gary Moeller knew that Jay was athletic. He also had grown to weigh over 250 pounds so Coach Mo figured he had a tight end on his hands.
As it turned out, the move to tight end saved Jay’s career and got him on the field as soon as he was healthy to play again. He started ten games in 1994 and caught at least one pass in every game he played in. Jay scored two touchdowns and totaled 33 catches for 336-yards. He saw more action in 1994 than he did in his first two years at Michigan. He won the Meyer Morton Award for his outstanding improvement and contributions in 1994.
Jay Riemersma came back for his final season in 1995 which also turned out to be the first season of the Lloyd Carr Era. Coach Carr knew that Jay was a player and he made sure he had a big role in the 1995 Wolverine offense. Jay caught passes in eleven games and scored one touchdown. He upped his receiving production to 41 catches and gained 370-yards for the Wolverines. At 252-pounds, Jay was a force to be reckoned with and opposing linebackers didn’t want to get in his sights! Jay was also an excellent student who won the Arthur Robinson Award in 1995 for his outstanding work in the classroom.
If anyone ever made the best out of a tough break, it was Jay Riemersma. He loved the game of football and he loved Michigan. If you read the Wikipedia article linked below, he says that his rotator cuff injury was “divine intervention.” As it turned out, he turned into an outstanding tight end and played for nine years in the NFL at that demanding position.
Jay definitely left Ann Arbor with his head held high! He earned four varsity letters, two Big Ten Championships, a ton of memories and built some friendships that would last a lifetime. He was also part of some interesting “firsts” during his time at Michigan.
- Jay Riemersma played in the first ever game against Houston in 1992 and completed 3 passes in 3 attempts including a 14-yard touchdown to Amani Toomer. Michigan won the game by a score of 61-7. Ouch!
- Jay played in the first game ever against Colorado State in 1994.
- Jay Riemersma played on the first Lloyd Carr team in 1995.
- Jay played in the first, and only, 5-0 win in Michigan history in 1995 against Northwestern.
So, congratulations Jay Riemersma on his achievements at Michigan and in the National Football League. Thanks to Jay for his contributions to the very long Maize and Blue line that dates all the way back to 1879! I wish you a very BIG Maize and Blue Happy Birthday today. Go Blue!