By: Will Burchfield
Donovan Jeter hears the same question at least once every day.
It has nothing to do with his size – 6’3, 260 – his position – defensive end – or his decision last fall to commit to the University of Michigan.
Rather, it’s about his name.
“People will be like, ‘You related to Derek Jeter?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah I’m related to Derek Jeter!'” explained Jeter, laughing the whole time. “Then they’ll be asking me, ‘You ever meet him? And I’m like, ‘Nah, he couldn’t make the family reunions.'”
The former Yankees shortstop and the future Wolverines D-end aren’t related, of course. But the latter likes to pretend they are.
“At least one person every day asks me if I’m related to Derek Jeter and my answer’s the same. It’s ‘Yes,’ and it’s always going to be ‘yes,’ because in my mind, me and Derek Jeter are related,” Jeter said with a smile.
Though the younger Jeter ultimately made his name in football, there was a time he could have followed in the older Jeter’s footsteps. He played baseball through eighth grade.
“And not to boast,” he said, “but I was pretty good.”
“I was pitcher and third base. My dad wanted me to play in high school, but I’m like, ‘Baseball’s just too boring, too slow for me.’ I need something fast-paced, action-packed. But every time I got to play, I either struck out or hit a home run. I was kind of chubby, I was big, like one of those sluggers. I was like David Ortiz, basically.”
A baseball-playing Jeter who resembled David Ortiz. Huh.
Jeter was one of 11 early enrollees in Michigan’s No. 5-ranked recruiting class, arriving on campus in January along with the likes of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cesar Ruiz and Tarik Black. He said he’s been dazzled by the talent around him.
“You look around the room and we got nothing but four-stars and five-stars. We got a lot of talent coming in, which is going to make us compete because I feel like we’re all good enough to play early on,” Jeter said.
The Wolverines lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, so it will be incumbent on the younger players to fill the void. Jim Harbaugh feels Jeter is up to the task.
“Rock solid guy, very mature, very much a leader, great qualities. Plus the quality of getting after the quarterback and hitting the quarterback, that’s a really good quality too,” Harbaugh said. “So really happy to have him for that.”
But even the coach had to clarify.
“At first I asked him if there was any family relation,” Harbaugh recalled.
It’s not hard to imagine how Jeter might have replied.