Football team recruits six U.P. natives for 2015 season

Ray Bressette

The Northern Michigan University football team has announced the addition of 38 players, six of which are from U.P. high schools, who have committed to NMU for the 2015 season.

“Obviously I’m fired up and excited to introduce this class and talk more about the depth and talent they’re going to bring to the program,” head coach Chris Ostrowsky said. “Our staff did an amazing job putting together a phenomenal recruiting board and doing what we think this community and this campus are about.”

The additions included eight offensive linemen, six defensive linemen, five wide receivers, five running backs and one quarterback.

The six athletes from U.P. schools are quarterbacks Brett Place and outside lineman Holt Richards of Marquette, running back Garrett Blank and wide receiver Andy Cooper of Munising and running back Justin Brilinski and wide receiver Aeron Forsberg of Menominee.

Blank and Cooper helped lead Munising High School to the Division 8 State Championship game before falling to Muskegon Catholic Central High School in the title game.

Ostrowsky said he hopes his Munising recruits will continue their success at NMU.

“With Munising having the season they had marching down to the state championship, those kids were attractive with the magical season they had,” Ostrowsky said. “Andy [Cooper] and Garrett [Blank] bring a tremendous amount of talent and can play in this league, and we’re excited to have them.”

Brillinski and Forsberg reached the state semifinals with Menominee, while Place was bounced in the first round of the playoffs with Marquette by Mt. Pleasant High School.

Wide receiver coach Marcus Knight said NMU puts an emphasis on making athletes feel comfortable here.

“The local young men see what we’re all about, and there’s really not much selling to them,” Knight said. “Either they want to be a Wildcat or they don’t. A lot has to do with our staff and how at home they feel here.

“We have a staff that’s all about family, and any local kid that comes here and gets an idea of what we are will know they have a home at NMU.”

Of the 35 athletes, 21 were team captains on their high school teams, and the 35 students combine for an average 2.97 GPA.

The players were scouted across the country, including Michigan, Alabama, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Florida.

Defensive coordinator Joe Ballard said recruits are usually sold on NMU during their first visit to the campus.

“NMU is a great opportunity and a unique place,” Ballard said. “This isn’t a place we have to oversell to kids. We know that once we get recruits up here, we have a really good chance of getting them to commit here.

“Sometimes there’s problems getting kids here with the long travel, but once they’re here they see the Superior Dome and they’re overwhelmed. They see the Marquette community and they definitely want to move up here and become a part of this.”

Last season, the NMU football team finished with a 3-8 record, 2-8 in conference play and finished 13 out of 15 teams in the GLIAC.

Knight said the recruits who committed to NMU know the team’s potential.

“We tell these guys that the program is definitely on the way up,” Knight said. “This league in itself is one to be reckoned with, and we have a really good chance at it. They can be the difference and they can definitely help. Whether they come in and play right away or bring competition into the room.”

Ostrowsky said the long process of recruiting finally pays off on signing day.

“You wake up this morning and you’re proud to be a Wildcat,” Ostrowsky said. “You’re proud to coach the greatest game in the world at a phenomenal University and you’re proud to represent this program.

It’s real easy to commit to a champion, what’s hard is to commit to a place that you believe is going to become a champion, and we have 38 football players who were heavily recruited from other places and wanted to be Wildcats. They believe in the vision of this program.”