Started from the bottom

Former Ferris assistant coach accepts head coach role at Northern Michigan

Former Ferris defensive coordinator Kyle Nystrom is now the head coach for the Northern Michigan Wildcats

Nystrom spent two seasons at Ferris as an assistant coach and served as co-defensive coordinator on the 2016 Bulldog team that Ferris head coach Tony Annese dubbed the best defense he has ever coached.

Nystrom possesses special qualities that separated him from the coaching pool when Annese and his staff sought a new assistant coach in 2015.

“There’s a few qualities he possesses.” Annese said. “Obviously, passion for a defense, and passion to motivate young people to be successful[emdash]passion for young people in regards to what they face as student athletes.”

During Nystrom’s tenure, the Bulldogs led the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) with the fewest rushing yards allowed with 92.2 per game en route to a GLIAC championship and NCAA Div. 2 semifinal appearance.

After 30 years in the coaching ranks, Nystrom finally has a shot at head coach in the city he grew up in.

Nystrom is from Marquette where his father, Buck, was an assistant coach on the Northern Michigan staff.

Though Nystrom has left for another GLIAC program, Annese has nothing but admiration for this opportunity for his close friend of 25 years.

“You always have mixed emotions, obviously, from a selfish standpoint,” Annese said. “You hate to lose someone of that caliber, but from a professional standpoint with him having an opportunity to be a head coach for the first time in his career, it’s a great opportunity for him.”

The last two seasons have been the best in Bulldog history with the first Ferris playoff victory in over a decade and the first semifinal appearance.

A large part of this success Annese attributes to awesome play from the players, particularly on defense.

Former Ferris defensive end and current New Orleans Saint Justin Zimmer set a new Bulldog record for sacks and tackles for loss in 2015 only to have those shattered by sophomore defensive end Zach Seiler in 2016 who had 19.5 sacks to lead the nation.

“When your defense is playing well, some of it has to do with the players. Some of it has to do with the team. Some of it has to do with the emotional state and how coaches get them prepared to play hard and aggressive,” Annese said.

Before Nystrom became a Bulldog, he was an assistant coach at Central Michigan from 2010 until 2014 where he became the interim head coach late in his last season after former Chippewa head coach Dan Enos left.

Nystrom graduated from Michigan State in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and criminal justice. He began as a graduate assistant on the same Wildcat staff as his dad.

From there he served as an assistant at Western Michigan for 13 years helping the Broncos reach the Mid-Atlantic Conference championship game.

He has been a journey coach, having served on nine different teams including stints at Texas Christian University, DePaul, North Dakota State, Forts Hays State and as a student assistant at Michigan State in 1983.

Though it seems he’s been everywhere in the region, Nystrom has brought his career full circle becoming the head coach where he got his start.

The Bulldogs wish Nystrom much success and will see him on the field come the fall 2017 season.