For Ferris football, the pursuit for back-to-back National Championships began Friday, March 18, with the first spring ball practices.
Not only are the returning players and staff gearing up for the upcoming 2022 fall season, but many graduating players have begun their potential careers to the National Football League. This spring season will include many ventures both on and off the field for current and former Bulldogs.
SPRING PRACTICES UNDERWAY
Head coach Tony Annese’s team began their spring practice preparations of the season two weeks ago at Top Taggart Field. Bulldog players partook in non-contact drills and skill sessions together for the first time in three months. The team came together for a two and a half hour time slot that included skills sessions and non-contact drills, which was very similar to the team’s approach a year ago.
“It was three months ago today we won the National Championship,” Annese said. “We have the same goals in regards to approach.”
The defending champions have scheduled fifteen practices between the first practice and the annual Crimson and Gold Spring Game held Friday, April 22. Most practices are scheduled for various times on select Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays throughout the 35-day season window. This year’s Spring Game will also include a National Championship celebration ceremony to take place during the 3 p.m. contest. For many of the players, just the opportunity to be back on the field is a blessing.
“It’s awesome to be back out playing football with the boys,” defensive lineman Caleb Murphy said.
As the spring practices are underway, the Bulldogs will have an opportunity to begin preparing for their 2022 challengers. The official fall schedule was released March 21, revealing the Bulldogs’ 10 scheduled opponents for the upcoming season.
Ferris will begin the season with a Sept. 1 home test against Central Washington, a team the Bulldogs beat on the road in a nationally televised 2019 contest. Week two brings another 2021 playoff team in Lenoir-Rhyne, which will be the first matchup between the two schools. Following a week three bye week, the Bulldogs will return to Top Taggart for homecoming against the Waldorf Warriors on Sept. 24 and then hit the road for a pair of away games against former conference foe Findlay and fellow GLIAC opponent Saginaw Valley.
Oct. 15 will then be date of destiny: the Anchor-Bone classic at home versus rival Grand Valley. The final slate of conference games to finish the regular season includes home games against Michigan Tech and Davenport and away games versus Northern Michigan and Wayne State. From there, Ferris will potentially enter the Division II postseason Nov. 19.
“This year’s schedule will be a test once again,” Annese said. “We look forward to battle some of the country’s top programs.”
SPECIAL DONOR EVENT
One unique addition that the Bulldogs will add this preseason comes off the field. In partnership with the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation and Be The Match Registry, Ferris Football will take part in registering to potentially help patients in need of blood stem cell donations.
“This event is a way for our student athletes to partipcate in a program that can help give back and assist those in need of potential life saving support,” Annese said.
Football will be joined by other Ferris athletic programs for the registration event, which will take place on April 7 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. inside Wink Arena. While the organization specializes in collegiate athletics recruitment, the event will include a second session from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. that will be open for the general public. The registration will take place in the IRC building for the one-hour window.
BULLDOGS AT PRO DAY
As many Bulldogs return to the field for the upcoming collegiate season, there are select graduates that had the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of NFL scouts at local Pro Day events. This includes common NFL combine drills like the 40-yard dash as well as position specific tests. On Tuesday, March 15, four Ferris athletes performed at Central Michigan University alongside two former Saginaw Valley players and ten Chippewas. The players included defensive back Alex Thomas, offensive linemen Dylan Pasquali and Zein Obed, and wide receiver and kicker Sy Barnett.
Alongside these four participants, six other Bulldogs traveled to Saginaw Valley State’s Pro Day on March 15. These include linebackers Liam Daly and John Higgins, running back Tyler Minor, defensive lineman Austin Simpson, defensive back Cyntell Williams, and fellow NFL free agent Jake Lampman.
“Our guys did very well,” Annese said on the pro day performances. “Their measurables speak for themselves.”
According to Pro Football Reference, Ferris has had 13 former players reach the professional levels since 1978. The most recent Bulldog was former GLIAC Defensive Player of the Year Austin Edwards, who has made the practice squads for both the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs. The NFL draft will take place from April 28 to April 30 in Paradise, Nevada. Once the draft is completed, NFL teams may begin signing undrafted free agents.
NEW PATH, SAME MENTALITY
As the spring festivities continue, so does the hype for the 2022 season. Players from the past and future have shared their pleasure of the championship, including many wishing luck to the program for the upcoming campaign. Coming into their first season as defending national champions, there is no doubt Ferris will have a target on their back; however, the players are ready for the challenge.
“It isn’t too much different,” quarterback Mylik Mitchell told the media. “Just a little more weight on us.”
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