GRCC Connection

Former community college players finding a home in Big Rapids

BIG RAPIDS — They were flying high as members of the Grand Rapids Community College football program, going 11-0 in the regular season, while outscoring their opponents 500-174.

It appeared the Raiders were headed to a junior college bowl game, where players would receive plenty of exposure from college scouts looking to secure their services after leaving the school.

But the difficulties of scheduling and travel expenses, the obstacles of players (many out of state) finding off-campus living arrangements and the departure of coach Tony Annese, who took the head coaching job at Ferris State, led to the discontinuation of the GRCC program after the former coach’s successful tenure.

NEW BULLDOGS: The Ferris State football received an influx of Grand Rapids Community College players in the offseason, including (back row, left to right) Korey Ringer, Melvin Crews, Josh Liske, Justin Glover, Carlin Landingham, Myles Mitchell and Jamar Wimberly; (front row, left to right) Bret Thomas, Nick Reyna and John Childers. (Pioneer photo/Martin Slagter)

It was a difficult time for former GRCC players, who faced uncertainty in finding a new place to go to school and play football. Many of those players found solace, however, in following Annese an hour north to join the Bulldogs’ football program this fall.

“When they canceled the program, it was kind of hard because everyone was just trying to find a home, trying to find a place to go,” said former GRCC and current FSU cornerback Jamar Wimberly. “Everybody was hoping that if we made a bowl game, that would bring a lot of scouts out so we could show our talents. A lot of people were confused, but we stuck with it.”

Wimberly is one of a handful of players that joined Annese at FSU. He has come in and made an immediate impact on the FSU defense, while other GRCC transfers like Carlin Landingham, Corey Stone and James Stewart also saw significant playing time in Ferris State’s season opening win over St. Francis (Ill.) on Thursday.

Wimberly said after the uncertainty of knowing where he was going to play faded, he came to FSU hoping to create a similar bond to the one formed at GRCC in helping the Raiders to an undefeated season.

“Coming in from GRCC, I was a little worried how everybody would vibe with us,” he said. “We have a good chemistry, though, and we do a lot of activities to help create that bond.”

While former GRCC players on the FSU roster had a head start in establishing a relationship with Annese, there were some concerns about how they would transition to a new school and football program.

Running back Korey Ringer, who played under Annese for two seasons at GRCC, said he wanted to follow his former coach to Big Rapids because of the bond that had been created.

“Being from Dayton, Ohio, it was difficult, because it wasn’t like I was from Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo and other places around here that I hadn’t even heard of,” he said. “Coach Annese is like a second father to me, though, because he’s always there me when I have an issue or a problem.”

The transition on the football field hasn’t been nearly as difficult, Ringer admits.

“Everything has gone pretty good,” he said. “We run a very similar offense to the one we ran at GRCC, so it’s just all about learning the new tweaks and additions to the offense.”

Becoming a part of the FSU program has been made easier because of the coaching staff’s ability to create a close bond between all members of the team, former GRCC player and FSU wide receiver Myles Mitchell said.

“They always try to get you together as a group and build that family atmosphere,” he said. “The offense is pretty much the same so I’m pretty familiar with that. It made it a lot easier to see some familiar faces when I got here, but the guys that were already here have been great, too. We look at it as a brotherhood.”

Because of the success they experienced at GRCC, Wimberly said he hopes to bring a sense of confidence and high expectations with him to the Bulldogs this fall.

“I know what coach Annese expects,” he said. “You just need to bring a high level of energy and intensity every day at practice.

“The thing that made us so successful (at GRCC) was that we always competed against each other and we expected perfection,” he added. “Even if it was during a walk-through, (Annese) always demanded perfection each and every play.”

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