They’ll be back

Ferris State’s Jayru Campbell is the second-ever Ferris State athlete to claim the Harlon Hill Trophy. (Photo courtesy of Ferris State Athletics)

It’s obviously no shame being national runners-up.

But it’s extremely painful when you so badly wanted to be champions.

Two points can make all the difference in the world.

Ferris State will forever celebrate a men’s basketball national title with a two-point win in the title game last March

Right now, hearts are broken in the football lockerroom, with a two-point loss. But it’s true getting to the national title game with a 15-0 record was very remarkable. If a pass isn’t dropped by Harding late in the first playoff game against Ferris, the Bulldogs wouldn’t have made it to the second round. They came within one more offensive play of losing the second round game when quarterback Jayru Campbell was hurt and didn’t play.

The two decisive wins the next two rounds put the Bulldogs with a decent shot of winning it all. Anyone watching the title game realizes it was a matter of a play here or there for Ferris to be national champs

All that can be said now is: wait ‘till next year.


Key players are gone but a bulk of the talent is returning. Since Coach Tony Annese took over the program, the roster continues to be stockpiled with talent that potentially makes this team an annual playoff contender. Since the Bulldogs have already put themselves in the national title picture next year, when spring football starts in less than three months, avenging the loss in the title game will be on just about everyone’s lips.

This would include junior quarterback Jayru Campbell, who spoke with reporters on Friday in Texas after winning the Harlon Hill Trophy as nation’s top NCAA Division II player.
He was a former Detroit Cass Tech star quarterback, who served jail time for separate incidents involving a security guard and a girlfriend, but with the help of others, was able to turn his life around in a very impressive manner and attend Garden City Community College in Kansas for a second chance.

He was successful for the Broncbusters at the NJCAA level, helping them win a national championship in 2016.

Then came his opportunity at Ferris.

“I’m real thankful and appreciative of it,” he said on Friday of the Harlon Hill award. “But I’m ready to go out and win this championship. The coaches have put me in the position to win. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without any of my guys and coaches on the team.

“There were a lot of coaches in the country that didn’t want to give me a shot because of my past and things I did in high school. With coach Annese giving me a shot to play, and a shot to start and going over the plays day in and day out, he would say anytime you need to talk about football or about life or whatever it was, he was always there. He had a lot to do with my growth as well.”

“Jayru took a chance on Ferris State and Ferris State took a chance on Jayru,” Annese said. “I had the confidence he was going to be the right kind of guy.”

Life can be all about second chances. Ferris’ football team is likely to get another chance next year.

They’ll be back.

John Raffel is a sportswriter for The Pioneer. He has been covering Ferris sports for various publications since 1973.


Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at

Leave a Reply