Ex-Wolverine Funchess sold KJ Hamler on IMG

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News
KJ Hamler

Detroit — Orchard Lake St. Mary’s four-star wide receiver KJ Hamler announced via Twitter this week that he would be heading to the well-known IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year.

And while Hamler is comfortable with the transfer, it wasn’t something he decided to do on a whim.

At first, Hamler, who is being recruited by Michigan and Michigan State, wasn’t sold on leaving the two-time defending Division 3 state champions. But after multiple talks with former Michigan wide receiver and current Carolina Panther Devin Funchess, whom Hamler referred to as his “godbrother,” the St. Mary’s star started to rethink his decision.

Funchess, a former standout at Farmington Hills Harrison, trained at IMG after leaving Ann Arbor in order to prepare for the 2015 NFL draft. He liked what he saw and encouraged Hamler to give it a shot.

“It came up in the beginning of the school year and I was like, ‘No, I’m not going, I’m staying here,’” Hamler said. “But in the middle of the year it came back up again and Funchess kept mentioning it to me. I didn’t really want to go at first, you know, leaving my family and my friends. But at the end of the day, it’s about what I need for myself.”

Players are excited to show off their wares at camp

Funchess was in attendance at the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy at Wayne State on Friday, taking part as an alumnus of the camp.

Helping Hamler grow as a football player since Hamler was in second grade, Funchess says he was looking out for his “little brother.”

“I just wanted him to get in a different atmosphere, see what the competition in the South was like,” Funchess said. “I just wanted to make sure he’s getting the most out of his ability.”

When asked what Hamler could be missing out on by transferring, Funchess’ answer was simple.

“He’s not going to miss out on anything,” Funchess said. “He’s shown that he’s the best player in the state.”

Said Hamler, “I’m going to miss out on a threepeat of a state championship. I love St. Mary’s. Everybody tried to convince me to stay, but I’m just a little piece of the puzzle. I’m not the whole team.”

When you’re 17 and essentially leaving home a year early, not everybody’s going to be on board, but Hamler remains confident in his decision.

“It was my family’s decision, too,” Hamler said. “My dad had a hard time with it. I’m his only son. But they took this risk, this sacrifice when I told them that I want to be great. Mentally, physically, I think it’s a perfect fit.”

Hamler picked up his 26th offer from Oregon this week. He also holds offers from Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. The receiver also confirmed that a number of schools, including UM, PSU and Louisville, are asking him to be a two-way player as a receiver and in the secondary on defense.

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.