Tommy Schuster and Austin Brown had outstanding senior seasons to cap off their high school football careers, leading their teams to Ford Field to compete for state championships.
And now they finally have places to call home for the next four or five years to attend college and continue playing the game they love.
In fact, Schuster and Brown could one day be facing each other with a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title on the line. Schuster will play at Ashland, and Brown will play at Grand Valley State. They will put their names on the dotted line during National Signing Day Wednesday.
Schuster led Chippewa Valley to the Division 1 state championship when he was a perfect 14-for-14 passing for 209 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-30 victory over Clarkston in the title game.
Schuster, a three-year starter, completed 67 percent of his passes his senior year as Chippewa Valley went 14-0. He threw for 1,858 yards and 26 TDs with just one interception, and owns school career records for passing yards (4,956) and TD passes (67).
Schuster visited Ashland, located Ashland, Ohio, two weeks ago and that’s when he was offered a scholarship.
“I talked to the coaches and they showed me their facilities, the football stadium – really the whole campus and I liked it there.
“They run a pro-style offense – shotgun and under center – and I think I fit in well in that type of offense. Their quarterback returns so I’ll be a backup, have a chance to learn the offense. They have a really good program.”
Schuster is relieved to land at Ashland, since he didn’t have many offers, despite a highly successful high school career.
Schuster only had offers from FCS schools Dayton and Valparaiso prior to his visit to Ashland.
“Honestly, I thought about it a lot when I wasn’t getting any offers,” Schuster said. “But whatever was going to happen was going to happen, and things worked out for the best.”
Ashland finished 11-2 two years ago, going unbeaten in the GLIAC, including wins over Ferris State (20-3) and Grand Valley (34-31).
Unlike Schuster, Brown had a scholarship locked up, but it was for baseball at Marshall University and he wanted to continue to play football.
Now he will get an opportunity to play both at Grand Valley.
“I’m super excited to take a new step in my life and feel blessed to play two sports in college, football and baseball, and I think I’m getting a great education, so it’s all good things in one,” Brown said.
Brown had a hand in 61 TDs in leading Madison Heights Madison to a 13-1 record, including a Division 7 state title game appearance, a 50-44 loss to New Lothrop. He threw for 298 yards and two TDs, and rushed for 105 yards and four TDs, in that title game.
Brown threw for 2,310 yards and 24 TDs and ran for 1,936 and 37 TDs as a senior after throwing for 3,100 yards and 40 TDs his junior year.
“I feel Grand Valley is the best Division II school in the country year in and year out and I know I’ll be competing for a national championship,” Brown said. “I know there’s a lot of guys there that could have went D1 but were overlooked like myself, and I think there’s a lot of kids who have a chip on their shoulder and they are ready to get down to it and win.
“Coach (Matt) Mitchell is a winner, has the same mentality as I do, a person that likes to get down to it. He’s really fiery. I don’t know him a lot just yet, but I get a good vibe from him and I’m excited to play for him. If I prepare this summer and get my ducks in a row, get bigger, faster and stronger I think it’s a great opportunity for me to maybe go in and start. They definitely said it’s open for competition and there’s really no starting quarterback (Bart Williams graduated) there as of today.”
Mitchell has been with Grand Valley the last 14 years, the last eight years as head coach. He worked under Brian Kelly back in 2005 when the Lakers won the national championship, then under Chuck Martin when they repeated as national champs in 2006.
Mitchell guided Grand Valley to the national semifinals in 2015 and to the GLIAC championship in 2016.
When asked why he decided against Marshall, Brown said: “The baseball coach and that whole coaching staff was very loyal to me, but at the end of the day I wasn’t really ready to give up football and you have to pursue your dreams, so that’s what I plan to do.
“I couldn’t stop playing football. I talked to the football coach at Marshall. He said he couldn’t promise anything, that he would give me a chance to come down and try out, but I didn’t want to go down there and then him tell me no.”
Brown is also a star on Madison’s basketball team, which is 13-1 and capable of making a deep run in Division 3 next month.
“We’re on a great run right now,” said Brown, who is averaging 23 points. “We just got off a state championship (game) run in football so the guys know how to win, and it translates on to the basketball court, so we’d like to get to Breslin and see what happens. We have 10 to 12 guys on the basketball team and all played football.”
Ferris State gets sleeper
Tony Annese has won 11 or more games in each of the last five years at Ferris State, and one reason is his ability to bring in Mid-American Conference-level players.
Annese will bring in one more of those caliber players when Detroit Denby running back T’Shawn Wilkes signs with Ferris State, the Division II national runnerup, on Wednesday.
Wilkes (6-2, 210 pounds) has just scratched the surface as a running back since he played his sophomore and junior years at receiver for Tony Blankenship at Denby.
Wilkes showed his potential by rushing for 2,165 yards and 33 TDs his senior season, including a 152-yard performance in a PSL Division 2 championship game win over Cody.
“I’m real excited,” Wilkes said of his decision to play for Ferris State. “I’m going to Ferris because I feel it’s the best fit for me. It’s a great team, a nice coach, and I really like the school.”
Wilkes is thrilled he persuaded Blankenship to put him at running back.
“I played receiver my first two years and I told Coach I could run the ball, but he didn’t believe me,” said Wilkes. “I’m glad he put me back there and I showed him what I could do. It was real satisfying because I worked hard, put a lot of work in and it paid off. I got bigger and faster.”
Hughes headed to CMU
Nevin Hughes had a strong senior year at Riverview Gabriel Richard, rushing for 984 yards and 14 TDs while also getting in on 61 tackles and six sacks at linebacker to help his team win a Division 7 district title.
Hughes took an official visit to Central Michigan last week. He also received interest from Toledo as a preferred walk-on and from Ferris State and other GLIAC schools.
“I took my official visit last weekend, met with their whole coaching staff, including Coach (Jim) McElwain,” Hughes said. “He’s (McElwain) a great guy, all about discipline and having a solid work ethic, and that’s been instilled in me by both of my parents. They are saying both running back and linebacker so that excites me. I have the speed, been clocked in the 4.5 range, but lowering my shoulder is my go-to. I’ll lower my shoulder before making a spin move.
“I’m going there on a full-ride academically with Central. I’m extremely excited about it, especially since their broadcasting program is huge and I’ll be majoring in communications and minoring in marketing.
“In terms of football, Division 1 has been my dream and coming from a school with 300 kids, when you say Division 1 football people kind of have the attitude of, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ I put in the work every single day, running in the morning, lifting after practice, and made my dream come true.”