by Alan Gerloud, Senior Writer, BroncoBlitz.com
KALAMAZOO -- When a team goes undefeated throughout the season, capped off with a conference championship and a good showing in a major bowl game, there are certain to be a lot of stars and heroes. Such was the case with the Western Michigan University football program last season.
Ask any coach and he or she will tell you that it is usually the players that you don'thear of on a daily basis that make the difference in winning and losing. Senior tight end Donnie Ernsberger has been a "tweener" for sometime now. Even though he may not be a house hold name (yet), his teammates, his coaches and his opposing coaches know exactly who he is. He is betweenbeing a kid that was an afterthought by most division one schools coming out of neighboring Battle Creek Lakeview in 2014 to a tough, chisled tight end who isn't afraid to mix it up and will undoubtedly be the best at his position in the Mid American Conference and throughout the midwest.
"He was the best player and toughest kid I have coached in 30 years," Matt Miller, head coach at Lakeview said. "We brought him up to varsity midway through his sophomore season and he never looked back and keep in mind that he was young for his class. He was only 17 when he graduated from high school."
In his senior year at Lakeview, one in which the Spartans went undefeated before losing in the playoffs, Ernsberger rarely came off the field.
"We had him playing both linbacker and fullback," Miller said. "Donnie was such a good athlete, he was a hurdler for me in the spring and most people don't know how hard he works at being great."
The Broncos had Ernsberger on their radar but that tweener thing kept coming up. Nobody was sure what his position would be. He was recruited to WMU as a defensive end but after he got here they decided he may be a better fit at fullback where he appeared in all 12 games as a freshman. Betweenhis freshman and sophomore season he switched to tight end, which in the WMU system are virtually interchangeable.
Ernsberger's position coach at WMU, Bill Kenney, is one of a few hold overs from the Fleck era.
"Donnie was brought in as a defensive end, but after I saw him work, I went to Fleck to see if we could switch him to tight end. Donnie has all the tools to be an outstanding tight end," Kenney said. "Donnie is a rare individual who will get plenty of opportunities in the passing game this fall. He runs routes well, has good hands, runs well after the catch and is a top notch blocker, both in the run game and pass protection."
That's a pretty good endorsement from a coach who spent many years at Penn State before coming to WMU. Teammate Jamauri Bogan takes the praise a step further.
"He is selfless," Bogan said. "Donnie gives up is body on every play from the snap to the whistle. He gave up catches last year for the sake of the team. But this year he's been tremendous in helping develop the younger guys in his position, he is a great leader by example and will be counted on to make huge plays in the passing game this fall."
Happily, I was able to talk to a former coach, current coach and teammate about Donnie because he is not really big on bragging on himself. He is the type who wants his play on the field and at practice to speak for him. That being said, he is clearly much more comfortable talking with the media after a year of the Broncos being on the national stage.
"We all plan on getting back to Ford Field in early December. Sure we will miss Corey (Davis), Carrington (Thompson), Taylor (Moton), Zach (Terrell), Keion (Adams) etc. but we had a lot of talent waiting in the wings and we are confident in the process and the how," Ernsberger said. "There is no reason that if we play our best, that we couldn't do it again but as you know we will only focus on the next game."
Ernsberger is excited to think that he may be targeted more this fall.
"I will do what ever it takes for us to be successful, but naturally, I would like to get more opportunities to touch the ball this fall. I am stronger, quicker, faster with a lot more experience and I can't wait to get out there and mix it up with the Trojans," Ernsberger added.
Neither can we Donnie, neither can we. There is no in between on that. Let's Ride.