2003 Broncos Return Top Players

On Wednesday night the Western Michigan University Broncos football team held their annual Awards Banquet at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in the Kalamazoo Center in downtown Kalamazoo. The theme of this years banquet was "Lessons Learned" and the seniors that were a part of the 2002 football team can attest for learning their fair share of lessons.

The graduating seniors became Broncos when the team was at the top of the mountain going to two consecutive MAC Championships and they have seen the valley with two consecutive losing seasons. Led by Chris Browning, Bryan Lape, Jeff Westgate, Mobolaji Afariogun, Jermaine Lewis and Jake Gasaway this group of seniors will go down as the best group of seniors to ever don the brown and gold. They will also be know as the group that led a 4-8 Broncos team to their first win, a 35-10 victory, over the Chippewas of Central Michigan.

With this talented group of seniors moving on to make their mark in life whether it be going on to the National Football League, flying jetliners or working for a Fortune 500 company in their marketing department.

Returning for the Broncos in 2003 will be the Team MVP, the Offensive MVP, Defensive MVP and Special Teams MVP. Winners of this year's major awards all played important roles in each of the Broncos wins and they all had great games in several of the close losses this team endured.

The winner of this year's Special Teams Most Valuable Player award is just a sophomore in eligibility and will be returning as a junior. He led the Broncos with an average of 32.8 yards per kick return. He was one return shy of qualifying as the MAC's top returner. He scored two touchdowns on kickoff returns this season; his first was a 91 yard return against Bowling Green and his second and most impressive was a 100 yard opening kickoff return against the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Tyrone Walker also caught a 56-yard pass from Chad Munson with less than a minute left in the game that set up Robert Menchinger's game winning field goal.

This year's Defensive Most Valuable Player has made an early mark in his career at WMU and has gotten better since his 4 solo tackles in the 2000 MAC Championship game against Marshall. Last season he received the WMU Golden Horseshoe Award for special teams play. He has also been named the MAC's most feared pass rusher by the Sporting News. Jason Babin has been named to the All-MAC First Team and the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. He has also been named Collegefootballnews.com All-American. CNNSI.com gave Jason an All-America Honorable Mention. Babin finished first in the MAC and second in the country with 15 sacks. He finished first in the MAC and seventh in the country with 23 tackles for loss. Both his sacks and tackles for loss set new school records. Babin was also used on offense in the 2002 season and recorded 3 catches, all for first downs.

A leader is someone who leads by example and isn't afraid to get down and dirty with his fellow soldiers. The Broncos offensive MVP is such a person. This young man is a man of few words and prefers to let his performance do his talking. He doesn't complain when he has a bad day and he credits the hogs in front of him when he runs wild. He has played with an injured shoulder and suffered a slight back midway through the season. Despite the injuries he still showed up to practice and come game time he had one thing on his mind, a Broncos victory. Against Northern Illinois he set the 4th best rushing performance in the MAC with 226 yards. He became the first Bronco rusher to run for over 1,000 yards since Robert Sanford in the 2000 season. Against Bowling Green he rushed for four touchdowns and 140 yards. For the Broncos they have a solid leader in Philip Reed and the 2003 season looks bright for the Broncos with Reed coming back for his senior season.

During the 2002 season, when the Broncos were on defense you could usually find one student-athlete within 2 yards of the football. This player finished first in the MAC and 11th nationally with 5 forced fumbles. He led the team with 902 plays. He also finished second with 104 tackles and 8 defended passes. This young man originally walked-on the team but was unable to take the field because he was thought of as being too small. He eventually was awarded a scholarship and has become a thorn in the side of the Broncos opponents. His 10 tackles, 1 pass interception and a forced fumble against Indiana State earned him MAC West Division Defensive Player of the Week. His most memorable play came against Toledo when he stripped the ball and returned it 59 yards for a Bronco touchdown. On Wednesday night the Broncos named Jason Feldpausch as the 2002 Team Most Valuable Player.

With the exception of Tyrone Walker, all of these guys return as next years seniors and provide an intimidating presence on the football field. The future certainly looks bright for the Broncos football team as they will look to host the 2003 MAC Championship at Waldo Stadium.

Broncos Illustrated Top Stories