The junior defensive back intercepted a pass last weekend to end any question of a Minnesota State comeback and propel the Bulldogs to this Saturday’s DII football championship game against Valdosta State. That will be his second championship in 10 months after he came off the bench to sink two 3s in Ferris State’s 71-69 victory over Northern State for the Bulldogs first DII basketball title in March.
How’s that for less than a year?
“It really didn’t hit me until I saw all the attention on Twitter,” Thrower told NCAA.com. “I know I’m getting a lot of attention for doing it, but I actually want to win both. That’s my focus right now, winning it all and not just being in it.”
So, how did Thrower, a Muskegon, Michigan native, make his way to the top of the DII world with Ferris State?
CHAPTER 1: A quick stop at Stony Brook leads to a middle school reunion
Thrower didn’t begin his career with the Bulldogs. He played Division I hoops with Stony Brook, making 11 starts in 35 games his freshman year, dropping in 4.3 points per night. One thing he didn’t do with the Seawolves was play football.
He moved to the bench full-time in his sophomore campaign, and by the time it was over, he was talking to people at the Big Rapids, Michigan program. That’s when he got in touch with an old, familiar face.
“Coach [Tony] Annese, he coached at Muskegon, so I’ve known him since middle school,” Thrower said. “He was trying to get me to play football again, and I said no. I talked it over with my high school coach and parents, and I decided I may as well play both and see how it plays out. I knew both were two really good programs, so why not?”
The decision was final. Thrower was heading to Ferris State to play both sports. The only thing left to decide was which one he was better at. “I really don’t know. A lot of people ask me that, I’ll let them decide.”
CHAPTER 2: A historic run to the DII men’s basketball title
It wasn’t simply a DII record-tying 38-win season. It wasn’t just a season-ending 26 game winning streak. The 2017-18 Ferris State basketball team meant so much more. The Bulldogs were the first team from Michigan to win a DII basketball title as they captured the first national title in school history.
Thrower was a pivotal piece off the bench. He scored 22 points in the three games in South Dakota for the 2018 Elite Eight. Of course, there was also coach Andy Bronkema’s iconic beard.
“A lot of us were growing beards,” Thrower said. “We were doing it for one of our teammates. Me and Markese (Mayfield) weren’t shaving our beards, but everyone else shaved theirs except coach. That was his playoff thing, he said he wasn’t shaving till we won it all. I guess it ended up working.”
There is certainly a difference in Thrower’s two coaches, Annese an admired veteran, old-school football coach and Bronkema a young and rising star in the coaching ranks. But it’s not the differences that have made Thrower the player he’s become.
“They are both very, very competitive, play fast, and both hold me to a higher standard, which I like. Some people when they come in from Division I, coaches treat them kind of privileged. That was never the case here. Coach Bronkema can be a little more lenient, but Coach Annesse, no matter who you are, he’s giving it to you. He’s going to let you know how it is.”
— Ferris Athletics (@ferrisathletics) October 24, 2018
CHAPTER 3: The DII football championship
The stage is set. Two of the most exciting offenses meet in the DII football championship on Saturday, Dec. 15. Valdosta State is the top-ranked offense in the land, but Thrower and his defensive unit are well-prepared. After all, they have to go against Harlon Hill finalist Jayru Campbell every day in practice.
“Man, Ru? Our offense? We go against them every day. That’s hard. But he’s a phenomenal quarterback. He’s very smart, he’s spent a lot of hours watching a lot of film. It’s been an amazing experience to play with him, he’s one of those players that practices as hard as he plays.”
Luckily for a Bulldogs team experiencing their first national championship, they have the presence of Thrower in the locker room. Not only is he an amazing athlete, but he’s also been there before.
“We’re getting real antsy,” he said. “Right now, it’s who has the best week of preparation. I’m really excited to play Saturday, but right now we got to focus. Don’t take plays off in practice because you’re worried about getting hurt. Compete. When we were in South Dakota [for basketball], we were practicing so hard two guys got stitches.”
— Ferris St. Football (@FerrisFootball) July 12, 2018
So while the Bulldogs prepare, we all wait to see the next chapter in this career unfold, this time on the gridiron. While Thrower won’t make a prediction, he promised all we can ask for.
“It should be an exciting, up-tempo game,” he said. “We both play fast on both sides of the ball.”