by Jarritt Orlando, BroncoBlitz.com
The Tim Lester era of Western Michigan University football took another step forward on the morning of Feb. 1, with recruits sending in their National Letters of Intent, officially becoming Broncos. Meet the 2017 WMU class and learn their thoughts on Western Michigan, Lester and the entire recruiting process.
"WMU is an awesome opportunity for me. It has a great business school, is close to home and has a winning culture that I am excited to see keep growing."
"On the field, I play with an angry tenacity and I do my job. I like to hit people. Off the field I feel my leadership is a strong quality of mine. I am a guy that people can look up to and count on.
"(Coach) Lester and the new staff are great. Coach Moreland is a tough coach that I can't wait to play for. The whole staff was super welcoming and struck me as very loyal."
"The recruiting process has had its ups and downs. I talked to schools from Power Five all the way to Division II. The majority consensus was that I was too short. I'm very appreciative of the opportunity I have at WMU and look forward to showcasing what I can do."
"I chose WMU, one because all of the coaches are great guys. The team itself I felt has a bond of no other college team. It's a legit brotherhood and also I knew it really felt right for me. How could you pass an opportunity like this where you can truly live your dream?"
"I'm bringing to the team another brother who can be trusted for any situation. I have a great work ethic and I never give up. Off the field I maintain good grades and will help out the community in any way."
"Coach Lester is an unbelievable guy who really cares for not only you as a player, but you as a young man. The same goes for every other coach on the staff. Great people with great attitudes. I love them."
"The recruiting process was pretty crazy and stressful. It wasn't until the past month or so when everything really came to be and I needed to make decisions that would impact the rest of my life, very quickly. In the end, I feel great about my decision on becoming a Bronco and that it is truly the right fit for me."
"It (WMU) really was just all around great for me and I feel I'm coming in at a great time. The players, the coaches and the facilities were all great and I felt so welcomed there and felt it where I fit in best at."
"The coaches want me to play slot wide receiver and I feel that also is what fits me best. I think it's the perfect position for me an I can't wait to get there and get started. Wide receiver, that's their biggest need for next year, so the chance to play and play early was also big for me."
"The coaches, they're all for the most part, young and really fired up about getting this job and want to be here. They don't want this run that Western Michigan is on right now to die down anytime soon and they're looking to build off it and make it into something great. I feel the same as what Coach Lester wants to bring to WMU and all around, really love this coaching staff."
"(The recruiting process) it was crazy at times, made me frustrated and question if I even wanted to play football at times, but I know it's a blessing and I know I choose the best school for me in Western Michigan. I can't wait to get there and get started. I'm really excited to sign and just have all my focus back on football and getting ready for next season."
"WMU has a great academics from a medical standpoint which is the field I want to go into. Also, the coaching staff was huge in this decision. They're great people and they have a vision to make WMU a dynasty."
"I'm a natural born pass blocker with my length. Also, I'm a leader on the field. Off the field, I'm good at keeping everyone going in the weight room and I've always been an honor student."
"The staff has a vision to make WMU a dynasty and I think they really know how to do it. They keep stressing the culture of the place and that players win games, not coaches. They're all really friendly people who are just fired up about the opportunity to coach at WMU."
"The recruiting process was stressful. I had been to schools all over the country. Even to Tampa and San Diego before I committed to Cincinnati. With the coaching change, things didn't really work out there and I went to find a new home less than two weeks from signing day. I took my fourth official to WMU with four others lined up for the next week. Before I left (Western Michigan), I knew I wanted to be a Bronco. I told the coaching staff I would be and they were so excited. It was a great way to end my process."
"I chose WMU because it felt like home and a better fit. It also brought more opportunities for me"
"Off the field I'm a quiet leader for example in the weight room and also a student of the game. On the field I can pass rush with the best of them and play the run."
"I loved the WMU staff instantly! They're very passionate and extremely cool people but they know when to get serious."
"The recruiting process had its ups and downs but I get it's a cut throat business."
"When I went up and visited, it seemed like a perfect fit for me and all the players that I was around on my visit all had the same good attitude about the program. That excited me."
"On and off the field I think I'll bring a lot of leadership to the program especially, as I earn more and more respect from all of my teammates as I grow. I'll try to be a vocal leader and lead by example as much as possible."
"What I love about Coach lester and the rest of the coaching staff is their excitement for the future, how they're stressing the culture and how the culture is what wins games."
"The recruiting process was a pretty stressful thing trying to figure out where you're going to spend the next 4-5 years of your life. Also, I was lied to multiple times by schools. It made me realize how much of a cut throat business college football is and I'm very glad to have found a home that I love."
"Western feels like home to me. The coaches and players want me and I want to play along side of them. Not only did I choose WMU for football, I chose this university because it is an excellent academic school and I feel as I can excel in the classroom as well as on the field."
"On and off the field, I am a hard working student-athlete who is always looking to better myself alongside my teammates."
"I'm impressed and very excited about this staff. The big thing that stands out to me is the coaching staff, including Coach Lester, some of which are former Broncos. I feel a connection between myself and the coaches."
"As an early commit it was actually quite simple. However, the last three weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. At first I was just shocked over the departure of coach Fleck, but WMU's staff, facilities, and players are still there and that's the reason I felt so at home then and now."
"I chose WMU because of the opportunity. They wanted to bring me in as the starting kicker. Starting for a major FBS team for four years is an amazing opportunity that I couldn't pass up on."
"I bring a sense of leadership to the team. I have worked hard for almost six years to craft my ability and I am going to continue to do whatever I can to improve my skill. I am extremely accurate from 50 and in but I can also hit from 55 yards plus. I can constantly put the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs and I can punt the ball consistently as well. Off of the field, I work extremely hard in the classroom to keep my grades where they need to be. Also, I work to be a positive role model for the community and people around me."
"I love everything about what coach Lester and his staff are doing at WMU. He came right in and immediately started working on recruiting and getting his staff together and he did an outstanding job. With me committing and then P.J. Leaving, Lester took over as the head guy and immediately flew down to Texas the following week to check up on me and make sure everything was all good. He is an all around great guy and he is going to be an awesome head coach. I love the attitude and culture that he is bringing to WMU."
"The recruiting process has been crazy for me. Being a specialist, things definitely work a little different. Schools usually only get one scholarship every four years for a specialist so it makes things a little more complicated. I was very blessed to be recruited by many top programs but I am beyond excited and thankful for the opportunity that coach Lester has given me and I cannot wait to be a Bronco."
"In the end, I chose WMU because of the type of players that are on the team. The team is full of tough kids who work hard to win football games. I think I will fit well with my future teammates. Who wouldn't want to be a part of a group of winners? I also chose Western Michigan because I think they can help me get to the NFL."
"I bring my rangy frame and toughness to the football field. I believe my combination of size and speed will allow me to be a serious threat at the outside receiver position. Off the field, I want to be the best student-athlete I can be. I will bring my leadership abilities to WMU as well."
"I like how Coach Lester talks about keeping the culture at WMU. I truly believe culture wins ball games. I think the new staff will bring energy to the team. They all seem like great guys as well as great coaches. I can't wait to be around all of them and start learning from them."
"The recruiting process is long but worth it, in my opinion. The process can be stressful at times, but in the end it all works out. I'm grateful I found the school that is a perfect fit for me."
"I picked WMU because there was no other school like it. The atmosphere, academics, people, culture; It all fit me. Western is the place I see my self succeeding for the next four to five years on and off the field."
"I would say, on the field, I bring competitiveness to the table. I love to compete with others and myself. Pushing yourself beyond your limits is what's going to make you better player. I'm also a quiet guy who gets the job done in the classroom and on the field."
"What I like about Lester and his staff is their care for the players. They involve the players in a lot. Also, their desire to win. When Lester came in, he told us that he didn't want to change the culture that was already built but to just grow upon it. It excited us players because he wasn't trying to change everything that was built and what we committed to."
After Fleck left a lot of MAC schools started contacting me. It was really stressful for me at that time because I didn't know what I wanted to do, but the official reassured a lot of things. And I'm happy with my decision to stick with Western."
"I chose WMU because I want to be close to my family and I fel in love with school and the culture rather than the coach."
"On the field, I bring speed, power and knowledge of the game and leadership. I am also a very coachable player. Off the field I also bring great leadership and I keep my head down in the books so that I can be educated both on and off the field."
"I really like the new staff. They are very different from the old coaches. I have already bonded with these coaches over the short time they were given the job. I like how they stay in contact with me and I believe that they will demand the best out of me on the field and help me grow as a player and as a man."
"The recruiting process was very interesting for me but it was a blessing. It showed me the good side of being recruited like me being blessed to have 11 Division I college offers. At the same time, it showed me the darkside of the recruiting process and how things can switch up. You need to do what's best for you but overall I'm thankful for being blessed to have even gone through this seeing many players don't even get the chance."
Could not be reached for an interview.
Could not be reached for an interview.
"I'll be honest with you, when Fleck left my family and I were in a kind of panic because we had no idea what the next step for Western Michigan was. Instead of waiting it out we took my official that following week after Fleck left. My visit was so refreshing and it didn't have to do with the coaching staff that was in place. It was solely on the players and how they lead the culture around this program. That's what made it special and that's what made me 100 percent all in. After meeting with Coach Lester and the rest of the coaching staff, they seem very enthusiastic about what's next for the program."
"I believe what I bring to the team on the field is a blue collar mentality. My parents have raised my sister and I to believe that hard work always wins. I have never been given anything; I've always went after what I want to achieve. Also, a player with the love and passion for the game. People will see my passion for it everyday and last but not least , my playmaking ability. I love making plays for my squad."
"What I love about Lester individually is his big idea of culture and that culture always wins. Even though I haven't grown a strong relationship with him yet, I feel like he's very passionate about football and also passionate about this football program. I met the defensive back coach, Coach Sanders , only once but the minute we started to communicate, I felt it was an automatic bond and I'm excited about that and to build on that relationship. I was very excited they kept Coach Duggan. He was the guy that recruited me at first and we've built a relationship since then. Coach Kenney and my father actually have a old relationship from the past . He recruited my dad in high school when Coach Kenney was at Penn State so they are very familiar with each other but he's awesome as well."
"The recruiting was stressful but a lot of fun. I went from committing before my senior season, focusing on just Western Michigan and how the program's doing through the season. Then the coaching change happened and it caused panic for awhile. I have to give so much credit to my father because he has went through this process as well and to get advice from someone who's had a first hand experience, not to mention he's your father, is just a blessing. I've been so thankful through all of this. All glory to God."
Could not be reached for an interview.
"I chose WMU because it was the right fit both football and academic wise for me. I like it more and more every time I visit. I also love the locker room attitude of the players and I want to be a part of a team with the mind set that they have."
"I bring to the team a physical, smart linebacker who will work hard on and off the field. I'm a good teammate and a good student."
"I like that Coach Lester is not satisfied with where the program is. He wants to see it continue to grow. I also like how much the coaches care about the players and how they will also get the most out of us at the same time."
"The recruiting process was fun to be a part of but very complicated at the same time. It was a lot to think about but I'm grateful for all the opportunities to play at the next level and I'm very excited and happy to be continuing to play at Western Michigan."
"I fell in love with the school. They have an amazing business school in which I plan to attend. The offense is a perfect fit for me to utilize my skills in the run game as well as in the passing game with catching and blocking."
"I believe that's what I bring to the team on the field, an all around back with speed and quickness. Off the field, I will always have my teammates back with whatever they need and I'm a hard worker in everything I do."
"I like how much Lester and his staff cares about the players and the vision they have for the future of this program."
"The recruiting process was nice. I wanted to make it short so I could focus on building a relationship with that school and the people there and that's exactly what I did with Western Michigan."
Carleton sign his LOI to gray shirt and will be on scholarship after the 2017 fall semester.
"WMU has always felt like home to me and I love the people and the coaches."
"I bring a sense of leadership and hunger and wanting to be great no matter whether it is in the classroom or on the field. I'm all about making my teammates better."
"I like Coach Lester because he's an easy going, down to earth, under control man and I feel as he will keep things going in the program."
"The recruiting process was very stressful and fun because I had to worry about what schools would expect from my frame as a player and my height. Every day I got told I couldn't accomplish playing at the Division I level and it was fun because I got to prove everyone wrong and overcome adversity."
Could not be reached for an interview.
"The culture of the players there had a lot to do with my commitment, as well as the environment of the town which is similar to mine now. I love Kalamazoo and the people in it."
"I'm hungry for success and I truly love the game of football so I would do anything for my team and I'm really motivated to help WMU continue their winning culture."
"There is not a negative thing I can say about Coach Lester and his staff I'm really excited to be coached by them!"
"I chose Western Michigan because of its culture. I love the environment. It reminds me of home and I feel like I can fit right in."
"I will do my best in school regardless because I want my degree and I will challenge and compete with my teammates on the field."
"When I first met Coach Lester and the staff, I found out they were real and straight up and that's the kind of coaching I like."
"The recruiting process was fun and a learning lesson. I've experienced some great things while being recruited and I had a great time with it."
"I chose Western Michigan because I knew of the success that they've had over the previous years. Also, I have teammates who are committed to the team so it's always a plus to go to a school where you know who you're surrounded by."
"I bring excitement and an overall positive attitude both on and off the field."
"The one thing that I truly picked up when I first met Coach Lester and the new staff was that they were very down to earth and seemed like they all were happy to be around each other. Also they have a clear vision on what they want to get accomplished. I later found out that the coaches were all connected to each other in some way."
"The recruiting process was a very stressful time but I am content and happy to where I stand now."
On not being recruited heavily..
"I was out the first two games my junior year with a LCL injury and the offense of my junior year was more run based. This year we got a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator which changed our offense to an run-pass option style offense, which allowed me to make plays."
"I chose WMU because of the wide receiver history and the need for wide receiver's. Also the chance to play as a freshman."
"On the field, I bring that south Florida speed and play making ability. Off the field, I can become a team leader and raise the team GPA because currently I have a 3.7."
"Coach Lesterbeing a former quarterback lets you know that he likes putting the ball in the air. Also Coach Johns, the offensive coordinator, has a history of passing the ball with success."
"The recruiting process was slow and stressful at times but it ended well and I think I really fit WMU's system."
"I feel I was under recruited my sophomore and junior year because the biggest issue they had with me was my speed and I believe they probably thought it was a fluke with my senior year. But I hope we play all the Florida schools to show them what they missed out on."
Enrolled early and is currently in classes at Western Michigan. Hayward said the fact that his position coach, Dave Duggan, remaining of the staff was one deciding factor, along with coach Lester's vision of him becoming a better player and man.