Athletic Transformation from Northern Michigan High School to College Sports

They were stars in your living room during Sports Overtime, but now they are all grown up and talking about what it’s like to play a sport at the college level. 9&10’s Shannon McGrattan has the story.

“If we sat down and wrote down a list of all the Northern Michigan athletes that are being successful and playing somewhere, it is quite an impressive list,” said Andy Bronkema, Ferris State Men’s Basketball Coach. 

Andy Bronkema would know, the former McBain High School basketball star, had his own college career and is now coaching Ferris State.

And once those athletes get to their respective schools, a new reality sinks in — free time becomes a thing of the past. Former Cadillac star John Simons and Petoskey native Kerby Tamm each find that teammates now turn into family.

“The big thing in high school is that you grow up with the girls, a lot of them I knew since elementary school,” explained Tamm. “But it’s the same thing here, everyone comes in with different backgrounds and it’s really cool to see how people mesh together.”

Simons said, “in terms of our team, we’re a close group, and we love to hang out together, so, I think that has been good for us and kind of led to some of our success on the court.”

Accolades that can only be celebrated when these local standouts put student before athlete.

“A big thing for me, coming in, was that I was going to get a Michigan education, and a degree here,” said Nicole Elmblad, Michigan Women’s Basketball. “I really put aside athletics when it came to academics. It’s kind of a new experience, getting used to playing basketball 6 out of 7 days a week, it’s almost like a full time job, but it’s fun.”

With the St. Ignace alum choosing an in-state school, it allows her family and friends to attend more games.

But for Morley Stanwood’s Tyler Huntey — getting away from family was a big adjustment.

“When I first came here I had to learn time management skills more than anything, I had to understand that I’m my own boss now, I don’t have my parents telling me what I need to do, where I need to go or anything,” said Huntey.

Former St. Francis star Joe Kerridge made a big jump from playing football at a Division 7 high school to playing in front of the biggest crowds in college at the University of Michigan.

“It’s a different speed of pace for academics as well as athletics and you just got to take it all in, and just love the experience and it’ll eventually become a lot of fun,” Kerridge said.

Which goes to show that it doesn’t matter how small of a school you attend, you can still make it to the biggest stage.

“If you truly have a goal you’re going to have to work at it, you’re going to have to work harder than your neighbor,” said Bronkema. “If you want to be the best at something, you have to practice. And I know there are kids dreaming the dream, so keeping dreaming.”