By Michael Wilson
The Valdosta State Blazers are the face for Division II. If you don’t believe it check out Katie Thomas’ article in The New York Times this past Monday.
Well to be more precise, Ronnye Nelson, VSU’s junior running back, is the face of Division II. He appeared as one of the featured athletes in an article about the state of Division II sports. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that VSU has transcended its tradition of winning and risen to the height of national recognition. Besides all of the championships won by VSU teams, the addition of a new women’s soccer team last week and the regional televised game against Delta State today are more indicators of this university’s reach.
If that isn’t enough then look at the depth charts of the various athletic teams on campus and decide whether that is the mark of a nationally recognized school.
In particular, Sia Poyer, the volleyball head coach, and John Hansen’s tennis teams are a great place to look for the diversity of regions represented on VSU’s athletic programs. The tennis teams do not have any players from the states, and as far as anyone can tell they probably won’t any time soon.
Poyer takes a much different approach, looking all across the U.S. to find the right pieces to complete his team. The volleyball team suffers from a poor local recruiting area which forces VSU to get its name out there in order to compete and, if you’ve been paying attention, these teams are competing.
While the football team is not quite as expansive in its recruiting, it does provide VSU with the most direct national exposure. The national championships on ESPN 2 are testament to that and the nationally televised game against Terry Bowden’s North Alabama squad brings the rest of the country to our world.
That UNA match-up will be one of the more important games in VSU’s history and the team doesn’t even have to win it. Just the fact of national attention on campus will be enough to make the game a huge success.
Nelson has become the face of Division II sports and he is now one of the numerous reasons why VSU is now and could remain the face of Division II.
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See the NY Times article here.