MOUNT PLEASANT - Just 13 seniors dot the 2009 Central Michigan football roster.
It is one of the smallest senior classes in the country, but it will rank as the most successful in school history and among the most decorated in Mid-American Conference history.
"I think of perseverance," said CMU head coach Butch Jones of his seniors. "There are not many of them left from their original recruiting class. I think of winners, leaders and individuals of outstanding character. They have meant so much to our football family. We talk a lot about how seniors can either play their best or their worst football, and every senior on this team is playing his best football right now."
The success the group has experienced is remarkable.
No CMU senior class has won more than two MAC titles; the 2009 seniors will have an opportunity to play for a third title in four seasons. It will become the only senior class in school history to play in four bowl games while making CMU the only current MAC program to cap four consecutive seasons with a bowl game.
CMU has won at least eight games each of the last four seasons, the first time the program has accomplished that feat since 1977-80. CMU has won more games than any other MAC program over the past four seasons, and the 2009 seniors posted a perfect 4-0 mark against rival Western Michigan-the first CMU senior class since 1987 to finish 4-0 against the Broncos.
The seniors enter Friday's regular season finale against Northern Illinois with 28 victories against MAC opponents over the past four seasons, tied for the second most of any senior class in MAC history. The Chippewas also enter Friday's game with 35 total victories, tied for the third most of any senior class in school history.
Quarterback Dan LeFevour holds virtually every CMU and Mid-American Conference record for passing and total offense, and he has left his mark on the NCAA record book as well. No player in college football history has caught a pass in more consecutive games than receiver Bryan Anderson. Andrew Aguila has kicked more extra points than any other kicker in CMU history. And the list goes on.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment by this class is its demonstrated ability to lead. The task of leading a team with 53 true or redshirt freshmen on its roster to nine wins in 11 games and a division title should not be understated.
"During spring football we challenged this small senior class to lead by example on and off the football field," Jones said. "They accepted that challenge and have been extremely successful from a leadership standpoint."
The current seniors were freshmen on the 2006 CMU team that won the program's first Division I bowl game, a 31-14 victory over Middle Tennessee State in the Motor City Bowl. LeFevour was named the MAC Freshman of the Year and the bowl game's most valuable player. The Chippewas won 10 of their final 12 games, including a 31-7 win over Western Michigan that clinched the MAC West Division title.
CMU made it back-to-back conference titles in 2007, downing Miami, 35-10, in the conference championship game. CMU again clinched a spot in the title game with a win over its rival, claiming a thrilling 34-31 decision at Western Michigan. LeFevour was named MAC Offensive Player of the Year after becoming the second player in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season, and he was voted MAC Championship Game MVP. The season concluded with a narrow 51-48 loss to Purdue in the Motor City Bowl, a game in which CMU twice tied the score after trailing by 21 points three different times.
The Chippewas raced to wins in eight of their first 10 games in 2008, including a 37-34 win at Indiana, and made a third consecutive appearance at the Motor City Bowl in Detroit. A 38-28 win over Western Michigan was part of a six-game winning streak midway through the season.
A 29-27 victory at Michigan State on Sept. 12, the Chippewas' second straight win over a Big Ten opponent, jump-started a seven-game winning streak that led CMU to its third MAC West Division title in four seasons. The Chippewas also completed the four-year sweep of Western Michigan with a 34-23 win in Kalamazoo.
With each victory in 2009, the senior class has further enhanced its legacy as one of the most successful classes in Mid-American Conference history. CMU's seniors - you will be missed.
CMU will recognize 14 individuals during Senior Day festivities prior to kickoff of Friday's game against Northern Illinois: