MARQUETTE, Mich. -- The 2019 Northern Michigan University Football season kicks off soon, but with a week still to go, the Wildcats wanted to take a look back at a record-breaking 2018.
The season may not have gone the way most wanted, losing four games by a total of 12 points, but one guarantee going into each game was the success of running back Jake Mayon.
While the running backs get the publicity, Mayon is quick to point out that he had a lot of help. "My success directly depends on those guys up front, without them I would be nothing at all," he said, referring to his offensive linemen. "They work their butts off day in and day out to make sure we succeed and I admire all those guys for it. Their job is often overshadowed, but they are the true stars."
Those unheralded stars were an instrumental part of this past season. Zyggy Arledge, Gabe Baumann, Josh Crim, Thompson McWatters, Payton Muljo, Vince Propson, Blake Whitcomb and Jay Young were all credited with starts in a season that saw Mayon and the offense set four school records.
Arledge, a student assistant this season, was happy for the success. "It really is just a culmination of all the success Jake and I, and the whole group had. A lot of us were here for four years and his success really meant our success as well."
Just two full seasons ago, a lot of these linemen were instrumental to another record-breaking season as former quarterback, Shaye Brown, set numerous passing records. With a coaching change, it also brought a philosophy change, going from a pass heavy attack to a run-first attack. Mayon and the linemen took it in stride.
"It was a big increase in my workload. It forced me to step up and really be on top of my game," said Mayon. "It also changed the workload for my linemen greatly. They all stepped up and did a great job."
Arledge said they knew what the challenge was going to be, "We had to be far more aggressive as an offensive line and take a different mentality to grind things out."
This change was eased by the close-knit family feel Mayon shared with his linemen. "Our relationship was great, they are my brothers. Throughout the four years we spent more time with each other than with our own families. We are one big family and I love that I can honestly say that."
Unfortunately, that family was forced to see new faces in new roles throughout the year as injuries occurred all season long. "We had a bunch of guys who bought into the system and knew Jake's ability," Arledge explained. "If we worked hard and gave him some space we knew he would make some great things happen."
Great things did happen as Mayon earned Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Back of the Year and First Team All-GLIAC honors the last two seasons and set two school records. Along the offensive line, Arledge and Propson earned All-GLIAC Second Team recognition while McWatters and Baumann were named All-GLIAC Honorable Mention.
Against Michigan Technological University, Mayon passed Steve Avery's career rushing record. In the season finale, Mayon became the first player in school history to achieve 1,500 yards to post a single season record, finishing with 1,502 yards in a season and 4,220 for his career.
The team's ground attack also set a single season rushing record mark, rushing for 2,660 yards over the 11 games. Against Lawrence Technological University, the Wildcat also set a school record with 24 rushing first downs.
What was it like to break so many records? "It was a great feeling," Mayon said. "It is very rewarding to know that my teammates and I were able to accomplish that together after all the hard work we have put in throughout our time at NMU. It was a great team effort."
Mayon's favorite moment from his career at NMU was an easy an answer for him. "My favorite moment is becoming the leading rusher at NMU. Being able to share that moment with my teammates and know that we have all put in so much work to get that achievement is special. That is truly a team record. I could never do that alone and I always will put great emphasis on that. It's a step in the right direction for our program."
The football team looks to take that next step soon as the Wildcats host McKendree University Saturday, September 7 in the Superior Dome at 1 p.m