BIG RAPIDS - Few student-athletes embody what it means to be a student-athlete more than former Ferris State University All-American football star Jake Visser.
Visser, a native of Coopersville in the Grand Rapids area, received the ultimate honor for a true student-athlete. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound former defensive tackle, was named the 2008-09 National Scholar-Athlete of the Year as recognized by Disney’s Wide World of Sports and the DII Conference Commissioners’ Association. Visser was recognized by the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Ferris Athletics Department during halftime of Saturday afternoon's men's basketball game between Ferris and the University of Findlay on Feb. 6 in Jim Wink Arena in Big Rapids.
In spite of all the honors, Visser remains as humble and grounded as ever.
"This award is really great. You put a lot of work into to be able to earn something like this and a big part of winning something like this is we have a great support system at Ferris with people like Carma Burcham," said Visser, who currently is living with his wife in the Grand Rapids area and wrapping up his student teaching responsibilities at Kenowa Hills High School. "We have great teachers throughout the whole History Education staff at Ferris.
"It's really nice to get these kinds of awards to accept not just on my behalf, but also for Ferris State University and for the GLIAC."
Ferris Athletics Director Tom Kirinovic and GLIAC Commissioner Dell Robinson were among those on hand to recognize Visser and present him with a plaque recognizing his noteworthy achievement as the nation's premier scholar-athlete (2008-09). Burcham, FSU's coordinator of records and NCAA eligibility, also was part of the presentation to Visser.
Just as Visser approached football with meticulous preparation and a ferocious drive, so too did he take on his studies inside and outside of the classroom. He continues what many people hope will become a tradition. And, if you don't think Ferris produces some outstanding scholar-athletes then check again. Visser is the second FSU student-athlete in three years to earn that award. Visser joins Grand Haven native Mike Klobucher, who played linebacker for the Bulldogs and won it in 2006-07).
"To be able to follow someone like Mike Klobucher, who so many of us had such great respect for, makes winning an award like this even more of an honor," said Visser, who was a 2009 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winner and was chosen as a member of the National Football Foundation's Hampshire Honor Society. "There are so many great student-athletes who take a lot of pride in not only being a great athlete, but also work hard to be strong in the classroom, too."
Visser was named three times to the All-GLIAC team and earned both first-team All-America status and Academic All-America honors during his FSU playing career.