Grand Valley State Lakers football
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2007)|
|Grand Valley State Lakers football|
|Head coach||Matt Mitchell|
|Home stadium||Lubbers Stadium|
|All-time record||353–129–3 (.731)|
|Claimed national titles||4|
Blue, Black, and White
|Rivals||Ferris State Bulldogs, Saginaw Valley State Cardinals, Wayne State Warriors|
|Website||GVSU Laker Football|
The Grand Valley State Lakers football team represent Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in NCAA Division II football. After a national runner-up finish in 2001, losing to the University of North Dakota in the national championship game, GVSU completed the 2002 season with a perfect 14–0 record by defeating Valdosta State University, and winning the school's first-ever NCAA Division II national football championship. GVSU followed that success with a second national championship in 2003 with a 13–1 record, avenging the 2001 loss and defeating North Dakota in the championship game. GVSU was knocked out from the playoffs in 2004 by North Dakota in the now realigned playoff regions in the Northwest Regional Finals. In 2005 and 2006 GVSU won back-to-back National Championships, finishing both seasons undefeated. In 2007 the Lakers ran their win streak to 40 games, setting the NCAA Division II record for longest consecutive win streak; this streak ended a loss to Northwest Missouri State in the 2007 National Semi-Final Game. In the 21st century, GVSU's win percentage (.880, 147–20) and average margin of victory have outpaced such teams as the University of Southern California, the University of Texas, and Ohio State University; NCAA Division III's University of Mount Union has outpaced GVSU with a win percentage of .960 (167–7). Since inception, GVSU's leads the NCAA in highest overall winning percentage at .734 (353–129–3), ahead of Michigan, Notre Dame and Old Dominion among teams from all NCAA divisions. Their all time home record is 163–35–1.
Grand Valley began football in the 1970s and has been one of the most successful of all collegiate squads to take the field during that time period. Laker football has been a key element of Grand Valley's rise from a small college to a regional university. President Arend D. Lubbers began the push for a team when he arrived in 1969. In the fall of 1971, the Lakers kicked off their first varsity season. "It was clear that Grand Valley was changing from a commuter college, to a residential school in need of activities such as music, drama and athletics," Lubbers recalled.
GVSU launched its football program with a junior varsity schedule in 1970 and became a varsity sport in 1971. Robert "Rip" Collins, a successful high school coach at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills High School, became the programs first head coach. Success didn't come quickly for the Lakers as it took almost three years for them to win their first football game. Coach Collins was unable to get the program off to a successful start after going 0–13 and being outscored 534–58 in 1971 and 1972.
E. James Harkema took over as head coach in January 1973, coming to GVSU from Northern Illinois where he was an offensive backfield coach. Also awaiting Harkema was a brand new football field constructed in 1972 which featured the first "Prescription Athletic Turf" (PAT) football playing surface in the country.
It was ironic that Harkema began his GVSU career in the fall of 1973 opening against his alma mater, Kalamazoo College, where he had won 10 varsity letters and led the Hornets to six Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships. John Mahan rushed 26 times for 158 yards and Steve Brems added 122 more to lead GVSU to its first football victory in its season opener at home, a 27–14 win. Defensive tackle Bryce Berth and offensive guard Tom Tefft were named the offensive and defensive players of the game.
Showing the program was heading in the right direction, the Lakers did it again the next week beating Chicago-Circle 40–8 in a night game played at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. Mahan rushed for 147 yards and Brems added 138 more.
Grand Valley outscored their opponents 259–120 and posted their first winning season at 6–3. 1973 marked the start of the great football tradition at Grand Valley, and during the next 10 years under Harkema they would post a 68–29–1 record, win three Great Lakes Conference football championships and make one trip the NAIA playoffs. 1973 also marked the beginning of the multitude of individual national honors coming to GVSU players with the first NAIA All-American Honorable Mention (AAHM) awarded to offensive guard Tom Tefft.
1974 marked the first conference play for Grand Valley with the forming of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. GVSU went 6–3 and finished third in that inaugural year. Offensive guard Ron Stallard became the second individual Laker honored as he was awarded NAIA AAHM status at the end of the season.
Some Laker followers feel that the 1975 team, with a 7–2–1 record, may have set the standards for many years to come. After dropping a hard fought road opener to Wayne State University, which also included the loss of their starting quarterback for the season. They beat Ferris State for the first time 38–0, defeated Saginaw Valley State University and Hillsdale and tied Northwood. If not for a questionable, trick play in the closing minutes by Northern Michigan University resulting in a 21–17 road loss, GVSU would have been invited to their first post season in the NAIA playoffs (that honor would come to the 1978 Laker team).
1976 would be the year Grand Valley would receive national attention. The game that put Grand Valley on the map was the season finale against Northern Michigan University. The Wildcats came into Allendale as the defending NCAA Division II National Champions, boasting an 18-game winning streak, ranked No. 1 in Division II and fresh off an 82–7 win over University of Nebraska-Omaha. And, as they were the team which ended the Lakers chances from going to the NAIA National Playoffs the year prior. GVSU was seeking some payback on their home field. The Lakers, playing 21 seniors built up a 24–0 lead and went on to shock the Wildcats 31–14 before a large crowd, which included many top recruites. Winning this game allowed Grand Valley to sign many top All-State players which started their push to national attention.
Harkema had traditionally built his teams on defense and a solid running game, but in 1977 with the transfer of quarterback Roy Gonzalez from the University of Wyoming, a solid offensive line and using many talented freshmen, Harkema went to the air and won their first ever Great Lakes Conference Championships, ultimately winning three in the next five years. The 1977 team went 7–3 and had one NAIA All-American, offensive tackle Gary Evans and eight NAIA AAHM athletes: Roy Gonzalez-QB, Daryl Gooden-DT, Mack Lofton-DE, Tim Maki-LB, Roger McCoy-PK, Clint Nash-WR, Joe Pollard-S and Rusty Steffens-OG. Gonzalez was followed by quarterbacks David Quinley, Steve Michuta and Jeff Lynch, who gave GVSU the most feared passing attack in the Grand Lakes Conference. They had been blessed with talented receivers like Clint Nash, Rick Cunningham, Michael Woods, Rob Rubick, Jeff Chadwick and Bill Luckstead as the Lakers averaged seven wins a year from 1977–1982.
In 1978, with Quinley at the controls, the Lakers suffered early losses to Northern Michigan and Bowling Green State, but bounced back to win eight straight games including a repeat of the GLIAC title and an NAIA Playoff victory over Wisconsin-LaCrosse. The team ultimately lost to Elon College in the NAIA Semi-Finals on a wet, muddy field in North Carolina. The team finished 9–3 and secured the winningest season in GVSU History at the time. The team celebrated two NAIA All-Americans in Bob Beaudrie-C and Joe Pollard-DB and four AAHM, Wade Bent-LB, Ron Essink-OT, Roger McCoy-PK and Rick VanEss-FB. This was the highlight of the first decade of football for Grand Valley State. Two players that stood out and won individual national honors: All-American Ron Essink-OT (NCAA DII/NAIA/Kodak) who went on to have an outstanding career in the NFL as a starting tackle with the Seattle Seahawks, and NAIA AAHM Mark Szczytko-DT.
1979 also saw the completion and dedication of the new stadium and track complex named after its president, Arend D. Lubbers, on September 15. The stadium was built around the existing PAT field and had permanent seating for 4,146 fans.
The second decade of the program saw a continuation of its winning ways. 1980, 1981 and 1982 seasons were more of the same for GVSU finishing 7–3, 7–2 and 7–3 – solid seasons with solid players. Those years saw some outstanding players come through the program including: Kurt Fredericks, NCAA D-II AAHM at linebacker and Steve Michuta, NCAA D-II AAHM at quarterback.
The end of the 1982 season brought several new things to GVSU: a new Fieldhouse that replaced the Dome, giving some of the finest Division II facilities in the Midwest, and the departure of Coach Harkema who left to rebuild the program at Eastern Michigan University. Bob Giesey, Ball State assistant, replaced Harkema and was hired in December 1982.
Giesey's team lost the final two games of the 1983 season by one point each and finished the year at 4–6, the first losing season in over a decade. The following year GVSU went 0–10 in "84" and managed only 99 points for the whole season. Giesey resigned and Athletic Director Dr. George MacDonald began a nationwide search which culminated with the hiring of Tom Beck, a Chicago native, who came to Grand Valley from the Chicago Blitz of the United States Football League and who had turned losing programs into winning ones at Illinois Benedictine and Elmhurst College.
It took Coach Beck three games to get back on track in 1985. Faced with a 14-game losing streak, Beck made some key personnel changes. Beck moved Guy Schuler in as starting QB and moved wide receiver Ray Buckner to tailback, linebacker Sylvester Johnson to fullback, and defensive tackle Brian Mulcahy to middle linebacker. The Lakers went out and defeated Evansville 28–14 and finished the year 6–5.
The next five years would see explosive offenses, outstanding players and solid coaching which would result in trips to the NCAA Division II playoffs, as well as the Lakers becoming a fixture in preseason and postseason rankings. Beck's 1986 team posted a 9–2 record, but that was only an inkling of things to come. Three players obtained national honors: Dean Clem, AP AAHM at OG, Brian Mulcahy, LB – Football News AAHM, and Guy Schuler AP AAHM at QB.
1987 and 1988 ended in the same result with a pair of 7–4 seasons. Four players obtained national honors: Mark Prins, OT was both AP and Football News AAHM in "87" and Football News AA in "88"; while Guy Schuler again was named AP AAHM and Frank Miotke was a Football News AAHM for his first time.
In 1989 the Lakers posted their first undefeated season with an 11–0 record and the final Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Championship. GV led Division II in total offense, averaging 480.9 yards per game and also in points with 44.5/game. One of the highlights of the 1989 season was a GVSU record breaking 91–0 victory over Valporaiso. The Lakers jumped out to a 63–0 halftime lead as they rolled up 731 yards in total offense. Freshman kicker Miguel Sagaro from Spain set a Division II record when he connected on 65 of 66 extra points for the season and sophomore fullback Eric Lynch scored 21 touchdowns. Lynch became the Lakers first Harlon Hill candidate and finished 6th in the voting and later went on to have an outstanding career with the Detroit Lions.
Grand Valley finished third in the final 1989 Division II regular season poll and earned the first of three consecutive playoff berths, losing to Indiana, PA 34–24 on a frigid November afternoon highlighted by 11 inches of snow on the ground. That team had four players earn national awards: Todd Tracey, DT – AA (NCAA D2/Kodak), Dave Beebe, OG – AA (Football Gazette/AP), Mark Smith, OT – AA (GTE/COSIDA) and Miguel Sagaro, PK – AAHM, Football Gazette.
In 1990, Grand Valley, along with GLIAC members Ferris State, Hillsdale, Northern Michigan, Saginaw Valley and Wayne State, joined forces with the schools from the Heartland Conference which included Ashland University, Butler, University of Indianapolis, St Joseph's College and Valparaiso to form the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference (MIFC).
The Lakers continued their winning ways, posting a 22-game regular season winning streak before falling at Hillsdale, 38–34. GV won the inaugural MIFC crown, finished with a 10–2 record and lost to East Texas State, 20–14 in the playoffs. That 1990 season saw five Lakers win national recognition: Chris Tiede, OC – AA Football Gazette; Jim Cramer, DT – AA Football Gazette; Eric Lynch, FB – AA Football Gazette; Mike Flannery, CB – AA Football Gazette and Charles Sippial, LB – AA Football Gazette.
The winter following the 1990 season, Coach Beck left to become an assistant at Notre Dame and Athletic Director Mike Kovalchik filled the position with 28-year old Laker assistant Brian Kelly, a graduate of Assumption College, who continued to lead the Laker's to success on the gridiron. He posted his 20th and 30th wins faster than any of his predecessors, and upon his departure posted a 118–35–2 record with two National Championships in thirteen seasons of competition.
Kelly's first season was a roller coaster ride as the Lakers began by defeating defending Division II National Champion North Dakota State, 21–17, in Fargo, North Dakota, breaking the Bison 25 game home winning streak as the Lakers became the first team to score a rushing TD in 38 quarters. The following week Grand Valley was shut out in the Butler Bowl. Kelly's 1991 team went on to post a 9–3 record, losing to East Texas State in the playoffs, 36–15.
The 1991 team had eight players earn national awards at the conclusion of the season with five AA and three AAHM. Chris Tiede and Eric Lynch earned AA honors for the second year – Tiede from the AP, Football Gazette & Kodak – Lynch from the Football Gazette; Todd Wood, DB – AA (GTE/COSIDA); Mark Smith, OT – AA (GTE/COSIDA); Jim Cramer, DT – AA Football Gazette; Jack Hull, QB – AAHM Football Gazette; Bill McGory, OG – AAHM Football Gazette and Bob Michell, TE – AAHM Football Gazette.
Grand Valley shared its second MIFC crown with Butler, Ferris and Hillsdale in 1992 with an 8–3 record. The 1993 season saw the Lakers slide a bit posting a 6–3–2 record with key losses to Indiana (PA), Ashland and Hillsdale. Kelly and the Lakers bounced back in 1994 with a return trip to the playoffs and finished with an 8–4 record and a first round playoff loss. They started and ended that 1994 season with losses to Indiana(PA), regular season opener and first round of playoffs. The Lakers then posted back-to-back 8–3 seasons in "95" and "96", finishing second in the MIFC both years, but no playoff games either season. They again started each season with games against non-conference national competition but both ended in losses – "95"-Indiana(PA) and "96"-SW Texas State.
Multiple Lakers over those years earned All-American or AAHM status. 1992 – Miguel Sagaro, PK – AA Football Gazette; Jamarl Eiland, FB – AAHM Football Gazette; Jorgen Gustafsson, OT – AAHM Football Gazette; Brian Tazic, QB – AAHM Football Gazette. 1993 – Hardie Farr, SS – AA (CM Frank/AP); Youssef Sareini, WR – AA Football Gazette; Jorgen Gustafsson, OT – AAHM Football Gazette; Dan McLean, CB – AAHM Football Gazette; Mike Sheldon, OG – AAHM Football Gazette; 1994 – saw two repeats – Mike Sheldon, AA (AFCA/CM Frank/Football Gazette) and Youssef Sareini, AAHM (CM Frank/Football Gazette);Darnell Jamison, FB – AAHM CM Frank; Kwame McKinnon, QB – AAHM CM Frank and Tim Postema, LB – AAHM CM Frank. 1995 – Four players were awarded AAHM for a second year they were Darrell Jamison, Kwame McKinnon Tim Postema and Rich Hurley, OL – AA CM Frank; Kevin Gee, OL – AA CM Frank; Matt Potter, DL – AAHM CM Frank; Paul Siembida, DB – AAHM CM Frank and the most honored from this class was Diriki Mose, WR – AA (AFCA/Football Gazette/CM Frank/CoSIDA/Daktronics). 1996 – saw one player win multiple All-American awards after earning AAHM honors the year before – Matt Potter, AA (AFCA/Football Gazette/AP/CoSIDA/Daktronics) while Doug Kochanski, PK earned AAHM honors from the Football Gazette.
GVSU earned a share of the conference crown in 1997 with a 9–2 overall record and finished the regular season 9–1 with only a 30–27 loss to Saginaw Valley State in overtime. Their second loss came at the end of the season in GVSU's first matchup with UC Davis (19–21). This loss knocked GVSU out of the playoffs even though they won the conference. Conference AD's selected Ashland, despite losing to GV 31–20 earlier in the season, to represent the conference in the playoffs. 1997 saw Jason Graves, defensive back earn AAHM honors from (Football Gazette/CoSIDA/Daktronics) and Jeff Fox quareterback, earning AAHM from the Football Gazette.
Quarterback Jeff Fox led the Lakers to their second straight MIFC title and back into the playoffs in 1998 with a 9–1 conference mark. They again lost to UC Davis (38–40) finishing the regular season 9–2 overall. Fox became Grand Valley State's first-ever Harlin Hill Award Finalist (Division II Heisman) as he rewrote the GVSU single-season and career offensive record books. The Laker season was ended by Slippery Rock, again in the first round of the playoffs, 37–14. Jeff Fox was awarded AA status from CoSIDA/Daktronics/Football Gazette as did Billy Cook, Spcl Teams – AA Football Gazette.
With the graduation of several top players and the mounting losses to top national teams Kelly decided to go with a youth movement for the 1999 season. Kelly recruited hard and told these players they would play their first year if they came to GVSU. These were some of the top recruits in the State, however the inexperience showed as the Lakers stumbled to a 5–5 finish and seventh in the newly re-created GLIAC. One player earned national recognition – Dan Gibbons, DT – AA (CoSIDA/Daktronics/Football Gazette).
Grand Valley Football entered its most successful period during the 2000s (decade). The year 2000 saw the Lakers start their season slowly losing their first three games to South Dakota State, Saginaw Valley State and Northwood. But this sophomore-dominated team regrouped and finished by winning 7 of 8 remaining games, posting a 7–4 record.
In 2001, the dividends of valuable experience in the young players showed as the Lakers not only won their first ever Division II playoff game, but advanced to the 2001 National Championship. Behind a potent offensive attack, Grand Valley State posted a perfect 10–0 regular season (September 11, 2001 game was canceled) with an average of 58.4 points per game and 48.0 points average margin of victory. GVSU's march to the championship game was not easy, however, as quarterback and Harlon Hill Finalist Curt Anes, was injured in the Lakers' first playoff game. Grand Valley responded with a first round 42–14 victory over Bloomsburg, a 33–30 second round win over Saginaw Valley State, and a semi-final win over Catawba College, 34–16. One of the backup quarterbacks used during this run was actually a wide receiver brought in to run an option style offense when the other young backup ran into difficulty. In the championship game against North Dakota, the Lakers took a 14–10 lead with 2:46 left in the game, but the Fighting Sioux responded with a last minute drive of their own to take the title, 17–14.
Grand Valley finished the season 13–1 overall and set the school record for most wins in a single season. Curt Anes set a single season TD record of 48 and a .697 completion percentage record. David Kircus set a single game touchdown reception record of 5 against Ferris State University. 2001 saw five Lakers win national awards – David Kircus, WR – All-American (AFCA/D2Football/Daktronics/Football Gazette); Curt Anes, QB – All-American (Daktronics/Football Gazette); Dale Westrick, OT – All-American (Daktronics/Football Gazette); Dan Vaughn, DT – All-American (Football Gazette); and Mike Wilford, OL – All-American Honorable Mention (D2football.com).
"Finish What We Started" was the motto of the 2002 season. Curt Anes returned from a devastating knee injury to guide GVSU to a perfect 10–0 record (Ferris State game canceled) in the regular season. The Lakers opened at home against a tough non-conference opponent, California-Davis (which was in its last year of Division II competition) and won 24–14. The Lakers went on to defeat three ranked teams en route to the undefeated season. The playoffs began with a convincing 62–13 win over Long Island University-C.W. Post. Then came a matchup against longtime nemesis Indiana University of Pennsylvania. GVSU entered the game 0–6 against the Indians all-time, however, the Lakers scored on their first eight possessions in the first half and built a 50–7 halftime lead. The Lakers cruised to a 62–21 win and advanced to the NCAA D-II Semi-Finals. Grand Valley State again jumped out to an early lead and never looked back with an impressive 44–7 victory over Northern Colorado (also in its last year of Division II competition). The win advanced GVSU to the NCAA D-II National Championship game for the second straight year. The top-ranked Lakers squared off against second-ranked Valdosta State. GVSU led 17–6 at the half and 24–6 midway through the fourth quarter. However, VSU scored 18 unanswered points to tie the game with just over three minutes remaining. GVSU committed some uncharacteristically bad plays and turned the ball over to give the Blazers the opening to come back. Curt Anes, who won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the D-II Player of the Year less than 24 hours earlier, utilized his All-American receiver David Kircus to drive the Lakers 68 yards in 2:05 for a TD to give GVSU the 2002 NCAA DII National Championship. Anes hit Kircus on a 10-yard pass for the winning score, finishing the season with a perfect 14–0 record, and was also ranked No. 1 in the AFCA poll each week of the 2002 season.
The 2002 team had eleven players earn post season national honors, four of which were repeat winners – Curt Anes – Harlin Hill Award, All-American (AFCA/D2Football/Daktronics/Football Gazette); David Kircus – All-American (AFCA/AP/D2Football/Football Gazette/Daktronics); Dale Westrick – All-American (D2Football/Football Gazette/Daktronics) and Dan Vaughn – All-American (Football Gazette/AP/D2Football) others include; Keyonta Marshall, DT – All-American (Football Gazette/D2Football/Daktronics); Scott Mackey, DB – All-American (Football Gazette/AP/D2Football/Daktronics); Reggie Spearman, RB – All-American (Football Gazette/D2Football/Daktronics); Orlando Williams, LB – All-American (Football Gazette/Daktronics); Phil Condon, TE – All-American (D2Football); Terrance Banks, WR – All-American (Football Gazette) and Tom Hosford, OC – All-American Honorable Mention (Football Gazette).
Dan Torres receives Special Player of the Year award with 8 carries and 8 fumbles to his name.
Following 2002, the 2003 motto was "Tradition Never Graduates." Gone from the 2002 team were 25 seniors that concluded their careers with back-to-back appearances in the NCAA D-II Championship game. The 2003 campaign started with a road win over perennial power and now Division I-AA, UC-Davis. GVSU limited the high-powered offense of the Aggies to just two field goals, while GVSU's All-American kicker David Hendrix, booted three field goals, the final one coming in overtime. The defense did the job the following week as well as they scored two TD's en route to a 40–10 victory over rival Ferris State. Additional wins built GVSU winning streak to 20 games and the conference streak to 29 games. A date with fourth-ranked Saginaw Valley State was next on the ledger. A GVSU and GLIAC record crowd of 12,832 attended the anticipated contest at Lubbers Stadium in Allendale. After suffering a concussion (which was not discovered until later), GVSU starting quarterback Freshman Cullen Finnerty had several turnovers and miscues in the second half. The Cardinals capitalized to claim a 34–20 victory. GVSU regrouped and notched a 33–14 victory at Northwood to build momentum toward another playoff run.
However this playoff run had to be done on the road as GV entered the playoffs seeded third in the Northeast Region. The Lakers opened with a 65–36 win at Bentley College that set up a rematch with SVSU in the Regional Final. The game was a defensive struggle as neither offense could find scoring opportunities. Scott Mackey, GV's All-American DB picked off a pass late in the second quarter to score the games only TD and give GVSU a 10–3 win. The National Semi-Finals saw another new foe for GVSU: Texas A&M-Kingsville. GVSU's offense and defense dominated the game and GV won 31–3 and was off to their third straight NCAA D-II National Championship. A familiar foe was to meet Grand Valley: North Dakota. The game was sure to be a defensive battle as both teams rode their defenses to the title game. GVSU was leading 3–0 in the third quarter, but UND was driving into Laker territory looking for the lead when Lucius Hawkins made the play of the game. Hawkins forced the Sioux QB to fumble, and Lucius returned the ball 59 yards to the North Dakota 20-yard line. All-American Running Back Michael Tennessee scored three plays later and gave GVSU a 10–0 lead. GVSU led 10–3 in the closing minutes as North Dakota was driving. Senior linebacker Mike Hoad picked off a pass on the Laker 10-yard line to preserve the win and give GVSU back-to-back NCAA D-II National Championships. The 2003 GVSU senior class etched their names in the record books by becoming just the second team (the other being the University of North Alabama) in NCAA D-II history to make three consecutive trips to title game. The Laker seniors were 47–2 in their final 49 games and tallied a four-year GLIAC record of 34–4.
The 2004 season opened the era of a new mentor as Brian Kelly left following the 2003 season to take the head coaching job at Central Michigan University. Chuck Martin became the fifth head coach in the history of the Laker football program. Martin won more games (10) than any of the four previous head coaches in their first year at the helm. GVSU went 8–2 in the regular season finishing 2nd in the GLIAC (Michigan Technological University won its first GLIAC title that year). They also played in front of the largest crowd (50,123) in their history when they played against Michigan Tech in Michigan Stadium at the University of Michigan in the "Bash at the Big House". However, since they were the lowest-seed (6th) in the Northwest region (the GLIAC had been moved out of the NE after other conferenced lobbied the NCAA), GV had to go on the road in the playoffs, again. They played the NSIC champion Winona State University at their field and won a hard fought game 16–13. In the second round, Grand Valley was able to beat Northwood, avenging a regular season loss, winning 10–7. Grand Valley appeared in their fourth straight Regional Final against a new, growing rival: North Dakota. In a hard fought game that the Lakers let slip away late in the fourth quarter (15–19), GV ended Coach Martin's first season at 10–3. The 2004 Laker senior class concluded their careers with a 51–5 record, including two National Championships and three title game appearances. The 51 wins by the Lakers senior class tied the D-II record for wins in a career. DT Keyonta Marshall became GVSU's first-ever three time All-American and now enjoys an NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles. Grand Valley State continued to set single-season attendance records with a single-game average of 10,799 in 2004.
Several players earned honors after the season: Keyonta Marshall, DT – AA (AFCA/AP/Football Gazette/Daktronics/D2Football/College Sports Report); Scott Greene, PK – AA (AP/D2Football/College Sports Report); DeJuane Boone, DB – AA (Football Gazette/Daktronics); Lucius hawkins, DB – AA (Football Gazette/Daktronics/D2Football/College Sports Report); Demonte Collins, WR – AAHM D2Football.
Because GV was unable to advance to the national title game the previous season, the 2005 season came with much anticipation and concern. Coach Martin did not implement the offense that GV had been accustomed to under the previous headcoach. However, Martin led the Lakers to their second undefeated season in history, going 13–0 and defeating Northwest Missouri State University, ranked 21st in the nation coming into the tournament, lowest ever in Division II football. Chuck Martin's 23–3 record over his first two years as a head coach sets the records for Grand Valley Head Coaches in most wins in their first two seasons (23), and best winning percentage (0.885). Lubbers Stadium also saw numerous improvements, including a new football complex with home and visiting locker rooms, and expanded seating, bringing the official capacity of Lubbers Stadium to nearly 9,000. However, crowds of over 10,000 have frequently packed Lubbers Stadium to watch important games and the attendance record was broken twice during this season. The current record of 14,557 people was set when No. 1 Grand Valley State defeated rival Ferris State in the first game of the season. 2005 also saw the first year of the much-needed new scoreboard. Daktronics Inc. installed a new scoreboard, complete with digital video display at the North end of Lubbers Stadium. Several players from the 2005 squad won national awards. Leading the way was junior defensive end Michael McFadden who was a consensus All-American and the National Defensive Player of the Year.
The Lakers had an undefeated 2006 season, winning the GLIAC title, and the NCAA Division II National Championship, ranked No. 1 throughout the season and finishing with a (15–0) record. In the national title match, the Lakers again faced undefeated and second-ranked Division II rivals Northwest Missouri State, which finished the season with a (14–1) record. Senior quarterback Cullen Finnerty became the winningest quarterback in NCAA All-Division history, with a career record of 51–4, and was named to the 2006 American Football Coaches Association All America Team. He finished the 2006 season with a 15–0 record, completing 195 of 343 passes for 3,220 yards and 41 touchdowns, and leading the nation in quarterback efficiency with 169.32. He also rushed for 580 yards and 8 touchdowns himself, for a total offense of 3800 yards and 49 touchdowns on the season. Finnerty was awarded second place for the Harlon Hill Trophy, just prior to the national championship match in Florence, Alabama. During that game, held Saturday, December 16, 2006, Finnerty ran the ball for 115 yards, leading the Lakers through an exciting game to a 17–14 victory. Finnerty, WR [Eric Fowler(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Fowler)], OL Brandon Barnes, DL Mike McFadden, LB Anthony Adams, and CB Brandon Carr each earned Daktronics First Team All American honors. Additionally, senior defensive end Michael McFadden tied the NCAA All-Division record for consecutive games with a quarterback sack (17), and broke the Division II quarterback sack record (33.5) for a career. McFadden also won the Gene Upshaw award that is given to the best defensive lineman in D-II for the second year in a row. The 2006 senior class produced a career record of 52–4 over 4 seasons. Coach Chuck Martin improved his 3-season record as the head coach to 38–3 (0.927 winning percentage), and to 86–9 overall (.905) since joining the GVSU coaching staff as an assistant in 2000. Steve Brockelbank was the offensive coordinator for the second year as well as the assistant head coach.
The Lakers claimed the GLIAC crown with a 9–0 conference record this season. This was GVSU's third straight conference title and the first time in school history the team has won three GLIAC titles in a row.
GVSU also set the DII Football record for longest consecutive win streak at 40 games.
December 8: GVSU's win-streak was snapped when they lost at Northwest Missouri State in the Division II National Semifinal game at Bearcat Stadium that was known as the "Ice Bowl" because it was played during the Mid-December 2007 North American Winter storms that would destroy more than 100 trees at Northwest's Missouri Arboretum campus. Grand Valley was ranked #1 and was undefeated and Northwest was ranked #5 and had lost one game but hosted the game because of strength of schedule.
It began as a close game with Grand Valley leading 13–10 at halftime. The Lakers were able to pull within one, 17–16, late in the third quarter on Justin Trumble's third field goal. After NWMSU kicker Tommy Frevert made one from 22 yards early in the fourth quarter and Xavier Omon scored on an 11-yard pass 2½ minutes later, the Bearcats were up 27–16. Five plays later, Omon broke loose for a 98-yard touchdown run with just over 9 minutes remaining. Final score: GVSU 16, NWMSU 34.
Game totals: GV's Brad Iciek threw for 273 yards and a touchdown and an interception on 23 of 42 passing. Xavier Omon ran for 292 yards and four touchdowns.
GVSU ended the season with a 12–1 record.
GVSU was 11–0 on the season until they lost to Minnesota-Duluth by a score of 19 to 13 in the Division II quarterfinals; ending GVSU's season at 11–1. Minnesota-Duluth had a record of 12–0 entering the game.
GVSU claimed their fourth consecutive GLIAC championship.
The Lakers lost their first GLIAC game in nearly five years, falling to the Hillsdale Chargers 27–24 in the Chargers' homecoming game, yet still won the GLIAC outright for a fifth straight year. Grand Valley then received a first round bye in the playoffs only to face Hillsdale once again. After defeating Hillsdale, University of Minnesota Duluth, and Carson-Newman, the Lakers eventually fell to Northwest Missouri State University in the national championship game 30–23. Danny Richard, Nick McDonald and Jacob McGuckin were named first team All-American while Cameron Bradfield and Justin Victor took home second team honors and Quarterback Brad Iciek was a Harlon Hill finalist.
Matt Mitchell took over as head coach with Chuck Martin leaving to join Brian Kelly's staff at Notre Dame. Mitchell had previously served as defensive coordinator under Martin. GVSU won their 6th GLIAC championship in a row and advanced to the second round of the playoffs to finish with an 11–2 overall record. On offense the Lakers were led by Kyle McMahon who had 2616 yards passing and 583 yards rushing and a total of 37 touchdowns. On the ground in addition to McMahon, Justin Sherrod had team leading 1052 yards and to go along 12 total Tds, Norman Shuford pitched in 661 yards and Left Tackle Cameron Bradfield led a strong offensive line and was named All-American. Greg Gay led the team in receiving yards and Jovonne Augustus led in receiving touchdowns. Justin Victor and Zach Breen were the top tacklers on defense with 120 and 101 respectively. Luther Ware led in sacks and Rob Carlisle and Matt Baker were tops with four interceptions apiece.
Despite a slow start, which included losing their first three conference games, the Lakers still managed an 8–3 overall record, winning their last seven games. That streak qualified Grand Valley State as having the longest winning streak in Division II football at the end the season. GVSU led the GLIAC in many categories, including scoring offense, total and rushing offense. The Lakers were led on offense by quarterback Heath Parling, who led the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 180.35, to go along with 2415 yards and 34 touchdowns. On the ground the load was shared between Hersey Jackson, Mike Ratay, Norman Shuford and Chris Robinson, each having at least one game where they led the team in rushing. Charles Johnson led the receivers with 1030 yards and 15 touchdowns. Defensively Brad Howard led the team with 79 tackles. Andre Thomas finished second in the GLIAC in tackles for loss and sacks. Erik Thompson led the team with five interceptions, two of which he brought back for touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
The Lakers again finished the season 8-3. The offense was very explosive once again, leading the GLIAC in scoring offense. Starting QB Heath Parling went down in the third game with a torn ACL but Isiah Grimes picked right up where he left off as he led the nation in passing efficiency at 178.07 and passed for 2213 yards and 22 TDs in 7 games as the starter. Kirk Spencer led the team in rushing yards 978 to go with 5 tds. Michael Ratay had 603 yds rushing and led the team in rushing TDs with 12. He was also second in receiving tds with 3. Chris Robinson chipped in 361 yards and 6 tds before tearing his ACL in the fourth game. Charles Johnson again led the team in receiving with 1199 yards and 16 tds. Charles Hill led the defense with 91 tackles and 11.0 tfls. Brad Horling had 89 tackles and Luther Ware had 74. Ware and Matt Judon paced the defense in sacks with 3.5 a piece. Reggie Williams was tops in interceptions with 4 to go with one punt return td and one kickoff return td in 8 games played.
The Lakers returned to the playoffs in 2013, falling to eventual national champion Northwest Missouri State in the national semifinals. The Lakers finished the season ranked #3 in the nation.
Lakers in the NFL
- Brandon Carr – CB – Dallas Cowboys
- Dan Skuta – LB – Jacksonville Jaguars
- Nick McDonald – OL – Cleveland Browns
- Cameron Bradfield – OL – Arizona Cardinals
- Charles Johnson - WR - Minnesota Vikings
- Tim Lelito - OL - New Orleans Saints
- Matt Armstrong - OL - FA
- "Omon's 4 TDs lead NW Missouri State past Grand Valley State – NCAA College Football Recap – ESPN". ESPN. 2007-12-08. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- "Grand Valley State Yearly Totals". cfbdatawarehouse.com. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- "Mount Union Yearly Totals". cfbdatawarehouse.com. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- Bob Johnson, USA Today, "North Dakota tops Grand Valley State for D-II title," December 8, 2001.
- Joseph Hayes, Football: Tim Lelito makes case for roster spot: From St. Clair to New Orleans, he remains a Saint, The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan), August 21, 2013.