GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's a perfect ending to a perfect season. For the first time in program history, the Ferris State Bulldogs returned to West Michigan as Division II National Champions.
Their flight touched down Sunday afternoon at Avflight, a small privately-owned airport adjacent to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids.
“It’s once in a lifetime, man," said Sophomore Tight End Mason Pline, one of the last players off the plane. "It’s more than anything I could’ve ever imagined. It meets my expectations and more.”
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The team took off at 8:30 Sunday morning from Texas — a quick turnaround after celebrating the win until 7 a.m.
That's probably why several players still sported the cowboy hats they were gifted after the game when they arrived back home.
The moment still hasn't quite sunk in for Assistant Head Coach Brian Rock.
“When you’re going through something like that, you really don’t take the time to think about it that much," he told FOX 17. "Just to enjoy it. You’re just so immersed in the process, but it was pretty special.”
When asked about where this win ranks in his long coaching career, he answered simply.
“It's the first time I’ve ever competed for a national championship, so it’s right at the top," Rock said.
As Rock continued to try and wrap his head around history, Pline said it sank in the second that confetti started falling.
“A lot of the guys felt the same way, but we didn’t want to leave the field after," Pline said. "They were kicking us out, leaf blowing and everything, but we didn’t want to leave.”
Once they finally left the field, celebration ensued.
Rock said, “It was pretty fun in the hotel last night after we all got back. There was a bunch of fans and families and former players and all those kinds of things. That is a lot of fun.”
The team might've had a little too much fun. The trophy returned to West Michigan in two pieces.
Well, I guess this is what happens when you have “festive celebrations” after your first D-II title #FerrisState #WhatHappensInTexas #BrokenTrophyNotDreams pic.twitter.com/lcLnSy9ueT— Max Goldwasser (@MaxGoldwasser) December 19, 2021
In the video, you can hear Sara Higley, the team's Senior Associate Athletic Director, say "one of our alumni dropped it."
Another team staff member credited the break to a "festive celebration."
Even though the trophy is broken, the Bulldogs' dreams are anything but that right now.