Senior Standout To Play In Annual NCAA-II All-Star Game

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Ferris State University senior defensive tackle Jake Visser (Coopersville), who was an American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and Daktronics All-America First Team pick this season, has received an official invitation to compete in the annual NCAA Division II All-Star Game.

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Jake Visser
Ferris State's Jake Visser was selected to play in the annual NCAA Division II All-Star Game
Visser was among the roster selections for the 2009 Valero Cactus Bowl, which will be played Friday, Jan. 9, at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville, Texas. The game will kickoff at 7:35 p.m. (EST). Formerly known as the Snow Bowl and then the Whataburger Cactus Bowl, the contest features the top NCAA-II football seniors in the nation and is played in an East/West Team format. A selection committee picked the top players from among the best seniors in NCAA Division II football for participation in the game.

The Bulldog senior will compete on the 42-member East Team. Seven other players from Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) schools will join him, including Tiffin wide receiver Dyshaun Edwards, the Saginaw Valley State pair of offensive lineman Desi Mayner and cornerback Matt Black, Ashland offensive lineman Nate Hollins, the Grand Valley State duo of offensive lineman Sam Allen and defensive end Dan Skuta along with safety Dante Dunn of Wayne State.

The 2009 edition of the Cactus Bowl will feature 19 All-Americans and is headlined by seven of the 24 Harlon Hill Trophy candidates: Ted Schlafke (Minnesota-Duluth), Brian McNeill (Nebraska-Omaha), Charly Martin (West Texas A&M), Corey Russell (Tusculum), Kevin McCabe (California-Pa.), Mike Washington (West Chester) and Visser.

The Cactus Bowl began as the Snow Bowl in 1994 at the Fargo Dome in Fargo, North Dakota. After its initial seven-year run, the game moved to Kingsville in January 2001. The game was played in Kingsville for six years, took a hiatus in 2007 and returned to Javelina Stadium in 2008. There have been over 100 players drafted into the NFL who played in the Cactus Bowl. All net profits from the Cactus Bowl are donated to Shriners Hospitals for Children.

With the selection, Visser becomes the 16th Bulldog football player invited to compete in the all-star contest. Former Ferris State participants include Rich Eash (1994), Ed Philion (1994), Chadd Richard (1995), Jerry Prys (1996), Doc Proctor (1999), Dennis Strey (1999), Dave Zuiderveen (2000), Clarence Coleman (2001), DeRen Ellis (2003), Matt McCoy (2004), Kevin Myers (2005), Whitney Bell (2005), Carlton Brewster (2006), Bill Bourdlais (2008) and Kurt Hout (2008). McCoy was a Cactus Bowl invitee but didn't participate due to an injury.

Valero is a part-owner of the San Antonio Spurs franchise, stepping in to help organize a bid when the franchise was being pursued by out-of-town buyers who, potentially, could have relocated the team. Valero has also been the title sponsor of the Valero Texas Open since 2002. In that time, the tournament has gone from the bottom of the PGA TOUR in terms of charitable fundraising to raising more for charity than any other event in PGA TOUR history.

The 2008 GLIAC Jack McAvoy Award winner for character and leadership on and off the field, Visser claimed AFCA All-America First Team honors for the second consecutive year. Visser was also tabbed as the 2008 Daktronics Super Region Three Defensive Player of the Year and chosen among the national finalists for the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award after being chosen as Super Region Three's Co-Winner of that honor. He also received Daktronics Super Region Three First Team laurels, making him a three-time Daktronics First Team All-Region pick.

A two-time (2007 & 2008) ESPN The Magazine College Division Academic All-America First Team selection, Visser capped off an outstanding career by being named among the 24 candidates for the 2008 Harlon Hill Award, which is annually presented to the top collegiate player at the Division II level. He was the only offensive or defensive lineman from across the nation to make the list. Visser attained all-conference accolades for the fourth-straight year which included first-team recognition for the third year in a row and was voted the GLIAC's Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2008 for the second consecutive campaign.

This season, Visser led the Bulldogs with 105 total tackles (56 solo), 16.0 tackles for loss (-71 yards) in addition to 7.5 sacks (-54 yards), two fumble recoveries, four blocked kicks and a forced fumble in 11 contests. He also notched his first career touchdown with a 34-yard interception return at Hillsdale (Nov. 1). The returning All-America pick and two-time (2007-08) team Most Valuable Player Award recipient finished the year ranked third among the GLIAC leaders in tackles for loss (1.45 pg.), third in sacks (.68 pg.) along with seventh in total tackles (9.5 tpg.).

Visser concluded his Ferris career ranked sixth on the school’s career tackles chart with 395 total stops. He also placed fourth on the FSU all-time sack leaders list with 27.5 sacks and tied for first place with seven career fumble recoveries. Prior to this season, Visser was tabbed as a consensus preseason All-America selection by numerous publications, including Lindy's College Football Preview which chose him as its Division II Preseason Defensive Player of the Year following a memorable junior campaign in which he attained All-America First Team honors both on the field and in the classroom.

As a junior in 2007, Visser earned first-team All-America recognition from D2football.com, the AFCA and Don Hansen's Football Gazette. He was also named to both the Daktronics All-America Second Team squad and the Associated Press Little All-America Second Team. Visser claimed ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America First Team honors in addition to being one of inaugural fall recipients of the GLIAC Commissioner's Award for Athletics and Academic Excellence a year ago.

In 2007, Visser tallied the squad's second-highest tackles figure (106) and led the squad in tackles for loss with 14.5 for minus 62 yards, which ranked fifth in the conference. He also had a team-best nine quarterback hurries along with 5.5 sacks for a loss of 41 yards. The team Most Valuable Player Award recipient received 2007 first-team All-Northwest Region accolades for the second consecutive year and was tabbed as the GLIAC's Defensive Lineman of the Year after earning all-conference first team laurels for the second year in a row. Along with placing fifth among last season's league leaders in tackles for loss, Visser also ranked sixth in total tackles (9.6 tpg.).

The Bulldogs registered their fifth winning season in the last six years with a 6-5 overall record this season. It represented the program's ninth winning campaign in 14 years under head coach Jeff Pierce and marks the 14th time in the last 20 years the Bulldogs have finished above .500 for the year. FSU was an even 5-5 in GLIAC action this campaign.

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