One of the Wildcats’ best players over the last three seasons and an even better young man, Drew Carpenter announced via Twitter on Jan. 21 he will be continuing his academic and football careers at Northwood University in Midland.
“I began going to bigger camps after my sophomore year,” Carpenter said of how his recruitment unfolded. “After my
junior year, Northwood, Grand Valley, Saginaw Valley, Wayne State, a lot of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) schools reached out and told me they were interested.
“I had been to Northwood before for a DECA event, so I was familiar with the campus. I really liked coach (Dave) Riepma, my recruiting coach. So, Northwood – along with Michigan Tech and Wayne State – made up my top-three schools. Once I took my official visit, I was hooked.”
Starting on both sides of the football, Carpenter, also a member of Oxford’s baseball team, showcased his athleticism at several spots on the field for then-head coach Bud Rowley and his staff. Putting this versatility to use sounds like it could be the plan with the Timberwolves, as well.
“That was one of the things Northwood really liked about me,” Carpenter shared. “When I went out there for my official visit, I worked out as a receiver, running back, safety and even at quarterback, too.
“They have me listed as an athlete right now. The plan is for me to do some work on both sides of the football. It’s going to be a bit of an unknown, but it’s exciting.”
Having sent dozens of young men off to college football careers following their graduation from Oxford High School, Rowley was a great asset for Carpenter to have in his corner throughout the recruitment process.
“I went and saw him on Monday (Jan. 20), the day before I committed,” Carpenter said of his talks with his former coach. “The biggest thing he told me was you have to be tough. College football is another animal.
“Coach (Dave) Brown has always preached that, too. Coach Brown is awesome, we call him Uncle Dave because we could go to him with anything. He has always told me, ‘Everything you do, make sure you do it 100 percent and things will fall into place.’”
Most importantly, Northwood had exactly what Carpenter was looking for in an academic setting.
“Absolutely,” he said when asked if the nationally-respected business program at Northwood swayed his decision. “That’s what I want to major in. I’m in the DECA program here and when I was looking at my final three schools, Northwood had exactly what I was looking for.”
A strong definition of a student-athlete, Carpenter tried to keep an eye on the big picture during the decision-making process.
“I’m probably not going to play in the National Football League, and I’m OK with that,” he joked. “I wanted to make sure I picked the right spot that would put me in a position to succeed after football.
“Coach Brown likes to compare football to the cherry on top of school. Northwood definitely checked this box for me.”
Having seen Carpenter grow as both a player and young man since his days in the Oxford Junior Wildcats program, Rowley is proud of his latest product and expects to see him have continued success at the next level.
“It’s a great thing,” Rowley said of Carpenter’s commitment. “I’m glad Northwood reached out to him and offered him the scholarship money they did. Plus, his mom, his dad and the rest of his family can still see him play regularly since it is in Midland.
“Everything is a win about Drew Carpenter going to Northwood.”
Established in 1959, Northwood first fielded a football team three years later, in 1962, with Jim Barry at the helm. Lou Juillerat would take over the program the following year and led the school to their first winning record in 1964 before leaving after the 1967 campaign.
Following a one-year stint with Don Tallman in 1968, Jack Finn took the reins of the program in 1969 and piloted his teams to three conference championships in a four-year span from 1974-77.
Leonard Haynes, a 1994 Northwood graduate, has been the school’s head coach since 2015. The 2019 Timberwolves limped to a 1-10 (1-7 GLIAC) record, topping the Northern Michigan Wildcats, 28-10, on Senior Day on Nov. 2.
His final season of high school football is now in the books, but Carpenter still has plenty of athletic activities to keep himself busy. An outfielder and pitcher, he is one of 10 players set to return for Dave Herrick’s baseball team this spring.
Last season’s squad posted just a 4-11 record in OAA Red play but upset both the Clarkston Wolves and Lake Orion Dragons in the postseason before falling to the Brother Rice Warriors, annually one of the best teams in the state, in the regional semifinals on June 5.
“In the winter, I try to focus a lot on my speed, strength and conditioning,” Carpenter said of his current workout approach. “I go to the new ETS Performance complex a couple of times a week. My mom is a personal trainer and we’ve been doing a lot of hitting up here as a team after school getting ready for the season.”
Following in the footsteps of Oxford football’s new coach, Zach Line, and the new Armada coach, Kyle Rowley (a 2003 Oxford High School graduate and Bud’s son), Carpenter has helped carry on the Wildcats’ proud tradition of excellence both on the field and in the classroom.
With him set to graduate in June, the onus will now fall on the 2021 class to use the lessons learned from Carpenter and his fellow seniors and lead by example.