Football at Tri-State/Trine University has been known for entertaining offenses. The defense has been equally valuable in order to make the Thunder a consistent winner.
The defense has been run by current head coach Troy Abbs since he started as defensive coordinator in 2006. That unit started making plays during the Thunder’s special 1998 season on their way to the NAIA semifinals, and grew even more under the direction of defensive coordinator Joe Nemith from 2000 to 2002.
Here’s the Tri-State/Trine Football Quarter Century Team on the defensive side of the ball. Thanks to the Trine University Athletic Department for the statistics and award information.
DEFENSE Defensive Linemen Me’Leick Miles, 2014-17
Miles had seven blocked kicks and 42.5 tackles for loss, including 20.5 sacks, in his Trine career. He made the All-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association First Team in 2017, and is now the special teams coordinator and defensive line coach at Franklin College.
Dan Protsman, 1998-2001
Protsman was a Second Team NAIA Coaches All-American in 2001 and an All-Mid-States Football Association Mideast League First Team selection in 2000 and 2001. He made 31 starts and 136 tackles, including 20 for loss and 13.5 sacks.
Louis Danesi, 2010-13
Danesi made 172 tackles, including 35.5 for loss and 19 sacks. He also returned a punt for a touchdown. He was First Team All-MIAA defender in 2012 and 2013.
Bill Kryscynski, 1996-99
Kryscynski was an All-MSFA Mideast Second Teamer in 1998 and 1999. He made 37 starts and 150 tackles, including 14.5 career sacks. He is now the principal at Yale Elementary, in Yale, Michigan, which is 30 miles west of Port Huron.
Ryan Hogan, 2011-14
Hogan was a First Team All-MIAA defensive end in 2014. He made 22 starts and 119 tackles and forced four fumbles. He had 31 tackles for loss, including 20 sacks.
Linebackers John Werling, 1997-2000
The NAIA coaches named Werling a First Team All-American in 2000 and an All-American honorable mention in 1998 and 1999. He made over 100 tackles in three straight seasons and finished with 341 in his career. Werling was inducted in Trine’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.
Courtney Pearson, 2004 and 2006-08
Pearson was a bright spot as a freshman in 2004 as the Thunder went 2-8. Land brought Pearson back in 2006 and he was a major player in the program’s resurgence.
Pearson was the MIAA’s Defensive MVP in 2007 and 2008, making the two highest single-season tackle totals to date (148 in 2007 and 123 in 2008). He is the Thunder’s career leader in total tackles with 408. He also had 53.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, seven interceptions, seven forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Isaac Sturgis, 1998-2001
Sturgis was a First Team NAIA All-American in 2001 and an All-American honorable mention in 2000. He played in a Thunder record 46 games and started in 36 of them. He was a captain for two seasons and made 285 career tackles.
Antonio Vaughn, 1995-97
Vaughn was an NAIA All-American honorable mention in 1997 and was a captain for two years. He made 228 career tackles, including 34 for loss. He had a game-high 21 tackles twice.
Kyle Christman, 1999-2002
Christman was an NAIA All-American honorable mention in 2002. He made 30 starts in his TSU career and made 220 tackles, including 25 for loss, and had five interceptions. He had three sacks in one game at Taylor in 2002.
Aaron Shoemaker, 2008-11
Shoemaker was a very reliable player in Abbs’ complex defensive scheme. He made 34 starts and made 259 tackles. He scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown. He was picked to the All-MIAA Second Team in 2009 and 2010.
Matt Eby, 2004-07
Eby persevered through the Thunder’s struggling times and helped build the program back up. He was a captain for three years, started 31 games, made 270 tackles and seven interceptions, and averaged 25.7 yards per kickoff return in 25 attempts.
Defensive Backs Marcus Winters, 2015-18
Winters was a Second Team NCAA Division III All-American by the coaches and was the MIAA Defensive Most Valuable Player last season and in 2017. He is the Thunder’s career interception leader with 21, and had four punt return touchdowns. He also made 134 tackles and broke up 45 passes.
Jason Stechschulte, 1999-2002
Stechschulte was a key player late in the Thunder’s NAIA era, and has been a treasured football alumnus well past his playing days. He has bridged the past NAIA days to the current NCAA Division III era of Thunder football. The All-American Room at Fred Zollner Athletic Stadium bears his name, and he is on Trine’s Board of Trustees.
Aaron Selking, 2007-10
Selking made 35 starts and was the MIAA Defensive MVP in 2010, when he intercepted eight passes. Winters (2016) and Cayleel Hill (2017) matched that single season program record for interceptions.
Selking is the program’s career leader in interception return yards with 255, and forced five turnovers in one game. He made 256 tackles and 18 interceptions in his college career.
Myron Puryear, 2011-12
Puryear made an immediate impact for Trine after transferring from NCAA Division II Grand Valley State, Michigan. In his only two seasons in Angola, he made 20 starts, 112 tackles, six interceptions, broke up 23 passes, returned two of the three fumbles he recovered for touchdowns and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Jason Hart, 1997-2000
Hart was an All-MSFA Mideast First Team selection in 2000 and started 36 games in his Tri-State grid career. He had 249 tackles, 30 passes defended and 12 interceptions.