Jay Tollefson didn’t know where he would end up after he recently asked for and was given his release from the Northern Michigan football team.
The former West De Pere star quarterback redshirted as a freshman in 2012 but felt after the season he didn’t fit into the Wildcats’ plans.
Enter the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Tollefson has decided to transfer to the NCAA Division III school and join the football team for the upcoming season. He will have four years of eligibility remaining.
“Oshkosh had strong interest last year, so they were at the top of my list if I was going to leave,” said Tollefson, who went 28-0 in two seasons as the starter at West De Pere and helped the program win its first two WIAA Division 3 state titles. “I decided to leave, so I gave them a call. They came to my house, talked to me and my family a little bit, and I made my decision.”
Tollefson drew interest from several schools during his standout tenure with the Phantoms, and he didn’t do anything to hurt his stock as a senior when he rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns and threw for two TDs in a win over Wisconsin Lutheran in the state title game.
It capped a 2011 season in which he threw for 1,679 yards and 20 TDs and rushed for 1,534 yards and 28 TDs. He was voted The Associated Press state player of the year, becoming the first area player to earn the award since Green Bay Notre Dame’s Joe Walker in 2003.
The 6-foot Tollefson ended up picking Northern Michigan over the University of Minnesota-Duluth and was intrigued at the time by the young coaching staff at NMU that included first-year coach Chris Ostrowsky.
“I had a good time there,” Tollefson said. “That was a good experience for me, but then in spring ball I had a meeting with the coach and he didn’t think I fit into their system very well.
“He brought up my whole height situation, and I said I didn’t think it was worth my time to stay there. I moved on.”
Ostrowsky said he was never aware of any unhappiness Tollefson had with the program.
“He’s a bona fide winner,” Ostrowsky said. “Under no circumstances was Jay given an ultimatum to leave the program.
“He was our fourth quarterback at the time. He didn’t come in and say I’m frustrated with being the fourth quarterback and I want to leave the program. He simply said ‘I don’t think football is for me’ and that he wanted to get closer to home. That was it.”
After coaching Tollefson for a short time, Ostrowsky came to the conclusion many had about him while he was at West De Pere.
“He’s a tough kid,” Ostrowsky said. “There were times when you saw a glimpse of him being really special. The fact that he’s 5-8, 5-9 hurts him in playing quarterback, especially in the shot gun spread offense that is going to throw it 30 to 40 times a game.”
Tollefson views the situation as a learning experience and is ready for a new beginning.
He believes if he continues to work hard and show the potential he displayed at West De Pere that he can start at some point for the Titans.
“I think it’s a great fit,” he said. “I’m excited to see where it goes.”
There also remains a chance Tollefson could switch to baseball at some point. He was considered the best catcher in the Bay Conference as a senior, and his older brother, Adam, once was part of the Chicago White Sox organization.
“I’ve thought about that,” Tollefson said. “It was either baseball or football, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. To be honest, it’s still not just football. I talk to my dad every day, and if football doesn’t work out I could go the baseball route or even try to go with two sports.
“I’d rather keep it to one, but at a smaller school that has baseball, it’s definitely an option.”