Ralph Holley and Dwayne Chapman II both played football at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s as freshmen.
Holley, a defensive lineman, and Chapman, a linebacker, were part of three straight Division 3 state championships. The last one was a 29-28 last-second heart-stopper against Muskegon at Ford Field in November.
Both eventually committed to Western Michigan and effervescent coach P.J. Fleck.
Fortunately for new coach Tim Lester, they were committed to the school and not to Fleck.
Holley, a 6-foot-2, 270-pounder, was ranked as the 31st best player in the Free Press Fab 50 and Chapman (6-1, 218) 32nd.
Holley said he thought for a second about entertaining other offers after Fleck bolted for Minnesota, but both are expected to sign their national letters of intent Wednesday morning and officially become Broncos.
“Wednesday will be a dream come true,’’ said Holley. “I’m going to be able to play college football with my best friend and continue to play the game that I love. To see it come true on Wednesday is great.”
Lester was hired around the time Holley and Chapman made their official visits together to Kalamazoo. The timing was perfect. They got to meet the new coach and liked him.
“I found out about coach Fleck leaving from one of the assistants,” said Chapman. “I went up on my official visit the week of Jan. 13. They had just hired the coach the first day I was there and I got a chance to talk to him. I liked him. He talked about the coaches that were already there and pushing the winning culture forward and making it better. He said we’d continue doing what we were doing. It was a good year for them.”
He found out quickly that there’s no personality like Fleck’s.
“Their personalities are a lot different, but I like Coach Lester a lot,” said Chapman.
Chapman will compete for a linebacker position. David Duggan, his position coach, was retained by Lester.
“I like the program and the coaches,’’ said Chapman. “Coach Duggan recruited me and he’s staying, so that absolutely helped my decision to stay with the program. I like Coach Duggan and what he brings to the table. He’s a gifted mind. He knows a lot about football. It just made the decision that much easier.”
Holley said Lester told him he had seen tape of his season and expected him to come in and compete for a spot in the two-deep as a freshman.
“I wasn’t really surprised that Coach Fleck left,’’ said Holley. “I knew he was going to have bigger opportunities. It happens in the coaching industry. P.J. Fleck was a great coach, but I committed to the school and the program, not the coach, per se.
“They hired Coach Lester the night we came down there for our official visit. They let us talk to him for about an hour. Then, after our last day of the official visit we got a chance to meet with him individually. He told me I was going to be a big part of the D-line this year. He wants me to come in and see what I can do. If I can play the first year I get there he’s going to play me because he sees me as one of the top recruits that he has, Dwayne and I. He said he had seen me in the paper multiple times. He really liked how I played and how Dwayne and I are compatible. We already have that chemistry and he wants to continue that in college for us.”
The fact that Chapman and Holley are winners didn’t hurt.
“Going from a winning program to another winning program is a plus for me,’’ said Holley.
Holley said he had calls from multiple Big Ten coaches after Fleck left.
“I wanted to stay close to the family,” he said. “I wanted to go where I could play and where they had a great educational system.’’
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.