GVSU football and band show mutual support on social media
Twitter movement to #BringTheBand has garnered local media attention
GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Grand Valley's marching band and the Laker football squad gather at the end of the match to sing to the fight song together. Grand Valley defeats Ashland with a final score of 45-28 Nov. 22 at Ashland University.
In the first two rounds of the NCAA Division II playoffs, the Grand Valley State football team played with 12 players, instead of the 11 allowed by the rules.
Thanks in part to this loophole advantage, the Lakers were able to knock off Ashland and Ferris State – both on the road, and both of which were previously undefeated.
That 12th player never actually saw the field. It didn’t even make it into a sideline huddle. But it cheered, chanted and blasted music through the entirety of two do-or-die playoff games.
And the Lakers won.
The Laker Marching Band is that theoretical 12th man, and, in the moments following GVSU’s 38-34 win over Ferris State on Nov. 28, a movement sprung up on Twitter.
Justice Wright, a senior wide receiver, tweeted in support of the band, making a plea to bring the LMB to Pueblo, Colorado for GVSU’s quarterfinal game against Colorado State – Pueblo.
Senior defensive end Matt Judon picked up on Wright’s tweet moments later, and the movement was born.
Within an hour, Judon’s tweet with #BringTheBand topped 100 retweets. A number of Lakers, including Brad Horling, Bart Williams, Kirk Spencer and many more joined in with the hashtag.
“It’s a phenomenal thing because usually people come from high schools and usually don’t have a lot of support from the football team, but to see this kind of thing coming from (Judon) is just phenomenal,” said drum major Zac Thompson. “It’s amazing to see how much everyone comes together to support each other.”
For the LMB to travel to Ashland and Ferris State for the first two playoff games was an anomaly on its own. Normally, the LMB doesn’t make trips to playoff games. The locations of GVSU’s first two games were friendly to the band, and it was given approval to make the trip.
After GVSU knocked off Ashland, the Lakers were slated for a rematch against Ferris State in Big Rapids over Thanksgiving Break – conditions that weren't conducive to a host of Laker fans.
But a large portion of the band made a trip. At one point when the band was yelling at peak volume, the Bulldogs burned a timeout. Another time, an on-the-field Bulldog turned to extend his middle finger to the LMB.
The band turned a Bulldog-saturated atmosphere into a Laker-friendly one when Ferris State advanced into band territory. The Laker players haven’t let the band’s contributions go unnoticed.
“We don’t exactly always get a lot of fans traveling, especially when it’s a place that’s far away, so just to have the band there and kind of have somewhat of a home atmosphere on our sideline is really important for us and creates at least a sense of hominess for us when we’re playing,” said senior wide receiver Jamie Potts.
The energy the band brings and the music it plays factors directly into a new twist on Laker football culture that started this season. After GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell took a trip to the Seattle Seahawks facilities in the offseason, he came back with some ideas to bring to his squad.
One such idea was the implementation of loud, bumping music in practice. Instead of just whistles and yells, the Lakers now hear the likes of Kanye West and Fall Out Boy at practice.
“A lot of guys feed off that, and it shows up on the field,” Wright said.
When the LMB is able to make the trip, the Lakers thrive off the energy. The band often plays popular music, unintentionally mimicking what GVSU players have heard in practice all season.
“The music at practice and music from the band isn’t too much different, because (the band) plays all the latest songs,” Judon said. “The band puts in work just like us. They put countless hours is practicing their craft like we do.
“We dance around to them, hit the dab a couple times to the songs, but I just love that they support us so much.”
The grassroots Twitter movement garnered media attention, and brought a local news outlet to the band practice. A GVSU alumnus started a GoFundMe account in an effort to raise money for travel costs. More and more members of the football team Tweeted their support.
“When I saw it take its own life, I was just so happy for the Grand Valley family,” said band director John Martin. “Whether that’s the band or the student body or the football team, that’s just our community. The connection between athletics and the marching band is a good one here and it always has been.”
Estimates, however, wager the total transport cost for the roughly 200 band members and cheerleaders would top $70,000, with hotel rooms and meals still to be paid for.
The GoFundMe account, which has a goal of $75,000, had raised just $75 by Wednesday afternoon. The LMB will have a send-off for the football team on Thursday, but beyond that, chances are slim that #BringTheBand will turn to #BroughtTheBand.
But for many, that’s not what’s important.
“This is not necessarily whether we get to Colorado or not,” said drum major Brianne Hooper. “For me the best part of this is the fact that there’s that recognition and this is again putting Grand Valley State on the map for something that’s never been done before. It’s unprecedented.”
Though the LMB may have to shout and cheer in front of televisions on Saturday afternoon, the outpouring of support from the football team showcases a side of the connection between the two programs that often isn’t seen.
The band stereotype has been thrown to the wind at GVSU in the past week. As the Lakers have shown on social media, it won’t be the band that is left behind this weekend.
It will be a teammate.