Donley high achiever at Ohio Northern
By every measurable standard, Brent Donley had a great career as a college football player at Ohio Northern University.
The star running back from Southfield finished as the school's second-leading rusher with 3,298 yards and twice earned NCAA Division III All-America honors.
“I knew I was going to a good program and I was going to have a good career,” Donley, who was a two-way standout at West Bloomfield High School, said of his college choice.
“I knew I was going to be successful, especially with the guys I met here during the recruiting process. I was surrounded by guys who are all hard workers, and we thrive off each other.”
As a senior last fall, Donley led the Polar Bears to a 10-2 record and an NCAA Division III playoff berth while rushing for 1,560 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Donley, who averaged 5.6 yards per carry last season, finished his career with 15 games of 100 yards or more rushing and 40 touchdowns.
Subsequently, he was named the All-Ohio Offensive Player of the Year in D-III by OhioCollegeFootball.com. Donley also made the All-Ohio Athletic Conference first team for a third straight year.
“Our coach (Dean Paul) got Coach of the Year, also,” Donley said. “They kinda played into each other. People started to realize we were a hard-working program, and it evolved into something special. Once you start winning, you get noticed and get attention. It was a team effort.”
The 2010 highlight for Donley was helping Ohio Northern qualify for the NCAA D-III playoffs for the first time in a decade.
The Polar Bears defeated Wittenberg College in the first round, but they lost to North Central (Ill.) the following week.
“Last year we were 8-2 and missed by one game,” Donley said. “That opportunity for post-season play was a great experience. Just making the playoffs was a career highlight, because we actually got to see what it was like to play in November.”
Besides his many gridiron achievements, Donley is just as proud of the personal growth he made in his four years on the Ada campus.
“I know all of you are Michigan fans up there, but meeting new people and seeing things in a new state was a great thing,” he said. “I became more well-rounded in ways besides athletics.
“We're on the quarter system here, and it taught me how to be time-oriented and organized. It made me realize, No. 1, I have to be a student. There's a time for sports and a time to study. It made me more responsible.
“That carried over to the football field, knowing I had only so much time to do this and making the most of it ... doing the best I can now because I won't have time later to make up for it.”
Donley has one more game to play. He was selected to participate in the OhioCollegeFootball.com Senior Bowl II April 23 in Columbus. The game will include players from Division IA, IAA and II schools in Ohio.
Dominique Barnes, a product of Southfield High who played at Youngstown State, will play in the game, too. Donley and Barnes were teammates in the Southfield Jayhawks youth football program. Donley doesn't know yet if they will be on the same all-star team or not.
Donley hopes to continue playing football, whether it be in the NFL or some other level, and he plans to use the Senior Bowl as a chance to show what he can do.
“That's what it's supposed to be for and afterward we'll see what happens,” he said. “I think I can hold my own. It's going to be a fun game.
“I want to graduate and see where it goes from there. There will definitely be people there watching, and it will help get my name out there more. But we'll see what happens.”
The 5-foot-9, 220-pound Donley, who is a marketing major and would like to work in advertising, acknowledges he's not the fastest running back with a 4.6 time in the 40, but he does other things well to make him a good back.
“I think I've got strong legs and a good forward lean,” he said. “I know how to get the extra yards. I don't fumble much; I know how to secure the ball. I'm not the fastest, but I am a solid running back.”
His achievements at Ohio Northern are a testament to that.
OTHER NOTABLES: Donley set Ohio Northern rushing records with 44 carries and 287 yards in a 2009 game against John Carroll, and his 89-yard touching down run in the 2010 playoff game against Wittenberg College is another record.
Donley was named to the D3football.com All-America third team in 2009 and was an All-America honorable mention in 2010. He made the D3football.com All-North Region first team both years.
(Reprinted with permission of the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers)