GV honors Jamie Hosford in Spring Classic

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
Senior Heath Parling, QB

GVL/Kevin Sielaff Senior Heath Parling, QB

Jay Bushen

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Parents, alumni and Laker fans alike did their best to determine who was who at the 2014 Spring Classic as every member of the Grand Valley State University football team donned the same jersey number.

GVSU recognized fallen legend Jamie Hosford, who lost his battle with cancer on March 8, at a jam-packed Kelly Family Sports Center on Saturday by wearing No. 32 jerseys and raising money for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

“It just shows you the kind of support we get and the fan base that we have — the best in Division II football, bar none,” quarterback Heath Parling said. “This is just a little glimpse of the support we get, and obviously it was for a great cause, honoring a Laker legend.”

Hosford had one of the most decorated careers in the history of GVSU Athletics as a five-sport athlete from 1973 to 1976. He graduated as the football team’s all-time leading rusher and was a longtime supporter of the program.

Parling was much easier to identify than most on the field of 32s with his red jersey and black knee brace.

The signal caller, who has battled injuries throughout his career, said he has been working mostly on his mechanics and footwork this spring after missing the majority of practices due to injury at the end of last season.

He threw for 2,441 yards, 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 10 games while guiding the Lakers to a national semifinals appearance in 2013.

“When you look at the 2013 calendar year, he didn’t go through spring ball and he missed a lot of time — he was rusty,” head coach Matt Mitchell said. “Even though we were playing well, he wasn’t 100 percent.

“We’ve got him back healthy at 100 percent, and he definitely looks sharper than he ever has.”

Expectations will certainly be high for the all-time winningest football program across all divisions of the NCAA in 2014, as GVSU is once again loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.

Some of the biggest offseason changes have been with the coaching staff, as the defense will be led by co-defensive coordinators Nick Postma, who was promoted, and Jim Louis, who came over from St. Cloud State University on February 12. E.J. Whitlow, who coached the defensive line at Notre Dame College (Ohio) from 2010 to 2013, was also brought in to hold the same position at GVSU.

“All of us share a philosophy as coaches — we’ve got to defend the game from inside out,” Louis said. “The running game first, to the perimeter running game, to the screens to the vertical passing game. It takes all three phases of the defense — the D-line, the linebackers, and the DBs — to execute that.

“We know our strengths right now with experience is the D-line. We should be very good and, if we stay healthy, it should be a great position for us. We have a lot of talent, just not a lot of experience at linebacker and DB, so we’re hopeful that we’re going to continue to develop our base defense.”

Coaches, players and members of Hosford’s family came together to pose for a group photo after a check for $5,065 was shown on the video board.

GVSU kicks off its fall season on Sep. 6 at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif. The Lakers will then return to Lubbers Stadium for their home opener against Ohio Dominican University on Sep. 13.