AJ Wentland '17
Senior exercise science major from Machesney Park, Illinois
2016 Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) Defensive Player of the Year
Named GLVC Defensive Player of the Week six times in his career
First McKendree football player to reach and surpass the 300 tackle mark with a total of 421 tackles
Named 2016 First-Team All-Super Region 4 Honoree by the NCAA Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association
First-Team All-GLVC Selection for 2015 and 2014
Finalist for the 2016 Cliff Harris Award, presented to the top small college defensive player in the country
by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney '10
Breaking school records looks easy when you watch exercise science major and Bearcat defensive linebacker AJ Wentland '17 take the field. He’s one of only two Bearcats ever to receive the title of GLVC Defensive Player of the Year. For three years in a row, he shattered the university’s record for most tackles with 421 total stops during his career as a Bearcat. He’s also been named GLVC Defensive Player of the Week six times. AJ’s success in football has brought him much more than accolades, however. It’s helped him become the leader he always knew he could be.
AJ first came to McKendree with his sights set on being a part of the university’s football program. He found a family in the close-knit group of students and coaches, who would later become the most memorable part of his McKendree experience. “The best part about being on the football team is the lifelong connections and friends I’ve made,” he said. “My friends, coaches, and teammates have done nothing but support me, and I hope I left an impact on their lives like they did on mine.”
That supportive team environment is what AJ says helped him garner so many honors, both locally and regionally. It also spurred him on to set new McKendree records in number of career tackles, blasting past the previous record of 295, and tackles per game, earning 22 stops in the 2015 season-opener alone.
His most memorable game was his last one as a Bearcat, in which McKendree dominated Truman State 41-14. It was the perfect way to round out four years of hard work, commitment, and supporting one another on the team. AJ plans to keep football a central part of his life even after graduation, either continuing to play professionally or seeking positions in coaching or strength and conditioning.
“McKendree has made me the man I have grown to be today. I’ve learned a lot as a leader on the field and in the classroom. I also have made the best friends I could ask for here, and it has definitely made me a better person.”
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