Ferris tennis player earns Jimmy Swears Courage Award

Ferris State University sophomore women’s tennis standout Morgan Waller (Drinkwater, Saskatchewan), who led the Bulldogs to their first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Championship in 19 years this past spring, has been chosen as the recipient of Ferris State Athletics’ Jimmy Swears Courage Award for the 2020-21 campaign.

The Jimmy Swears Courage Award is presented to a deserving student or current personnel within the Bulldog Athletics program, who when confronted with a life-altering or difficult situation, has used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the odds while inspiring others.

We’re honored to name Morgan Waller as the 2021 Jimmy Swears Courage Award winner,” said FSU Athletics Director Perk Weisenburger. “She’s an excellent choice and an outstanding example of what can be accomplished as a student-athlete through dedication and commitment.

“Her efforts over the past year both on and off the court have not only helped her become a better player individually, but it also catapulted our women’s tennis program to championship success,” he added. “It’s a pleasure to recognize her as the recipient of this year’s award.”

The success Waller displayed over the course of her collegiate season this past year came despite the odds as she overcame both injuries and her own personal struggles yet still managed to show marked improvement as the leader of a championship team while becoming one of the top players in the country. Waller earned the GLIAC Women’s Tennis Player of the Year Award and led the Bulldog women’s tennis squad to both the program’s first GLIAC Regular-Season and Tournament Championships in 19 years this spring.

Waller posted a combined 25-7 overall singles and doubles record on the year, including a 14-1 mark in GLIAC regular-season play. As the squad’s top singles player, she posted a 6-1 mark in conference matches and went a perfect 8-0 in doubles play at the number two flight. Overall, she registered a 15-1 doubles performance on the year in the program’s historic march to the league championships. FSU was ranked 19th in the country and won 16 consecutive matches en route to the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.

Morgan is as tough as it gets when it comes to both the mental and physical side of tennis and had an outstanding year for us,” said FSU head coach Mark Doren. “Additionally, she’s one of the hardest practice workers we’ve had and her climb up the lineup from the number five spot to the top singles position this past year does not happen without a great deal of hard work and commitment.

She has dealt with injuries since she arrived on campus, but has continued to work on her physical fitness and battles thru the grind of a season,” he added. “We’re thrilled she’s received this prestigious honor. Morgan has the talent to play any level of NCAA tennis, but has made an awesome decision to be part of a strong Division II squad and we’re thrilled she’s a Bulldog.”

The Jimmy Swears Courage Award is named in honor of longtime FSU Athletics booster Jim Swears, who passed away Jan. 17, 2007, at the age of 64 following a lengthy bout with cancer. A local businessman and community activist, Swears was a strong supporter of Ferris State men’s ice hockey, football, and basketball. He worked diligently to help develop and maintain FSU’s status as a NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey program. Additionally, Swears served on the board of directors for the Big Rapids Area Junior Hockey Association and was an active member of the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association. He was the 2006 recipient of the Northern Lights Lifetime Achievement Award for business and industry in the Big Rapids (Mich.) area.

Nominees for the award are an inspiration to their peers, serve as a role model to others and are a team leader while responding to adversity. Those individuals nominated for the award must be involved with the Bulldog intercollegiate athletics program and possibly include student-athletes, student managers, student coaches and/or student athletic trainers in addition to current athletics department personnel.

“We’re honored to be able to present these year-end awards and extremely pleased as an athletic department to be able to honor our outstanding student-athletes and people with awards named after individuals who have played such a big part in the history and tradition of Bulldog Athletics,” said Weisenburger.

Waller becomes the 13th-ever winner of the Jimmy Swears Courage Award and the second Bulldog women’s tennis student-athlete to earn the recognition. Former women’s basketball guard Kylie Muntz is the only two-time winner of the prestigious honor.

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