Leatherneck Football Adds 17 Mid-Year Players

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Western Illinois Football bolstered its ranks, adding 17 mid-year transfers to the roster. this week

Among them are 12 on the offensive side of the ball, four on defense, and one special teamer.

“Our coaches & support staff worked extremely hard to put together this mid-year group of student athletes,” coach Joe Davis said. “We targeted young men of character who are focused on achieving academically & pursuing championships here at WIU.”

The group features players from FBS, FCS, Division II, Junior College, Prep School, and High School early graduates.

Name | Position | Height | Weight | Year | Hometown | High School/Previous School

Santhony Brown | Defensive Back | 6-2 | 175 | Sophomore | Delray, Florida | American Heritage/Reedley College

Brown starred in the defensive backfield at Reedley College the last two seasons, appearing in 18 games.

At Reedley, Brown recorded 57 tackles (43 solo, assists). He also forced one fumble and had five pass breakups.

Thomas Brunner | Defensive End | 6-3 | 248 | Senior |Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin | Whitefish Bay /Wisconsin/Northern Illinois

Brunner was at Wisconsin the last three seasons, playing in a pair of games in 2022. Before that, Brunner was at Northern Illinois, where he redshirted.

Demari Davis | Wide Receiver | 6-1 | 175 | Jr. | San Pablo, Calif | Pinhole Valley/Contra Costa College

Last season, Davis broke Contra Costa’s single-season records in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. He was named All-American, All-State, and All-Valley Conference.

Davis finished his season with 80 receptions for 1276 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged 111.5 yards per game and 15.7 yards per reception.

Mills Dawson | Quarterback | 6-4 | 215 | Fr. | Jackson, Louisiana | East Feliciana/Mississippi Prep

After a fall at Mississippi Prep, Dawson joins the Leatherneck roster this spring. Last fall, he completed 159-245 passes for 2632 yards and 26 touchdowns in eight games.

Brendan Dignan | Offensive Line | 6-6 | 295 | Fr. | Oakdale, Conn. | St. Thomas More College Prep

Dignan comes to Western Illinois after attending St. Thomas More College Prep. A versatile offensive linemen, Dignan can play center, guard, and tackle. Dignan won a state championship as a high school senior at Warren De La Salle HS in MI.

Tristin Duncan | Wide Receiver | 6-1 | 190 | Jr. | Effingham, Ill. | Effingham/Saddleback College

Last season at Saddleback College, Duncan hauled in 14 passes for 135 yards (9.6 yards per catch) and three touchdowns while appearing in 10 games. Duncan lettered in football, basketball, and track at Effingham High School. While at EHS, he was the career leader in receiving touchdowns, yards, and receptions. Duncan was a team captain and three-time all-league selection.  

Isaiah Foote | Offensive Line | 6-3 | 329 | Sr. | Prince Frederick, Md. | Calvert/East Carolina

Foote is a two-year letterman who has played in 29 career games. In 2023, he appeared in 10 games. Foote was named a 2023 Third-Team Preseason All-AAC pick by Athlon Sports. He was named 2023 Preseason Honorable Mention All-AAC by College Football Network.

In 2022, Foote started all 13 games in 2022 at right guard, playing 888 total snaps with 848 as a member of the offensive line (40 on special teams). He was a member of an offensive line unit that helped the Pirates top 450-plus yards of total offense eight times and 500 or more on four occasions including a season-high 575 against South Florida (465 pass, 110 rush

Matthew Henry | Wide Receiver | 6-1 | 175 | Jr. | Miami, Fla. | Dade Christian/Livingstone College

Henry joins Western Illinois’ receiving group from D2 Livingstone College.

At Livingstone, Henry hauled in 66 passes for 840 yards in two seasons. He scored eight touchdowns and averaged 56 receiving yards per game.

Chris Irvin | Quarterback | 6-3 | 215 | So. | Couer D’Alene, ID | Lake City/Ventura College

Irvin began his career at Washington State before transferring to Ventura College. The 2023 season saw Irvin lead Ventura to an 8-4 record. As the starting quarterback, he threw 2282 yards and 18 touchdowns, completing 215-312 passes as Ventura qualified for a state playoff berth.

Kyle Kopczynski | Long Snapper/Tight End | 6-7 | 275 | Jr. | Naperville, Ill. | Naperville Central/College of DuPage

Kopczynski comes to Western Illinois after handling long-snapping duties for the College of DuPage, a two-time NJCAA National Champion.

Last season, he handled long-snapping duties in all 11 games on punts, PATs, and FG. He was an NJCAA All-Academic Third Team member (2022).

Dylan Leiggi | Offensive Line | 6-6 | 330 | So. | Allentown, N.J. | NYMA/East Coast Prep

Leiggi joins Western Illinois after attending East Coast Prep. 

Leiggi prepped at New York Military Academy, starring on both the offensive and defensive lines.

Antwon McKay Jr | Quarterback | 6-2 | 170 | Fr. | St. Louis, Missouri | Cardinal Ritter College Prep

McKay signed with Western Illinois out of high school in December. He graduated early and is an early enrollee at Western Illinois.

At Cardinal Ritter, McKay Jr. threw for 1792 yards and 22 touchdowns at Cardinal Ritter College Prep. As a starter, he was unbeaten, going 28-0, leading his squad to back-to-back state championships.

Christian Pierce | Defensive Back | 6-1 | 200 | Gr. Sr. | Conshohocken, Pa. | Plymouth Whitemarsh/Delaware

Last season, Pierce had 26 tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery in 13 games for Delaware.

During the 2022 season, Pierce played in nine games, finishing with seven tackles for Delaware.

Jeremiah Piper | Defensive Back | 5-9 | 170 | Sr. | Southfield, Mich. | Southfield A&T/Western Michigan

Piper appeared in two games last season for Western Michigan. In his career as a Bronco, he has played in 14 games.

Before attending WMU, Piper lettered in four seasons at Southfield A&T. In high school, he was rated a three-star prospect by ESPN.com.

Michael (Shawn) Shipman | Running Back | 6-0 | 204 | Sr. | Brooklyn Park, Minn. | Champlin Park/St. Thomas

Shipman joins the Leathernecks after a successful career at St. Thomas.

Shipman was voted Third Team All-Conference after leading the Tommies run game for most of the 2023 season. Shipman appeared in all 11 games for St. Thomas and rushed for 785 yards on 138 carries. He scored five rushing touchdowns throughout the season and became the first St. Thomas running back to rush for over 200 yards in a game against Morehead State in late September.

In 2002, he played in 10 games, rushing 161 times for 845 yards and nine touchdowns. He was named Pioneer League All-Conference Second Team and Phil Steele All-Pioneer Football League Second Team.

In 2021, Shipman appeared in nine games, rushing for 155 yards on 30 carries. He also had five tackles.

Cameren Smith | Running back | 6-0 | 210 | Sr. | Claymont, DE | Concord HS/Missouri S&T

Smith joins Western Illinois, transferring in from Missouri S&T. Last year, Smith led his team in rushing attempts (165), yards (707), rushing touchdowns (12), and yards per game (64.27).

In 2022, he was named GLVC Freshman of the Year after rushing for 819 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also a member of the GLVC All-Academic Team.

Alex Williams | Tight End | 6-4 | 230 | R-Jr. | Geneva, Ill. | Fork Union Military/Western Kentucky
Williams joins Western Illinois after playing at Western Kentucky. Williams, from Geneva, Illinois, was previously at Fork Union Military Academy before enrolling at WKU.

***Courtesy of Western Illinois University***

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