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Top 25 MAC Players of 2018: #18 Justin Tranquill, SS, Western Michigan

Back from injury, Tranquill looks to resume his college career where it left off.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Unrelenting perseverance and extreme dedication to the craft define Justin Tranquill.

Tranquill has good three reasons why he could have already hung up the cleats at the age of 21, but the Western Michigan strong safety finally returns for, what hopefully is, his second full season in pads.

ACL injuries are the only thing that’s held the hard-hitting safety back from achieving his true potential. The first injury bug bit during Tranquill’s high school career in Indiana, which raised red flags for potential suitors including Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Notre Dame (where his older brother Drue plays). As a result, the 3-star athlete arrived in Kalamazoo as the Broncos’ highest-ranked recruit in program history.

Several games into the 2015 season, Tranquill was sidelined with his second ACL injury. His comeback 2016 campaign fared much better, where he lined up with the 13-1 Broncos for all 14 contests, recording an impressive 89 tackles for the MAC champions. But 2017 arrived, and the safety suffered his third-career ACL tear just two games into the season.

Now classified as a junior despite one complete season of college football, Tranquill is longing to resume where he last left off.

During Tranquill’s redshirt freshman season, his partner-in-crime at the safety position was senior Justin Ferguson. In the midst of a Black Friday duel with Toledo for the MAC West crown, Ferguson fell victim to a season-ending ankle injury. The injury cart drove him out of Waldo Stadium in his final game, but Ferguson wasn’t sulking. Instead, the senior motivated his teammates by performing the “row the boat” gesture with his hands as the cart exited Waldo Stadium — a moment Tranquill claimed he drew plenty of inspiration from while at Cotton Bowl Media Day in December 2016.

Ferguson served as a strong mentor to that dominant 2016 team. Entering his fourth year with the Broncos, now it’s Tranquill’s turn to do the same for this defense. The unit under second-year head coach Tim Lester lost plenty of familiar faces this offseason including linebacker Robert Spillane and cornerback Sam Beal, who tested the waters of the NFL supplemental draft.

Tranquill possesses impressive tackling and coverage abilities, serving as the anchorage point in the Broncos’ secondary. It will be an exciting and heartwarming moment for Western Michigan faithful to see the veteran safety sprint out of the tunnel at Waldo Stadium this fall. His first game in Kalamazoo falls on August 31, when Syracuse pays a visit for a Friday night opener.