MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (WOOD) — When it comes to items and decorations in Central Michigan head football coach Jim McElwain’s office, most of them have a meaning behind them.
After the team defeated Toledo 49-7 this past Saturday to win the MAC West Division title and propel them to the Mid-American Conference Championship game, McElwain pointed out a sign he had in his office that states, “dead last.”
That’s where his team was projected to finish the season. The first-year head coach and his Chippewas belittled that prediction and are now playing for their first MAC title game since 2009. The sign brings him motivation to prove people wrong.
Another item McElwain cherishes in his office is a poster of his team and former players in the CMU football program. The photo includes legendary coach Roy Kramer and many others important to the mold of Chippewa football.
Yet, one smile near the back of the photo sticks out to McElwain.
His name is Kalil Pimpleton.
“If I’m ever having a bad day, I want him around,” McElwain said. “He brings the best out of me as he does this whole team and his teammates.”
For being such a positive beam of light on and off the field, Pimpleton’s path to become a Chippewa wasn’t easy.
The West Michigan native played football at Muskegon High School and graduated from the Big Reds in 2016.
He was a three-star prospect and wound up accepting an offer to Virginia Tech in early May of 2016. Pimpleton earned, 2015 and 2016 Muskegon Chronicle Offensive Player of the Year and was off to Blacksburg.
As a freshman, the wide receiver recorded just five games played.
After one season with the Hokies, Pimpleton felt his best option for football would be to transfer schools. After thinking long and praying on it, Pimpleton liked the atmosphere in Mount Pleasant and elected to become a Chippewa.
Now, Pimpleton is one of the key offensive factors in CMU’s historic turnaround.
“I’m glad he’s a Chippewa,” McElwain said with a smile.
Pimpleton had to sit out 2018 due to NCAA transfer rules. He didn’t waste time putting up numbers in 2019.
In just one season alone, the 5-foot-9-inch, 175-pound wideout leads the team in receiving touchdowns with six. He also leads the team in receptions (73) and receiving yards (773) in 12 games.
If you look one slot lower on the stat sheet, it’s another West Michigan native making a difference in the receiving core — JaCorey Sullivan.
Sullivan was too a member of Muskegon and a teammate to Pimpleton. This season the junior wideout has broken out with 47 catches for 712 yards with three scores. Their relationship means a lot to Pimpleton.
“We have been playing since we were four years old,” Pimpleton said. “It means a lot to me — him and Andrew (Ward) to still be on the field together, going hard, doing what we do best. Really, just doing what we love.”
Wednesday, Pimpleton earned All-MAC First Team offensive honors and to him it was a blessing.
“I feel great and the guys feel great. We just keep working hard at practice,” Pimpleton said. “We’ve stuck together, and you can see where it has gotten us.”
Needless to say, he has been one of the biggest reason’s CMU’s passing game has done a complete 180 in one season.
“It means a lot to finally get out here and play,” Pimpleton said. “To watch what those guys had to go through last year — that hurt. It left a bitter taste in my mouth too because I was on that team.
“Now, we ready to go man. We’ve been ready.”
He and the Chippewas put together the biggest turnaround in all of Division I NCAA football this season. CMU finished last season without a win against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent and was No. 129 out of 130 teams. Now, the Chippewas are 8-4 overall and 6-2 in MAC play with a chance to play on championship weekend.
CMU will take on Miami (OH) at noon from Ford Field for a shot to do something nobody predicted they could. For Pimpleton alone, it means even more.
As a Big Red, Pimpleton did not win a state title in a pair of tries. This weekend, he envisions going differently.
“We’re determined to come out with it, really,” Pimpleton said with that big smile. “I’ve got my West Side boys with me, some that have already played (at Ford Field.) Some have never played there. We’re trying to get them their first (win.)”