By Rob Kiser
DAYTON — It has been a historic season on the gridiron for the Bill Nees family and a little more will be made Saturday.
Travis Nees, the son of the Piqua football coach and his wife Velvet, will become the first Nees family to participate in the Division I FCS playoffs.
Bill Nees was part of Baldwin Wallace’s 1979 D-III national championship team and Travis Nees younger brother Alex became the first member of the family to be in the high school playoffs this season on a Piqua team coached by his dad.
Nees, a senior safety for the University of Dayton, will be in action at Welcome Stadium Saturday, when Dayton makes its first appearance in the D-I FCS playoffs against Western Illinois. The game kicks off at noon.
“It is pretty exciting,” Travis Nees said. “To be part of Dayton’s first team in the Division I playoffs.”
He admits that was not the top priority at the beginning of the season — before the Flyers won their 12th PFL title, more than double any other school in the league.
“We set our goals at the start of every season,” Nees said. “Like every other year, our goal was to win the PFL title. As we continued to win, then we realized we had an opportunity for it.”
And it has been an exciting ride for Dayton fans.
Needing to beat Morehead State and Marist, Dayton recorded wins of 20-15 and 28-21, before losing their final game to Drake 27-17.
“I think we have had six or seven fourth quarter comebacks this year,” Nees said.
And while he doesn’t want to think about it, Nees knows when this season ends and amazing journey will come to and end.
“It is hard to believe (it is his final year of playing football),” the Adolesence to Young Childhood Education, said. “It seems like just yesterday I was playing on the Steelers flag team (at Pitsenbarger Sports Complex).”
Nees was a three-year starter at Piqua High School.
His senior year, Piqua came up one win short of the high school playoffs.
After having 78 tackles on defense as a junior, he followed it up with a 50-tackle season as a senior, forcing four fumbles, recovering one and interception a pass.
On the offensive side of the ball, he rushed for 405 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior, while catching 13 passes for 145 yards and one TD. He also had an 85-yard kickoff return for a TD.
He was named GWOC North Defensive Player of the Year and All-GWOC and All-Southwest District, after being second team All-GWOC North as a sophomore and junior.
“The guys I played with at Piqua were a pretty tight knit group,” Nees said. “We still stay in contact with each other.”
He signed to play for the University of Toledo, where he spent his freshman and sophomore years.
“You look at the success Toledo is having this year,” Nees said. “That is one of the things that attracted me to the program. There were just some things that didn’t work out and I made the decision to transfer after my sophomore year.”
And he couldn’t have made a better choice than Dayton.
In his two seasons, he has played in all 22 games, making 41 tackles and intercepting a pass.
He has also shined in the classroom, being named to the PFL Academic honor roll in 2014.
“From talking to Piqua guys who had played at Dayton like coach (Troy) Ouhl, Kevin Johns and Trent Karn, I had a pretty good idea what to expect,” he said. “I really enjoyed my time playing for my dad at Piqua. The intensity — although nothing is as intense as college practices, prepared me and made me the player I am. Dayton is close to home and it is pretty similar in a lot of ways to Piqua.”
Nees knows how to approach Saturday’s game.
“You just have to look at it as just another game,” he said. “Coach has talked to us about all the media that is going to be there and a lot of guys are getting interviewed this week. I think there is going to be media there when we do our walk through for the game.”
And it is a chance to make some more history, as Dayton would be the first PFL school to win a D-I FCS playoff game.
“I could never approach the number of wins my dad has in playoff games,” Nees said. “I would say it would be a collective win for the entire Nees family.”
And add to an already historic season.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.