There are few things in this world that can make a CSU football player cry.
Saturday’s Rocky Mountain Showdown was one of them.
“I was in tears after the game,” said senior offensive lineman Josh Day. “That’s how good this feels.”
Although the team celebrated the win over Colorado-Boulder together, it seemed as though everyone had his own reason for why this win was so special.
Offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt, who lost his wife, Karen, to cancer in mid-July, literally danced on the field as his players celebrated around him.
“I have Karen right here,” he said as he pointed to the wedding ring he still wears.
In addition to the heartache the team has gone through over Hammerschmidt’s wife, over the past off-season the team saw wide receivers coach Marc Lubick undergo treatment for cancer, running back Kyle Bell suffer a season-ending injury and three of their own arrested on suspicion of fraud and theft.
“I don’t want to get too emotional,” said Head Coach Sonny Lubick. “But this program and this team has gone through a lot. These guys deserved this.”
It wasn’t lost on the players how much the fans deserved it as well. After watching the Rams lose to their in-state rivals the last three years, CSU students pulled players into the stands in celebration after finally receiving a win.
“It’s been a horrible feeling losing games like this and watching their fans trample the field,” said running back Gartrell Johnson III, one of the players who jumped into the stands. “I was glad we could give our fans this.”
Senior offensive lineman Clint Oldenburg was one of 12 seniors who played their final Rocky Mountain Showdown on Saturday.
“I didn’t want to say we had won until that final second ticked off, because I knew what had happened these past years,” Oldenburg said. “There’s a kind of unspoken bond between (the seniors). After the game we all hugged.”
Safety Klint Kubiak has been in the Denver locker room numerous times, as his dad, Gary, spent 11 seasons as offensive coordinator for the Broncos. Out of all those times, it had never felt like it did Saturday.
“This is the best feeling I’ve ever had after a sports game in my entire life,” Kubiak said. “All the high school games, any game last year – this one is the best. Usually before a game I’m nervous; today I felt really loose. I don’t know if it’s because it was in Denver or what, but something just felt right today.”
Today, the Rams will still have the off-the-field problems. They’ll still have them tomorrow. But for about an hour after Saturday’s game in the locker room, they were able to pretend none of it had ever happened.
Staff writer Brett Okamoto can be reached at email@example.com.