Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions I felt Saturday following Colorado Stateâ€™s 49-10 loss to Brigham Young on senior day.
After the game concluded, I walked into the press room with my column idea in hand, asked Steve Fairchild whether or not he plans to fire any coaches (he doesnâ€™t), finished the rest of my interviews and started to walk out of the tunnel at Hughes Stadium back to the press box.
All of the sudden, after what had been a snowy and cold football game, the sun started shining and I froze dead in my tracks standing in the back of the south end zone.
Looking around at the silent, empty venue, it hit me â€“â€“ this would likely be the last time I stood on the turf at Hughes
Stadium. I dropped my camera bag, shed my coat and just started walking toward the giant ram head at the 50-yard line with memories from the past four football seasons I had witnessed as a student at CSU flying at me like reference clips from an episode of â€œFamily Guy.â€
Iâ€™ll always remember my first game at Hughes after transferring here as sophomore in 2007 when CSU hosted No. 10 Cal, my dorm mates and I got to the stadium an hour and a half before kickoff to make sure we got good seats. Much to my surprise, we were the only ones in the stadium for about another hour.
Watching the Rams in throwback uniforms and helmets that had white numbers on them instead of golden horns, seeing Kory Sperry go down with an ACL tear, witnessing future NFL standouts DeSean Jackson and Jahvid Best â€“â€“ those memories will forever be engraved.
In 2008 there was the bait-and-switch interception in the end zone with eight seconds remaining by Klint Kubiak against Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars that sealed a victory and, of course, the BYU game that season.
Wearing green-on-green uniforms, it was arguably the best game Iâ€™ve ever seen at Hughes. Under the lights with Myke Sissonâ€™s scoop-and-score, the Gartrell Johnson III chest-bump with Joey Porter, me getting to shake Bradlee Van Peltâ€™s hand â€“â€“ what a game.
Last season there was the blowout of Nevada, one of college footballâ€™s best rushing offenses. And this year, well, weâ€™ll always have Idaho.
When I finally reached midfield I just stood there, thinking about all the memories Iâ€™ve had in Hughes Stadium.
Two 13-game losing streaks, potentially three 3-9 seasons, no true upsets, but plenty of heart break.
And even though the fan in me would have loved to see the Rams similar success to what I witnessed at Arkansas as a freshman in 2006 with an SEC West championship, I wouldnâ€™t trade it for the world.
Hughes Stadium has become a part of me, defining my college experience. That ugly broken video screen, burned out bulbs on the scoreboard, the oversized storage closet converted into a press room â€“â€“ Hughes has become my fall home, and with graduation upcoming on Dec. 18, these were my final moments in the stadium that built me as a writer.
Itâ€™s where I first asked a coach a hard-hitting question and had him on edge, where I got chewed out in the locker room by a star player, which only made me respect him more. Itâ€™s there I saw the Bronze Boot be both won and lost, and young men from opposite sidelines coming together after a game simply to pray and say thanks.
You see, it was in that moment on Saturday that the true meaning of being a CSU Ram finally hit me. Itâ€™s about being synonymous with something bigger than yourself, unified with all of these people you may never meet, but are grown from green and gold.
Itâ€™s about standing on that 50-yard line and realizing that things might never again be as quiet and peaceful as they are in that single moment of euphoria, and knowing that the past four years were worth it, no matter how many bumps there were along the way.
As I finally started to leave, I hit the edge of the turf, feeling like Moonlight Graham in â€œField of Dreams,â€ knowing when I cross that line things will never be the same, but I finally swallowed my sentimental pride and started walking up the stairs of the stadium.
And though I knew a new chapter in my writing career would soon begin, I couldnâ€™t help but turnaround before I finally walked out of the stadium just to say it:
Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.