Superior sportsmanshipI have been fortunate to see and do a lot of things in my 59 years but what I saw last Friday night in Menomonie near the end of the Superior-Menomonie high school football game has taken over the top spot in any experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have.
By: By Don Leighton/For The Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram
I have been fortunate to see and do a lot of things in my 59 years but what I saw last Friday night in Menomonie near the end of the Superior-Menomonie high school football game has taken over the top spot in any experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have.
What I, along with a couple of thousand fans witnessed, left me with renewed faith in what sports is all about, something much more important than wins and losses.
I have known Bob DeMeyer for about five years, when he became the head coach for the Superior Spartan football team. I had known about Coach from his days at Northwestern and never heard a negative word about him or his coaching style. What happened on Friday night solidified any thoughts or perceptions I have of Coach “D” and also made me realize what a special group of young men he coaches in Superior. Parents and fans should be extremely proud of this team and the coaching staff.
The season has not gone as well as hoped for the Spartans, but what is being taught to these young men is how to be young men. It’s not easy being a kid. The emotional swing of teenagers, let alone football players, are tremendous. Kids are trying to find themselves, learn about relationships and learn about life.
I can think of no better teacher than Bob DeMeyer to help these kids realize their place in life and what potential they may reach.
With a little more than a minute to go in Friday night’s game, and the Spartans losing 46-14, a full moon emerged from behind the clouds, and No. 51 for Menomonie caught a lateral pass, took it down the sidelines and scored a 66-yard touchdown. The Spartans pursued, but appeared unable to catch the speedy Sam Kolden, who modestly celebrated in the end zone with the Spartans, that’s right, the Spartans. What had just transpired is one of the greatest experiences I have had as a broadcaster and person.
Remember Paul Harvey and the Rest of the Story? Well, here is the rest of the story.
Kolden is a special needs kid who has autism. He has practiced and been part of the Menomonie football program for four years. After Superior scored its second touchdown of the game with 1:14 to go, the ensuing kickoff was taken by the Indians to their 34-yard line. A time out was taken by Menomonie coach Joe LaBuda. He talked to his team on the field, talked to the officials, and then went to the Superior sidelines to speak with “Coach D” and his players.
LaBuda told the Spartans that they would like to get the ball to Kolden and when they tackle him to take it easy. Coach DeMeyer and his players agreed but not with everything. DeMeyer said, “Why tackle him? Let him score a touchdown.”
LaBuda said no, that’s ok. DeMeyer insisted, and the play was set.
Kolden lined up as a flanker in the backfield. LaBuda wanted him to be able to pick up the ball in case he dropped the pass. Well, he had the hands of Donald Driver on the reception and took off like Adrian Peterson down the sidelines. With 54 seconds left in the game, the public address announcer called out, “for Menomonie, scoring from 66 yards, No. 51, Sam Kolden.”
How do you think he felt? How do you think his family and friends felt? How do you think all in attendance felt? I know how I and my partner, Josh Wallace, felt. I had a lump the size of a football in my throat and needed a towel to wipe the tears from my eyes. Those with a pulse at Don and Nona Williams Stadium found it hard to hold back their tears and were thankful to witness something they will never forget.
However, this is not the first time that Bob DeMeyer has done this. When he was head coach at Northwestern, he allowed a Barron player to score in similar fashion.
When leaving the press box at Menomonie, the Indian radio team and some of the Indian coaches stopped to talk to me. The respect that LaBuda and his staff have for the way DeMeyer runs his program and the character of his players is envied by them and all with whom “Coach D” comes in contact in the Big Rivers Conference.
They all agree, “Superior is very, very lucky to have Bob DeMeyer as a football coach.”
There you have it. A special night in Menomonie made me realize how lucky those who chose to play football in Superior are. Thank you Coach, for what you are teaching your young players. These young football players are learning the game of life, and parents can rest assure that their sons have a great teacher.
In a Monday morning phone call with LaBuda, he had high praise of the Spartans, “The players and coaches of Superior exhibited nothing but class on Friday night. They were the ones who wanted our player to score the touchdown,” LaBuda said.
After the game, Sam Kolden clutched the ball and had the biggest smile on his face. The class and actions of Superior’s players and coaches was amazing, and made a difference in Sam’s life.”