Superior, a special place with special peopleWord quickly spread with what had just happened — the Spartans allowed Menomonie’s Sam Kolden, a senior with special needs, catch a pass and run it in for a 66-yard touchdown
By: Ken Olson, Superior Telegram
Every so often something happens that you just know is going to be a real big deal.
That happened again last Friday night as I was listening on ifan.tv to the end of the high school football game between the Superior Spartans and Menomonie Indians.
The game had just ended with the Spartans falling to 0-5 on the season with a 52-14 loss to the host Indians. Telegram writer and ifan.tv announcer Don Leighton was wrapping up their coverage of the game by going over the scoring summary.
When he was done, his partner, Josh Wallace, started describing what was happening on the field.
After the Spartan players sang the school song in front of their fans like they do after every game, Menomonie coach Joe LaBuda approached the Superior huddle and the kids all kneeled and listened intently.
When the Menomonie coach was done, he went to the other side of the field to address his own players, just as SHS coach Bob DeMeyer did with the Spartans.
When DeMeyer’s post-game talk was over and the Spartan players began to leave the field, they did so to a standing ovation from the Menomonie players, coaches and fans.
Now I’m sitting there listening and wondering what was going on, as were a number of Superiors fans in attendance, from what I was told.
Word quickly spread with what had just happened — the Spartans allowed Menomonie’s Sam Kolden, a senior with special needs, catch a pass and run it in for a 66-yard touchdown.
“This was a cool thing and a special memory that we’re going to have for a long time,” DeMeyer said. “Everyone there is going to remember that play. The kid, his parents, his grandparents, friends and his teammates.
“I get a lot of accolades, but the real hero is Sam Kolden for making that catch. That was not a routine catch and then he had to run down the field. Talking to his dad afterward, they’ve been working on it in the backyard and he hasn’t made that catch very often. That’s the really cool thing about it.”
Just how big Friday’s event was about to become wasn’t apparent over the weekend. I attended a wedding Saturday and was out and about all day Sunday, and nobody I talked to had heard about what happened.
All that changed Sunday night and Monday morning.
That’s when the e-mails began flowing in from Menomonie fans praising the Spartan football team and its coaches. As Monday went on we kept getting e-mails and the same happened Tuesday.
“I didn’t realize it would get to this magnitude,” DeMeyer said. “For something so simple, and how it impacted so many people, it’s amazing. Those type of things need to happen more often.”
DeMeyer was also involved with a similar incident as coach of the Northwestern Tigers when they let a special needs boy from Barron score a touchdown.
“It was his senior year and the last game of the season,” DeMeyer said. “We were winning big late in the game and we realized they ran a play with a special needs kid on the previous play and we tackled him. So I talked to an assistant coach on the headphones and said we wanted to let the kid score a touchdown. They gave him the ball again and he scored on the next play.
“It was just something that there was no hesitation, no questioning what we were doing. Plain and simple.”
The residents of Menomonie realized last Friday how special people from Superior are, but area residents have known for a while that we have always had special bonds with special needs persons.
Some of the Spartans’ biggest fans are of special needs, including Zach Lundgren, a student at SHS and manager of the Spartan football team; Josh Noble, a fixture at all sporting events throughout the year; Todd Miller, who has been helping out the UW-Superior hockey teams for more than a decade; and the “Original Super Fan.”
Zach’s mother, Theresa “Dude” Lundgren, was one of the letter writers in Wednesday’s paper, so who better to describe the happenings last week in Menomonie.
“Sitting in the stands and being able to witness such action not only brought tears to my eyes, it warmed my heart as I am a mother of a special needs boy,” Lundgren wrote. “The Superior coaching staff and players have taken my son and welcomed him on to the Superior football team as one of their own. The coaching staff is not only coaching these boys in the skill of football, they are also coaching them in the more important things in life like empathy for others. They all need to know not only have they made a huge difference in my son’s life, but they made a difference in our family’s life.”
Superior is also proud of Noble, a special needs person who is known as “Super Fan” and is arguably one of the best know sport figures in Superior.
“Josh is one of our most loyal and committed fans,” DeMeyer said. “He’s more than that, he’s involved with sports at all levels. He’s a great fan, a great person, everybody loves having him around.”
If you’re unsure who Noble is, attend a local sporting event and he will be the one most willing to help in any way possible. He’s also famous for a number of sayings, including:
“We can beat these guys.” “Who do we play next week?” “I’ll get it.” (when he chases foul balls, wheeling the basketballs off the court or giving water to the officials) And “Is this going to be in the paper.”
“Everybody knows when Josh is around, you can hear him a mile away,” DeMeyer said. “He puts a smile on everybody’s face.”
Miller started out toting around a clipboard keeping track of penalties and is now the camera man in charge of game films.
As for the “Original Super Fan,” (I’m sorry I don’t know his name) I remember seeing him at Spartan football games at a kid in the late 1970s. He’s always yelling, clapping and cheering while pacing back and forth behind the Spartan bench.
“We gave him a jersey back when I played in 1986 and gave him another one four years ago; and he still wears it now,” DeMeyer said. “I haven’t seen him yet this year, but I’ve heard him. He really helps get the kids fired up.
“That’s cool when somebody like that has something to look forward to, has a team to cheer for. That’s what it’s all about.”
The Spartans return to the field at 7 p.m. today when they host Eau Claire Memorial in their annual homecoming game.
“They’re loaded with athletes,” DeMeyer said. “They are a very good football team. Tailback Ricky Caldwell can go the distance any time he touches the ball, they’re solid at quarterback and wide receiver and they have some linebackers and defensive ends that are physical and very good.
“It’s going to be a battle and come down to whoever commits the fewest mistakes.”
Despite remaining winless on the season, DeMeyer hasn’t seen a drop off in effort.
“The thing that impresses me the most with our team right now is the attitude they bring every day,” DeMeyer said. “Their work effort hasn’t dropped at all and their morale is fantastic.
“We lost another football game (last Friday) and the easy thing to do would be to fold our tent and start pointing fingers, but our kids have never done that.”
SPARTAN SPIN: The SHS homecoming parade begins at 1:30 p.m. The parade begins at the school, proceeds down Catlin Ave. to Belknap Street and ends behind Ole Haugsrud Field. … Superior Mayor Dave Ross will recognize the SHS football team prior to tonight’s game. … Tonight’s game will be aired live on ifan.tv.