The Oredigger nation is swelling with pride.
As the Colorado School of Mines football team heads to the NCAA Division II National Championship on Dec. 17 for the first time in school history, some of the Orediggers’ longtime fans are ecstatic the team has had such a great season and may bring home the trophy. They are enthusiastic that Mines has a good chance — some say a great chance — of winning against the Ferris State Bulldogs, who won the national championship last year.
The Orediggers are on a 13-game winning streak, and they hope to make it 14. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. MST, and the game will be on ESPNU, ESPN+ and the ESPN app.
Four longtime fans — some of whom are Mines football team alums — plus the venerable Marv Kay, a former player, coach and athletic director, weigh in on the team’s chances on Saturday and reminisce about Mines football in the 1970s and today. The four fans are traveling to McKinney, Texas, to be in the stands to cheer on their beloved Orediggers, while Kay will be watching on TV.
A great team
Dean Stoughton of Lakewood calls the Orediggers the best football team in Colorado, saying the team along with its supporters have an enthusiastic perspective. A team veteran, Stoughton was No. 66, playing offensive guard in the early ‘70s.
He wears an Orediggers jersey to home games, and he’s seen every one since moving back to Colorado in 2015, watching games with fellow football alums in the west stands, and they cheer enthusiastically when the Orediggers score.
“First, it’s because it’s my alma mater,” Stoughton said of his passion for the team. “Second, what really struck me over the last few years is that … these players are not only very good students but tremendous athletes. That is demonstrated with all the success they have had most recently. Going to the championship game is a combination of all those things for the football team.”
Fellow Orediggers football enthusiast Rick Goad agreed.
“These kids who play sports at Mines, it’s unbelievable to be athletes and excel in academics,” he noted. “I know the effort it takes to be in School of Mines as a student, let alone an athlete and student. These student-athletes at Mines are special people.”
George Puls, who lives in Spring Branch, Texas, is driving to Saturday’s game. A Mines football player in the early ‘70s, he said his claim to fame was starting seven games as a freshman and being named the defensive player of the year.
Puls traveled to Michigan for the Orediggers’ first game of the season against Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan, plus the homecoming game and more.
“Back when we were playing, we didn’t win a whole lot of games like they are now," he said. "To me, that was one of the things that I enjoyed at Mines – being able to play football.”
He continues to attend games with former teammates, and while he enjoys watching the team, he likes keeping track of individual players.
Puls enjoys giving back to the school in addition to attending games by organizing events to raise money for athletic scholarships. He has grown close to some of the scholarship recipients, saying that Mines provided him with an athletic scholarship, so he wants to pay it forward.
Goad, who was raised in Golden and played football for Golden High School, remembers going to games as a youngster. His youth football team also was coached by the legendary Kay, who soon after became the Orediggers assistant coach and eventually its head coach.
Goad contributed to the team by becoming the Orediggers’ team dentist.
Goad attends games with a group of about 10 people, sitting on the 50 yard line. He and some of his football friends are driving to Texas to see the game in person, and this will be the first out-of-state game Goad has seen.
Ed Greivel of Golden actually played against Mines at Colorado State College in the '60s, but his son attended and now teaches at Mines. Greivel has been attending Mines football games since he retired and moved to Golden about 20 years ago, saying it’s a short walk to the stadium from his home to watch games.
“I love the way they behave on the field,” Greivel said. “The fact that they're good athletes and they win games are a bonus. … I love the way they're coached and their sportsmanship.”
Dream of a lifetime
Kay, the person Mines' football stadium is named after, is excited for the team and its chances of winning the national trophy.
“They really have come together and played well, and they're a good bunch of young men,” he said. “I'm counting on them to win it all.”
Kay said winning the national championship is a dream of a lifetime.
“It's a dream of so many young men that have played at Mines and been successful there,” Kay said. “It's because of them that I think that (there’s so much) momentum.”
The stands in McKinney, Texas, will be filled with a large contingent of Oredigger supporters. As Greivel put it: “It's a first time ever, so we want to be there. Win, lose or draw, we want to be there for them.”
Reporter Corinne Westeman contributed to this story.