Extra playing time
Emily Perhats (TheLorian)
Loras College football started as a club sport but became a program in 1907. Ever since that first season, football games have been played on campus in the fall. But after 113 seasons, COVID-19 broke the streak. While all of the players were impacted by the shut-down, none felt it more than the seniors.
“Our daily lives have been full of unknowns due to the impact of the pandemic,” senior defensive back Jack Foley said.
While the football team is planning to play a short schedule during this spring semester, that simply wasn’t going to cut it for some seniors. “While we are all grateful to play games during unprecedented times like these, I think every senior wants another chance at the full Loras College football experience,” senior wide receiver Mike McDevitt said. “There is also an element of unfinished business as well, there are goals here that we put in place that have not been achieved yet.”
The saving grace came when seniors were offered the opportunity to opt in for one more season. But the decision to play another year wasn’t an easy one. Many of the seniors said they made calls to teammates, talked to family and friends and discussed it with coaches. Thirteen of twenty seniors – with one still undecided – plan to return next fall for a fifth year.
“The closure is a big part for me,” senior linebacker Brett McWilliams said. “My teammates and I who have been here all four years have been through it all. To not have a senior season would be devastating to us and an unfortunate way to end our football careers.”
Many of the seniors felt they had already put so much time and effort into football that they couldn’t let the virus take that away. “I chose to stay because I have invested so much into my football career already, I couldn’t imagine being done playing football without a senior year,” senior quarterback Noah Sigwarth said.
While the opportunity to play one more complete fall season of football was a big part of the decision, many of the seniors will stay for both the fall and spring semesters. Some to finish their degrees while others have chosen to add a minor.
Steve Helminiak, head coach, said he is excited to have most of the seniors returning. He believes the commitment they show the underclassmen may be their greatest legacy.
“We have very good leadership in our senior class. They have led by example in their accountability and responsibility,” Helminiak said. “They are showing the younger players how to become successful – I am excited to see their impact for years to come.”
Many of the returning seniors said they hope to have one last shot at winning an ARC title. They also want one more chance to beat their biggest rivals, the University of Dubuque.
“Some elements that persuaded my decision to stay another year was the opportunity to fulfill my senior football season,” said senior Jack Foley. “And [our] goal of becoming conference champions as well as getting an opportunity to beat the team down the street.”
Surprisingly, none of these seniors are too worried about injury. In fact, that wasn’t one of the factors they considered when making their decision.
“There has always been that risk, whether it was in high school or my past seasons at Loras,” senior kicker Nick Farfan said. “You just have to go into it with the mindset of every other season.”
In addition to a potential injury on the field, there is also the potential of what can happen off the field. The virus has been extremely unpredictable. Players and coaches know that there is no guarantee that COVID-19 won’t cancel their season once again.
“(R)egardless of how our fifth year season goes, I am able to say that I have had no regrets playing Loras College Football,” Foley said. “The relationships built with teammates, the life lessons learned from coaches, and the numerous…memories made by competing in the Rock Bowl will last a lifetime.”