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Perspective: by Jerry Pyle
The Quarterback and His Class
It was a pretty good week for Cobber sports. In fact, it was an outstanding week. The Cobber hockey team won another high scoring affair. The women's cross country team qualified for a first-ever trip to nationals. Jason Trichler earned the right to represent the men runners at nationals. And the Cobber football team completed a drama-filled season by beating St. John's in the Metrodome to capture a treasured share of the MIAC championship.
The Cobber football win could not have been much sweeter. And it couldn't have happened to a better group of senior guys. This crew of seniors overcame whatever athletic deficiencies they had, which weren't many, by playing with heart.
And, throughout a year of ups and downs, no one in this crew exemplified the importance of heart more than quarterback Chad Walthall. He made this senior class better as football players and as people. And they did the same for him.
This group of seniors managed to raise the standards by which seniors should be judged around Concordia. And that is no small accomplishment in a program that has seen so many fine athletes who also carried themselves with class.
Defensive tackles, for instance, aren't often thought of as mild-mannered gentlemen. But that is the way senior all-American Mike Gindorff is known around campus.
Nose guards are seldom known as polite, teddy-bear type characters. But that is the off-the-field reputation of Shayne Lindsay, despite his 281 career tackles.
Fullbacks are not usually considered models of quiet dignity. But that is the quality that Dave Carlson has consistently exhibited throughout the many highs and several injury-induced lows of his Cobber career.
Fleet-footed wide receivers are thought to be full of flash and full of themselves. But Jamie Hagness was forever just doing his job, ready to be called on and deliver in the clutch.
Backup quarterbacks, whose role in life can seem to be that of a living, almost-never-used insurance policy, are not really expected to handle the job or themselves with grace. But a very talented Jeff Benson, to his immense credit, did it.
There were many others in this class who grew in the special job of being a 1990 senior Cobber football player. The straight-talking, hard-hitting Tim Uglem brought his country values of right and wrong to Concordia and never lost them. The imposing Pete Byorth has been a gentle giant off the field, almost surprised to find out he has become a superb defensive lineman.
The hard-nosed Mike Grady and Eric Fischer avoided the stereotype of the hot-dog defensive back and just did their job, sometimes getting burned, sometimes looking like a hero, and never taking the cheap shot.
Co-captain Thad Tudor, with mischief in his smile, was a model of ferocity as a linebacker and a quiet leader by example. Tim Howard paid his considerable dues in the wings and then showed his courage by winning the Hamline game with catches only he was sure he could make.
Offensive linemen Kelly Myers and Joel Paschka were the calming, mature influence on a line that was forever asked to make holes big enough for injured running backs to get through.
Even Dave Van Hecke, Skip Heisler, and Peter Crandall, all of whom had the talent to play more at other places, knew they were part of a special class and rose to the challenge.
And Walthall was their quarterback.
Championship quarterbacks are supposed to be cocky and arrogant. But Walthall was always self deprecating and nervous.
Championship quarterbacks are supposed to have great precision or great speed or both. Walthall was always trying to make up for not having either by just finding a way to win.
Championship quarterbacks have a habit of thinking they are the franchise. Walthall never forgot it was a team game. But he also seemed to know he was carrying the hopes of a special class in his arm and on his legs.
As a rookie out of Staples, Walthall knew his was not the name that came to mind when scouts thought of his hometown.
As a sophomore backup, he watched the Cobbers win a title behind a talented senior quarterback and wondered if he could ever do the same. Others wondered too.
As a junior in his first-ever start, he beat the Dragons. He laid claim to the job and held on for dear life. Then, after guiding the team within reach of a title, his back gave way and a nightmare finish ended his class' year.
He and his classmates looked to a final shot at the title in 1990.
As a senior, he was like a good luck charm to those classmates. Regardless of how hopeless things looked (and it often did) they felt that if they all kept working, somehow Chad would pull things out. And, game after game, he nearly always did.
When two late-season losses hit, this class began to wonder if fate had dealt them a hand that called for them to fold. But they refused.
Their final scene could hardly have been scripted better. A reprieve from an ironic source, Gustavus, let them play for a title against the legendary Johnnies.
With the cruel measurement of history hanging over their heads, this class went out and stamped their character into Cobber lore. When they should have been beaten they won. When they should have been demoralized they came out with confidence. When they should have been doubting, they stood strong with poise.
Walthall and his classmates won a title. And it will be long remembered as a title that was won with heart and class.
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