Making the right decision took courage, toughness

Making the right decision took courage, toughness

A high-ankle sprain is not your garden-variety ankle sprain.

It was way worse. If you favorite NFL player has a high-ankle sprain, you can count on him being sidelined for 4 to 6 weeks, if he is lucky.

Oftentimes, you would be better off with a break than a high-ankle sprain, which are nearly impossible to play through.

There are only two reasons I can think of that would make someone even attempt to play with a high-ankle sprain. 1, You are a senior in high school or college, and it is your only chance to finish the season. 2, You are tough as nails.

Quarterback Kyle Samson checked both those boxes when he played with a high-ankle sprain for the MSU-Northern football team in 2006.

Samson, who is now the head football coach at Montana Tech, suffered the injury Sept. 23 of that year playing against Carroll College at Nelson Stadium in Helena. That was Northern’s fourth game of the season, so a medical redshirt was off the table for Samson.

If Samson was going to have a senior season, his only option was to somehow play through pure hell.

The week after the Carroll game, Samson started against Eastern Oregon and aggravated the injury.

The following Saturday, Oct. 7, Samson and the No. 11 Lights came to Butte to play No. 14 Montana Tech at Alumni Coliseum. Samson, could hardly walk, let alone run, but he was under center for the Lights.

“It’s no secret anymore, the kid can’t run,” then-Northern head coach Mark Samson, Kyle’s father, said after the game.

Running was a huge part of Samson’s game, too. He used his legs to help overcome a height disadvantage to win state championships at Helena Capital and earn a scholarship at the University of Montana. He transferred to the Havre school to help his father turnaround a historically bad Northern program.

Against the Orediggers, who were led by Oredigger Hall of Famer and former Samson Capital teammate J.J. Perino, Samson’s rushing total against Tech that day was minus 11 yards on three carries, including sacks.

Samson, though, picked the Orediggers apart from the pocket. He completed eight of his first 10 passes against the great Tech defense. He passed for 186 yards and two touchdowns to Nick Bodeman, and the Lights beat the Orediggers 12-7.

The win came a little more than 2 years after the Orediggers beat the Lights 62-0 on the same field. Samson ran for 83 yards in that loss.

That 2006 victory symbolized that the Lights were indeed a force to be reckoned with, and Mark Samson said it was more meaningful than his state championships.

All these years later, it is still hard to believe that Kyle Samson played at such a high level with such a nasty injury.

Samson played in five more games that season, including a 17-10 Senior Day victory over the Orediggers in Havre. He led the Lights to the NAIA playoffs, where they fell to Carroll College in Helena.

In my book, that performance by Samson puts him right up next to Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Jack Youngblood playing the NFC Championship game and Super Bowl with a broken leg.

It was one of the all-time tough-guy moves.

After watching Samson that afternoon in Butte, I never thought I would see the day when someone would question his toughness. Then, the Orediggers opted out of playing in the Frontier Conference’s revised spring football season last week.

Here is a comment someone actually posted below the Butte Sports story about Tech’s decision:

“Apparently there is a toughness factor gone now at the hc spot at tech (SIC).”

Of course, nothing could be more ironic than someone questioning the toughness of another with an anonymous comment.

The commenter posted an email, as is mandated, and I replied to him.

“I removed your comment because you did not use your full name,” I wrote. “If you would like to resubmit your comment questioning the toughness of the coach, this time using your full name like a big boy, I will let it stay.”

Unfortunately, the email was shot right back because it was a fake account, just as I suspected. The comment belongs in the Coward Hall of Fame.

That comment could also not have been further from the truth. The decision to opt out of the season was a courageous one by Montana Tech. Samson, Director of Athletics Matt Stepan and Dr. Les Cook, Tech’s chancellor, should be commended for showing true leadership in a time when that quality has really been lacking.

It takes courage to make the right decision when you know you will take heat for it.

That probably goes double in these divided times when taking a tough stand gets you labeled as un-American, a snowflake or worse.

For some reason, being safe during the pandemic has become a politically-charged position. People look right past the right decision because it does not match the color of their political hat.

And that is what Tech’s decision was, too. It was the right one.

The Orediggers have been trying to get in team workouts since school resumed on Jan. 4. They have been hit with quarantines and positive, asymptomatic COVID-19 tests. They did the math — something they are quite good at on the hill — and realized it was highly unlikely they would get in all four games of the regular season.

They would be lucky to get in one or two games, and Tech realized that was not worth risking the health of the players, the Tech students and community.

One of Montana Tech’s slogans the last few years is “Be the Solution,” and the Orediggers are showing that those words are not just lip service.  Tech is not going to be part of the problem as we try to fight our way through the pandemic.

The same could be said for the leadership of Montana Western, which announced the same decision on the same day.

Tech’s decision was toughest for the nine Tech seniors who are moving on to their post-college careers. They are Jase Galt, Justin May, Quade McQueary, Connor Murdock, Tanner Osborne, Braxton Porter, Nate Sander, Paul Sundquist and Alec Wooley-Steele.

Those seniors knew that trying to play the shortened season in the spring would only hold back the development of the younger players. Reps they got in practice were reps that would not help the Orediggers when they finally get to play a real football season.

Those seniors knew the reality. They knew they were not going to be able to win a national title under the current circumstances this spring.

They knew they would be part of continuing the problem. They know that bravado will not get us out of this mess.

So, those guys helped make the decision by putting the health of their program and community above themselves. They will not get a senior season. They will not get to play on Senior Day.

Nobody knows what they are losing more than the head coach who played through pure hell so he would not have to miss his.

That coach will tell you that what his players did last week will go down as one of the all-time tough-guy moves.

— Bill Foley, who wouldn’t play with a hangnail, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74

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2 Comments

  • Kirt Mayson
    February 23, 2021, 9:45 pm

    William (Matt) Foley.

    Thank you for yet another great article which outlines the facts behind what every Oredigger Alumni, sports and especially football fan needed to read and understand.

    Thank you also to Dr. Les Cook, Matt Stepan, Ironman Coach Kyle Samson for your candid, common sense leadership through these most challenging and unknown of times.

    To the Nine (9) Senior Football Student Athletes who collectively agreed to withdraw / cancel their final playing days as Oregdigger football players, Thank You. Your unselfish, common sense evaluation and conclusion to put Team first in your decision making process bodes you a great hands up and quite frankly a ton of respect amongst your unknown and soon to be peers in your professional careers. Your evaluation and implementation of these traits along with your hard earned and well deserved degrees from Montana Tech, will help soar you to the forefront in your professional endeavors. Your actions are truly exemplify the meaning behind "Be the Solution" aka an Oredigger. Thank you again! This Oredigger Alumni is proud to welcome you into the lifelong circle.

    Now, that said you still have the ode and responsibility to God Father Green and his Oredigger Forever efforts that will round out that post Bachelor / post Masters Degree. Its like the final class of your final semester at Montana Tech, albeit in perpetuity.

    Thanks again Bill.

    Kirt Mayson
    Mt. Tech Petroleum Engineering Alumni – 1989

    REPLY
  • Bill Foley
    April 12, 2021, 5:57 pm

    Note to the coward Carroll College fan who posted a comment here without using his real name: If you want to resubmit your real first and last name with your comment like a big boy, I will let it stand. Until then, take your cowardly comments to another website.

    REPLY

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