Courage And Character In ISU Athletes
- 2 October 2011 by Author 0 Comments
Courage and Character In ISU Athletes
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 10/02/11
Sometimes a slight diversion from the troubles and concerns of the world is warranted, and to me, this is one such week. With ISU Homecoming week has come ample time for me to reflect on the immense contributions Idaho State University has made to my life, and the role it’s played in shaping my intellectual, cultural, and social composition.
Writing this piece before the Homecoming game with Portland State, I’ve no way of knowing how the game will turn out, but I hope victoriously for the Bengals. There seems to be a new attitude among the Bengal faithful, and the team, that is somewhat reminiscent of the attitude and atmosphere on campus in the 1980 season when Dave Kragthorpe brought a new game plan and a new batch of student athletes on campus. Those elements turned the nations longest losing streak of 17 games into a winning program in one year, and into national champions by 1981.
Sometimes football, and athletics in general, can be more than just games. They often provide a window into the character and courage of the participants. Their performances on and off the field can provide inspiration and examples of courage and determination that extend far beyond the fields of play, and their influence felt far beyond their season.
For example, I reflect back on the 1996 season when a stellar Bengal cornerback, Marcus Jackson, made a massive hit on an opposing player. So massive, in fact, that Marcus was paralyzed from the impact of the tackle. The Dome fell silent in the moments that followed, as thousands of prayers were undoubtedly uttered for that courageous young man.
Yet even today, Marcus Jackson stands as an example of character, optimism, and courage as he has dealt with his physical challenges, and that example has made a memorable impact on all who knew him then and all who know him now. ISU inducted Marcus into the Bengal Hall of Fame in 2005, and his jersey number 25 has been worn by Bengal players who manifest the courage, determination, and tenacity that Marcus displayed as a player and as a man after his football career. Not surprisingly, considering his determination and character, Marcus returned to ISU as a quadriplegic and finished his degree.
A teammate of Marcus’ was Telly Lockette. An outstanding linebacker from Miami, Telly was expected to make a huge contribution to ISU’s defense. All those expectations were thrown into doubt when he went home to Miami for the summer after his freshman year where he was struck in the back of his head when a fight broke out at a club. Telly suffered a fractured skull from the melee and he remained in a coma for four days. Subsequently he went through two major surgeries to place metal plates in his skull. He returned to ISU football, and became a two-time All Conference linebacker. Glenn Alford, former ISU Sports Information Director said Telly was “Perhaps the best true leader in ISU sports. Other players would follow after him like chicks behind a mama duck.” After graduating from ISU, Telly was a Florida State Championship-winning high school football coach in Miami, and was recently hired as a head coach at a university in Louisiana.
Glenn Alford and ISU Track Coach, Dave Nielsen, this week reminded me of Nicole Dudek from Littleton, CO who was a multi-event track and field athlete at ISU. In 1991, her senior year, she was expected to win the heptathlon, but came in third in horribly stormy weather at the Conference Championship meet in Bozeman. As disappointed as she was in her performance, she was determined to do more to help the team in scoring. Although she had very little experience in the intermediate hurdles, she entered, and subsequently won the Conference Championship in that event. A little-known fact about Nicole makes this feat even more amazing: Nicole competed with a pacemaker in her chest! Coach Nielsen said that performance, and all her years at ISU, were characteristic of her mental and physical strength and determination.
Sports can sometimes bring out the best, or the worst, in competitors and spectators alike. But these examples, and many more from ISU that I have insufficient room to mention, stand as testaments to the indomitability of the human spirit, and as monuments to the courage, tenacity, and determination of many of our student athletes. Long after the cheers of the game have faded away, and the euphoria of victory has subsided, these men and women of courage will remind us of the human component of athletic competition and the caliber of young people that compete at Idaho State University.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.