By TOM WREDE / UST Sports Information
Three weeks ago, 26 seniors were honored before the final home game of the 2016 regular season.
In their time at St. Thomas, a few fifth-year seniors were part of teams that competed in four NCAA playoffs, two Stagg Bowls and have won three conference titles. Their overall record is 54-8 – one of the best in program history. Most of the seniors were part of a 42-7 run over the last four years that included one Stagg Bowl and two MIAC titles.
"(Our) 26 seniors have worked tirelessly for the program and have meant a lot not just for past alumni but for the future," said head coach Glenn Caruso, "their legacy is one of selflessness and thoughtfulness."
Saturday proved to be the final game for the class in a 34-31 loss to UW-Oshkosh at O'Shaughnessy Stadium.
"We trusted our coaches and our game plan and we never backed down from that," said senior Nick Waldvogel.
"We went out and tried to execute and it was unsatisfactory, but I give credit to Oshkosh. (The loss) hurts, I wish we were going to practice Tuesday," he said.
Despite the defeat, Waldvogel – a 49-game starter over his career – led the team by contributing on all fronts.
He ended with:
- 91 receiving yards on six catches
- four rushing yards on one carry
- 88 yards on five punt returns
- 71 yards on three kick returns totalling 254 all-purpose yards.
"Every day at practice we work our tails off," Waldvogel said, "I'm proud because when the lights aren't on, we work unlike any in the country. We never thought we were out of the game."
In his final game, senior defensive lineman Ryan Winter tallied four tackles and a huge blocked punt. The block seemed to shift the momentum of the contest in the third quarter and set up a PAT to tie the game.
"It was fourth and short. I heard they were going to double team the guy next to me, so I had a free (path) right to the punter. The ball took the bounce right next to me and I took it to the house," Winter said.
Both Waldvogel and Winter were named Academic All-America earlier this week and were able to cap off their final week as football players with notable performances.
Neither will forget what their class helped accomplish on the field in their four years at St. Thomas.
"It's been great, through the years; we've been molded into a bigger brotherhood," Winter said, "that helped drive our success. The legacy before us also helped us grow and play well."
Waldvogel said everyone is unique in their own right and is proud of each person.
"Everyone is unselfish, and as the years have gone by, some played early on and some guys came in senior year and got moved around," he said.
"The cohesion our seniors had in moving, being unselfish and being able to guide was our biggest asset."