THAT’S HOW PRESIDENT GREGORY HESS DESCRIBED THE WABASH FOOTBALL TEAM’S EFFORT this fall following the Little Giants’ 24-17 victory over DePauw in the Monon Bell Game to finish 9-1 and earn a share of the North Coast Athletic Conference Championship.
The journey took an ominous turn in the second game of the year when top rusher Ike James ’20 left the game against Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a season-ending leg injury. It hit bottom two days later when senior linebacker and team captain Evan Hansen died by suicide. The following Saturday a visibly grieving Little Giant team lined up against Kenyon in the missing man formation.
As the players struggled to come to terms with the death of such a good friend and teammate, the Hansen family dealt with an unimaginable loss. The family and team stayed in touch.
“We could not have gotten through it without them, and I hope to some extent that they feel the same way about us,” Head Coach Don Morel told writer Adam Turer at D3sports.com. “We’re all in this together.”
A 34-10 loss at Denison left some wondering if the team would win another game this season. But the Little Giants proved resilient, winning the next 5 games, including a 28-21 overtime upset against NCAC Conference leader Wittenberg. The team dedicated the victory to Evan.
“There were a number of guys crying their eyes out after Saturday’s win,” Coach Morel said. “For some, it was the first time in six weeks that they’ve experienced joy. I’ve learned from all the help we’ve gotten that crying is a very normal response.”
The Little Giants wore Hansen’s #32 jersey number on their helmets and never trailed in the Bell Game, but they were tested.
Asked how they won, Morel—named the NCAC Coach of the Year—said, “It’s the brotherhood. It wasn’t grit or toughness; it was love and compassion that brought our team together, and held it together.”