ASHLAND—As senior day for Southern Oregon football approaches this weekend, the 2018 senior class is bound to be reflecting on their time spent on campus.
But for six players who have been with the program for five years, it’s more than that.
It’s about their championship legacies and their imprint on the future.
"I'm telling myself that I'm not going to cry," senior linebacker Devvon Gage said.
"I've been taking every day like it's my last," said AJ Cooper, a senior defensive back.
As redshirts in 2014, Devvon Gage, Sean Rogers, AJ Cooper, Isaac Hurd, Chase Cole and Bronsen Ader represent the last playing connection to the university’s one national championship.
"Even if I was a redshirt, I was still trying to compete as if I was playing or trying to earn a spot on the team," Ader said.
"That experience was a once-in-a-lifetime,” said Cooper, who despite not playing in the game, traveled with the team to Florida per the request of former head coach Craig Howard. “He brought me because he wanted me to lead us back there the next year."
That’s exactly what happened.
This group of six went back to Daytona Beach in 2015—their first two years on campus, two trips to the pinnacle of the NAIA.
"I wanted it to happen every year after that,” Cooper said. “That was the feeling and the momentum I felt that we had.”
"When we won the first one, I was saying I was going to win five," Gage said.
Instead they wrap up their careers at SOU without another appearance.
There was the injury-filled 2016, the heartbreak of 2017 and the letdown of 2018.
There’s disappointment about unfulfilled dreams.
"To know that we're not going to get to the playoffs, it hurts," Cole said.
But not discouragement about the bigger picture.
"Coach Howard told us, it's not a four-year commitment, but a 40-year commitment," Gage said.
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