The story behind the cover
The big word we use around here is brotherhood. I know it's kind of cliché and lots of teams use that stuff but it's real here. We play for each other and we believe in the tradition that our coach (
What I want people to know about players at our level is that we play because we love the game. A lot of players, especially the ones on this team, were recruited to play at big-time schools. But they came here because they love football. It doesn't matter about the recognition that bigger schools get. It's about coming to a quality program and winning. That's what Carroll is about. I was recruited by Montana and Montana State and I talked to Northern Arizona. I don't know if I would have gotten a scholarship but Montana told me I had a chance play as a true freshman. The reason I chose Carroll was when I visited the campus, it just fit for me. The older guys were totally accepting of me from the moment I stepped on campus. There was none of this 'I'm a senior and you're just a recruit stuff.' They just accepted me. Coming here was the best decision I ever made.
Last year we lost at home in the NAIA quarterfinals against St. Xavier (Ill.). They were a great team but we kind of beat ourselves. It was hard losing. It was only my second loss at Carroll (the school has won five NAIA titles over the past six seasons, including four consecutive titles from 2002 to 2005) and it was hard looking at the seniors. We all wanted so much more for them. I knew I had two more years left and we would have a chance to win again but just looking at those seniors, most of whom will probably never play football again, we wanted to go out big for them but we didn't pull it off.
Sioux Falls is a great team and they won the NAIA championship last season. They had the player of the year in quarterback
We flew to Tennessee last Wednesday and the rain started on Friday. It was steady and hard and never really stopped. There was standing water on the sidelines and it was up to your ankles. I remember one play just going face first right through this huge mud puddle as I tackled one of their backs out of bounds. Mud games are the best. As a defense, we probably had our best game of the season. The defensive line shut Cavender down. They kept him in the pocket so he could not scramble much. (Junior middle linebacker)
After the game, I remember a guy who was standing around with a camera but I had no idea he was taking that picture. But I know exactly what I was thinking when he took the photo. I got up on my knees, I thanked God, and I thought about my grandfathers,
On Friday night before the national championship game, after the banquet and the meeting with coaches, the entire team gathered in a private dining room at the team hotel. The idea was anyone could go to the front of the room and talk to the team and say whatever they want. A lot of guys came up and told their stories of how they got there. The overall theme of the night was the love we had for each other and the brotherhood that this team has. There was a bunch of us that talked about if won the game, we were going to slide across a big mud puddle.
The photo was taken of me at the 40-yard line, and No. 7 in the photo is
Some of my teammates have seen the photo. What did they say about it? They said it was a pretty cool picture.
Honestly, the shot was the last frame on my card. The celebration had started a couple of minutes before that and the Carroll players were going crazy. I noticed the guys running and sliding on the center of the field and I took off toward there. Obviously, I was in the mud and I was already messy from guys running out of bounds all game. Mud was flying everywhere. I wanted to get close to the guys sliding on the field and tried to get to a low angle for the shot.
That's when Brandon came at me. He slid and then leaned back like you see him in the photo. I was crouching a little when I took the photo -- I shot it as I was running. I would have liked to have framed it a little better. I got a shot of Brandon just as he was hitting the ground sliding and I got the one when he came up on his knees. Then my card was empty.
Generally, from a game like that, the AP wants five or six action photos and some jubilation and dejection shots. I went into the press box and started editing, and sent out the photos about 35 minutes after the game was over. It was one of 11 photos I sent to the AP. You always call to check that they received the images and an editor told me the photos had been tagged as one of the AP's top pictures of the day. I was pretty happy. Now this. It's every sports photographer's dream to get the cover of SI. I thought if I ever made the cover, it might be for a Titans game. I never thought it would be from a game in Savannah, Tenn.